Interesting documentary about the thriving low budget world of indie games…you know, the kind of things you pick up on Xbox Arcade or wiiware for the equivalent of couple of pints of beer and a bag of bacon rinds – things like Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez. This beautifully shot but dramatically slightly limited (there’s only so much tension you can get out of watching stressed geeks picking their blackheads) film goes behind the scenes of these three productions and sheds some vague light on the tortured, aesthetically challenged brainsters who provide thumb fodder for us, the sweaty hordes. The film’s three narratives initially focus on Jonathan Plow, the megabrain behind BRAID, and a man who seems quite melancholy considering his post-modern platformer has made him very rich indeed. He muses that he’s glad people like the game, but worries they might like it for the wrong reasons. Plow seems like a strange, thoughtful individual…the fact that he looks like the overly-armed space-pikey at the end of “Close Encounters” enhances his almost post-human air.
In his twinkly, financially lucrative wake come the endomorph/ectomorph double act of Edmund McMillan (Fat, tattoos) and Tommy Refens (alopeciac, looks like he lives on Gaviscon and sh+ts marbles) as we part the beef curtains of SUPER MEAT BOY and view the thriving nerd-womb within. Their stories are oddly conforming to the video game developer stereotype…social inadequacy, vast intellect, (probable) hygiene issues…and a raging desire to create, to achieve, to fulfill themselves and others. They are the shy genius Children of Nintendo, hiding in their fetid rooms for years bashing out studio-quality code because (a) they think most modern games are sh+t, and theyre right, and (b) they are probably too cranky and dysfunctional to conform to the assembly line culture of some big studio cranking out first person shooters.The documentary takes a look at the people rather than the tech..personally I wanted a bit more of the latter – what are they coding in? What software do they use to create the graphics? What approval process is needed to get a game onto XBox Arcade?
I downloaded Super Meat Boy directly after viewing Indie Game and by hell its like someone let Beelzebub himself program a Super Nintendo platform game (thats a good thing) It did my head in, but in a sexy way..like having your face smashed in by a tag team of hot eastern european female tennis players. The last game to be featured is FEZ which has existed in a kind of developmental stasis for several years as punchable hipster type Phil Fish struggles with his own exacting standards and a shadowy ex-business partner looming in the background. The game is an odd, almost pastoral dimension-f++ker but as it still hasnt appeared I am guessed Phil F has probably started it again from scratch or topped himself.
They are a strange lot these indie game developers, but we need them. We need the outsiders to push and challenge the system, to be absorbed into the mainstream and bring their twisted DNA in with them. The rewards are there, for them, and for us. The documentary itself is technically extremely polished and apart from the three main players contains interesting snippets from other industry figures and the creators of other indie classics like the awesome World of Goo.It’s not the next “King Of Kong” or “Hoop Dreams” but if you have any interest in the gestation of games in general and indie games in particular, you’d be a gelatinous cube of bleeding retarded meat to miss this one.