Author’s Note: This film is available on Netflix Instant Play.
Illustrating the lives of four indie video game programmers, “Indie Game: The Movie,” demonstrates just how essential an art form video games are in an increasingly digital world.
Oftentimes, players only think about the newest, biggest, video game titles, like “Grand Theft Auto V” and “Bioshock Infinite,” focusing on their imperfections as negative bugs in need of fixing. Indie games, however, focus more on the plot and imagery of their titles. While some have more relaxed gameplay, like “Fez,” others have fast-paced action puzzles like “Super Meat Boy.”
The documentary encapsulates the lives of a successful indie game programmer (Jonathan Blow of “Braid”), two programmers about to launch their game (Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes of “Super Meat Boy”) and one creator who has been working on his game for over 4 years with a plausible launch date an entire year after the film (Phil Fish of “Fez”).
The film reminds the audience that there are actual people behind these video games and articulates the fact that indie games, unlike their mainstream counterparts, have extremely small staffs. While most video game companies, like Valve or Rockstar, have around 1,000 staff members, indie game staffs are generally comprised of one to three talented individuals.
This creates obvious emotional attachment to video game projects. Directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky make the audience feel for their subjects, especially McMillen and Refenes, by painting a picture of their extensive work and effort before (what is hopefully) success.
This emotion is further driven by the incredible soundtrack produced by Jim Guthrie. With a new-age sound and varying tones and frequencies, his wordless music tells a story all its own while also cultivating interest for the stories of the film’s subjects.
Worth its 103 minutes, “Indie Game: The Movie” sparks the childhood creativity in its viewers and inspires them to create something just as successful as the big-names of indie gaming. Plus, if you’re a mainstream gamer looking for some fun, such as downloadable content between large-title releases, check out the film for a great place to start in indie gaming.