Indie Game: The Movie (Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, 2012)
This is one of those vertical-market documentaries, I think. I’m not entirely sure how fascinating it would be for people who aren’t gamers, but as someone who owns two-thirds of the games profiled here and finds them immensely enjoyable, I thought it was a wonderful thing indeed.
Indie Game: The Movie chronicles the development (partially) and the release (partially) of three games made by very small development teams: two people worked on Super Meat Boy, while Braid and Fez were each the creation of a single person. The actual development cycle, or the most complete piece of it we get, focuses on Super Meat Boy; Braid had already been released by the time the film started shooting (and was at the time one of the most successful indie games ever made), while Fez was still in development by the time shooting wrapped. (Spoiler alert: Fez, after five years of development, did finally get released in April of 2012 to near-universal acclaim.) Much of the film consists of interviews with the developers, who document the struggle, both financially and emotionally, of undertaking a massive project like the creation of a videogame on such a small scale.
Most documentaries of this sort that I’ve seen recently have been of the “hey, let’s play up the quirkiness of the people we’re interviewing!” stripe. Indie Game: The Movie doesn’t do that, and it’s a refreshing change of pace—it aims to show us that these folks are just like everyone else, if perhaps a bit more obsessive in their obsessions. Because of that, I think it’s easier for the average viewer, gamer or no, to identify with these guys and their plight. When Phil Fish, the creator of Fez, blows up at his former business partner, you feel it. That’s not something you can get from the look-at-the-freaks documentaries.
This is very good stuff indeed. I’m not sure if you’ll “get it” if you’re not a gamer, but it’s certainly worth a try; this is as compelling as any documentary I’ve seen in the past year. ****
Trailer. Note: link to free streaming/download directly from the filmmakers in the description?