Monday, February 4, 2013

Indie Game: The Movie [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

I love video games. Been playing them for as long as I can remember. Growing up with the newest Nintendo and SEGA consoles was a blast and it really propelled me to keeping up with video games my whole life. But this movie is a documentary about those lesser known games that have aptly been given the title of "indie games." Indie games have been around since the early 2000s but only recently, with the ability to put them online, have they really flourished. Indie Game: The Movie chronicles the inception, making and even the pitfalls of three of biggest ones released to date. James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot have made one of the best video game movies I've seen. 

Indie Game: The Movie follows the making-of stories, development if you will, of the video games: Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez. As well as their respective makers: Johnathan Blow, Team Meat (Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes) and Phil Fish. Johnathan Blow was really one of the first indie game successes back in 2008 when Braid was released. Blow is quoted in saying that he made the game to help pour his "deepest flaws and vulnerabilities" into it. The game garnered widespread success and was the second best selling game on Xbox Live Arcade in 2008. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes from Team Meat, set out to make Super Meat Boy for different reasons. They wanted to make a game that reflected their childhood as they loved video games growing up. McMillen states that he wants to be able to communicate what he's thinking and feeling to others through his games. Super Meat Boy debuted on Xbox Live Arcade through "Game Feast" in 2011 and doubled Braid's sales on it's first day with 20,000 units sold in it's first 24 hours up. Finally Phil Fish had been making Fez for about four years at the time of the making of this documentary. At the Independent Games Festival of 2008 Fez was critically acclaimed and made Phil into an indie superstar. Unfortunately Fish had a falling out with his business partner, he lost his funding as well as some family members. Not much about the game was known leading into the Penny Arcade Expo in 2011. PAX 2011 was Phil's ultimate goal in putting out demos of his almost completed project. Indie Game, in detail, follows the production, lives, stories and development of the three indie games and the people behind them.

I haven't seen too many documentaries, aside from Super Size Me and Religulous, which I did enjoy. But this one really caught my interest due to my immense liking of Team Meat's games Super Meat Boy (the one featured in this film) and his newest release to date The Binding of Isaac. I wouldn't say I'm a casual gamer, but I'm far from a hardcore one. This being said most of the "gamer" speak or references to production of video games won't go over anyone's head. To be able to have interviews and cameras following the behind the scenes of one of the best platforming games I've ever played, in Super Meat Boy, was one of the reasons I loved this documentary. This isn't the only reason though. Following the thought processes and reasons why these developers made these games and how they came into the industry, life stories and current lives, is a pleasure to watch. I love behind the scenes featurettes on DVD and BluRay's, so documentaries highly engage me and if you're anything like me, all this information is awesome.

This is the part of a review where I usually go over character, actor or character development. Not much point in doing this with a documentary. I can go over the personalities of sorts with all involved. Johnathan Blow came off as a very stoic man that truly went though a lot before and in the making of Braid. I liked his ideals and reasons for wanting to make his game. Team Meat is probably the developers I know the most about of the three profiled in the movie. I'm avidly on the site and I try to frequent a channel by the name of Danielleorama. This channel is owned and run by Edmund McMillen's wife Danielle. Ed (as well as Tommy) is frequently on there and they give great insight into the games they make as well as their lives. I've come to agree and be fascinated by the thought processes of this awesome group of people. Phil Fish is a guy I really had no idea about before this and sometimes I think the way he's portrayed is more of emotional and evil, so to speak. While I don't think he's evil, that's an absurd thought, but there are some thoughts and scenes were there's a lot he says I don't agree with. While I don't deny he's a great developer, sometimes Phil's thoughts do irk me a bit.

This documentary is more like a movie than the previous two I've seen. They way the three stories are told and intertwined is like watching a story you don't know the ending to unfold. Even knowing a lot about Team Meat going into this, their story (and the overall story) was still engaging and worth the watch. I loved watching the conception, explanation, creation and production of these three games. If you're a video game fan like me, or you just happen to like any (or all) of these games, don't hesitate to give this a watch. You'll learn about great games and some great people as well.

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