Sundance 2012: 'Indie Game' Shows Passion & Art in Video Games
by Ethan Anderton
January 30, 2012
While younger generations have been criticized for only watching TV and playing video games, Indie Game: The Movie shows it's these young people who have grown up with these forms of entertainment who now aspire to make the very products that parents once warned would rot the mind. However, in the case of game designers Edmund McMillen, Tommy Refenes, Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow, their mind is far from rotten, and it's actually quite clear as they work hard everyday to craft the kind of video games they love. But just like films at Sundance, their games are crafted outside of the game studio system.
Indie Game follows four different game designers at very different stages in their careers. Jonathan Blow has already tasted widespread success as his game Braid quickly became the best-selling Xbox Live Arcade game of all-time and received ridiculously good reviews. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes are hard at work on their first game Super Meat Boy and are dealing with the difficulties of getting their game prepared for launch. Finally Phil Fish is stuck in development hell as his game Fez has been awaited for years now, but just isn't, and may never be, ready for release.
Don't write off the passion or drama of this documentary from debut directing duo Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky just because it's about video games. You won't find a more respectful or passionate approach to video games, more specifically those produced outside of the studio system that produces Call of Duty, Halo and more, than with Indie Game. Moreover, these game designers are dedicated to their craft with more integrity then some will know their whole lives. Indie Game shows that video games just aren't mindless entertainment, but well thought out creations from the minds of those who are just as artistic as painters, filmmakers, singers and more creative professions.
The documentary shows it's not just a matter of pointing and clicking and playing games all day before an idea hits. In the case of the creators of Super Meat Boy, you can see the blueprints of their characters and storyline in artwork from their childhood. With Phil Fish, he's struggled with an uncooperative business partner and hype (both good and bad) to the point that if his game never gets finished, he will literally kill himself. Meanwhile Jonathan Blow struggles with his fame and online presence as he can't seem to let criticism or comments go without recognition in the online world. Sounds like struggles that have claimed more famous artists from centuries ago just in a completely different time and form of art. Audiences will feel the pressure and pain right along with these designers as they struggle with their creativity and the more practical side of independent video game creation.
Indie Game: The Movie just doesn't hype video games or convince you to play them more (though that's all I wanted to do upon leaving the theater), but it shows you the pure passion and dedication that exists from video games who are now aiming to make the games they loved to play as kids. Indie Game is like the sister of Sundance in its support and praise of a world where the studio system looks for the easy buck, the big-selling game, and has hundreds of people just looking to get product on the shelf. The featured gamers are proud, hard-working, independent lovers of one of the most modern and misunderstood forms of art the world has ever seen, and it just might have you looking at video games in a whole different light.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10