Indie Game: The Movie

Last Friday I was lucky enough to see the first screening of Indie Game: The Movie at the Rio Theatre with some friends. I’d pushed a few of them in to coming and was worried - I did the same thing once with Max Payne (the movie, that is) which obviously ended poorly. Turns out the movie was great and everyone loved it!

The directors

The documentary follows the long development of Fez by Phil Fish, the development and release of Super Meat Boy by Ed McMillen (Santa Cruz local!) and Tommy Refenes, and a post-release followup with Jonathan Blow about Braid. Super Meat Boy’s development was shown as an exercise in sleep deprivation as they sought to meet a release window deadline, Fez fought for funding and legal existence with an ex-partner, and Blow talked about Braid as a only partially successful attempt to communicate his ideas (amusingly juxtaposed with Soulja Boy’s impressions of the game). We also got a long Q&A with Team Meat, Phil Fish, and the directors afterwards.

It was interesting to see the portrayal of the developers in the midst of development in the documentary against them on stage during the Q&A. In the film they were dedicated to the point of eccentrism, as weird people expressing ideas in a medium they love, as different. Phil Fish, as his legal battle worsens, explains that ‘if I couldn’t make Fez… I’d kill myself.’ The audience nervously laughs. On stage, however, everyone was cracking jokes and happy, perfectly sociable. That’s probably due to the fact that Fez is now (nearly) out though.

Lastly: I asked Tommy Refenes how he managed to nail the controls to Super Meat Boy so well. Apparently early in development he spent two months solid just tweaking it until it was perfect in some simple mockup levels, working to find the best values for air resistance, acceleration, jump speed, and who knows how many others variables.

Anyway, I’d recommend this film to literally anyone - it’s well made, emotional, and does a great job of showing the struggle behind indie game development as well, why the games are made, and why we should love them.