Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary about independent video game developers, which admittedly sounds fantastically boring. But it’s not. The fact that this movie is even about video games pretty quickly becomes irrelevant. It’s instead about the pure act of creating something and the highs and lows of the flawed, crazy and isolated people who make their art their life.
In all forms of art a distinction can be drawn between the independent and the mainstream. Commercial videogames are made by huge groups of people for the purpose of appealing to as many buyers as possible, while indie games are instead made by one person or a small group. The film follows the stories of three games and the people who made them.
Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen develop and eventually complete a game called Super Meat Boy, and these two try to find a way to live with the drama that goes along with the enourmous expectations placed on them. Jonathan Blow is sort of like the wise war veteran who has lived through making the hugely important and popular game Braid, but he has to deal with the disillusionment that his success has brought. Phil Fish, who develops Fez throughout the movie, represents the slowing fading promise that his game will ever be finished. The range of emotions this film covers is amazing, especially considering what it’s about.
Indie Game tells a good story. Interesting and surprising stuff happens. There’s joy and there’s sorrow and because the developers essentially come to live through their games, the successes and failures are important and they are affecting. Through the personal relationship that Tommy, Edmund, Johnathan and Phil have with the videogames they make, they become something relatable. Videogames become something that matters. Even if we can’t exactly feel the extreme sacrifice and joy of the people who made these indie games, watching Indie Game comes pretty damn close.