Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary that follows two teams of independent game developers as they wrap up development on their games. The movie came out in January to rave reviews, and early this month it was released on Netflix streaming. We finally checked it out over the weekend and were not disappointed!
The two teams followed in the film are the developers of Super Meat Boy (Team Meat, comprised of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes) and the developers of Fez (Polytron, comprised of Phil Fish and Renaud Bédard). The film covers the final crunch and launch day of Super Meat Boy and the demo of Fez at the gaming convention PAX. They also pop in with Jonathan Blow every now and then to discuss the development and reception of his game Braid (one of the early indie games to really make it big, and still one of the most successful indie games ever) and the philosophy of indie games.
My husband works for an indie game company and we’re both interested in the way these kinds of games are growing and evolving. I think we both enjoyed seeing an up-close-and-personal view of some of the developers we respect and learning where they come from and how they develop their games. The film follows the developers as they struggle with issues like fatigue, lack of funds, dealing with big distributors, legal battles, interactions with fans (not always positive), sudden fame and spotlight, game-breaking bugs, and most of all, a looming feeling of uncertainty.
This movie had me feeling anxious for about the entire second half. These developers have put their entire lives on hold and have devoted everything they have to these projects. They are mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted as they near the end of their journeys, hoping most of all that they are able to finish their games but also that they will see some sustaining amount of success upon release. It’s an exciting and fascinating film, even for people who know nothing about games. The developers themselves have dynamic personalities that are interesting to watch, and their stories are full of drama. You definitely don’t need to know a lot about games to appreciate what these people are going through (and witnessing the struggles of an indie developer might give viewers are greater appreciation for and understanding of the people who make games).
For my husband and I, this movie gave us more to think about regarding the changing world of indie games and what role we would like to have in that world. It was interesting to see two extreme ends of the emotional spectrum for these developers (extreme struggle/frustration/uncertainty and extreme success/satisfaction/reward).