At its core, Indie Game the movie is a story about Phil Fish’s struggle to finish FEZ and Team Meat’s development process and ultimate success with Super Meat Boy.
The film opens with a series of interviews with industry professionals and indie developers. Full disclosure here, I donated to IGTM’s kickstarter campaign and have been privy to their video updates over the past few years so I wasn’t surprised at the film’s opening. It was what I expected, a sort of communal look at the indie community. What did surprise me was the film’s focus on Edmund McMillen, Tommy Refenes, Phil Fish, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Blow.
From a movie standpoint, the focus on these narratives works excellently. Phil’s story of early critical success, followed by immense personal and corporate strife is one of the most stressful stories I have ever seen captured on film. Team Meat’s passion for indie games is palpable throughout the movie, and incredibly inspiring. Their narrative follows the development cycle of Super Meat Boy up till it’s release (and ultimate success). Jonathan Blow adds wisdom to the film as the veteran game developer and indie game pioneer, but the film is ultimately about the very personal journeys of these select indie game developers.
These developers’ sacrifices are incredible. The movie expertly displays the personal touch that is at the core of every great independent game. Developers make indie games because it’s how they express themselves. For them, it’s incredibly personal. Indie games are not about making money, critical success, or prestige. These games are simply meant to be played and enjoyed.
The stories, personalities, and families will compel you throughout the film’s 96 minutes. While I believe this focus on only a few development teams makes the film more approachable and embodies it with a stronger story, I can’t help but be critical of this decision. Indie Game the Movie chooses to feature the developers of the top two highest rated XBLA games of all time (Braid and Super Meat Boy) and one of the most anticipated indie games of the past few years (FEZ). The former critical successes have already gone on to be huge financial successes (as the film portrays) and I can’t help but feel that the film is lacking some of the community perspective that would have been present with more indie perspectives. Maybe, I’m splitting hairs but the selection of games/developers seems a little Xbox Live Arcade heavy.
While I feel the need to point out this fact, in the end it comes from a yearning for more rather than a critique of the film as-is. The reality is that despite my incredible fatigue, I was riveted by Indie Game: The Movie. It turned out as good as I had hoped and I can’t wait to get my copy.