11 August 2012

Film: Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

Thoughts: As a documentary, Indie Game: The Movie falls short; looking like a sharp, well edited music video and offering no real insight or breakdown of the facts in regards to Indie game production. But as an observation of what drives those individuals among us who pursue any kind of meaningful, personal artwork in any way, shape or form- often to the detriment of their outside lives- Indie Game: The Movie excels.

Focussing on three separate teams- Team Meat (Super Meat Boy), Team Fez (Fez) and Jonathan Blow (Braid), the film spends virtually the entire time listening to how these people devote their entire lives to making a game on a shoestring budget, with practically no backing, no aid, and occasionally, no end in sight. Sure, these people bring the harm on to themselves, for want of a better term, but the same could be said for any artist in any field who chooses to undertake a massive feat of personal will: that of producing something both incredible, personal and (hopefully) financially viable. The subjects relay their fears (of which there are many), their hopes, dreams and desires, and they try to elaborate about how this medium is the only one that truly makes them feel like they can connect with other human beings through their art.

If it sounds familiar, then that is because every artist, throughout time, has approached their chosen canvas in much the same way. I see these men (and women) as modern day Da Vinci's; in a sense that they have a tremendous amount of strain placed upon them by a society that can never seem to understand them, nor will they let themselves be understood through regular means. The only difference being that these modern sculptors place themselves at the mercy of a 24 hour news cycle, a necessary intravenous drip fed by constant social media, and the endless vitriol spewed forth from the omnipresent hate machine of anonymity known as the internet. This burden lays upon them adding to the already overbearing weight of self-doubt, and you can't even begin to imagine how they must feel.

Team Meat are the most enjoyable, keeping up a lively banter intermixed with stories of childhoods spent around games, and family issues defining who they are and what they do. Jonathan Blow provides some great insights into the how and why of making a truly personal game, and some really informative tidbits on how he takes a game to that next level. Phil Fish makes up most of the suspense based stuff, but I feel it's the documentary crew and the internet itself that paints him as a bit of a jerk (the internet came down pretty hard on his team due to the very lengthy production of the game from first showing at a festival).

Talking heads abound, but that's no issue. Occasional text will pop up to accompany the admittedly striking visuals to keep us informed of the looming deadlines inching ever closer, and the reprieves are welcome from the sometimes stifling self-defeatism and neuroses. And yet, the people themselves are no bother; it's the direction that feels forced. Pulse-pounding chords come crashing through when moments of turmoil strike mid-convention, and sometimes it feels a bit forced and fabricated. The puppeteer's hands come through more often than you'd like, but you just ignore it and move on. You're here for the people, and it's only when the camera tracks Phil Fish of Team Fez that you REALLY see the Director Of Photography having a play. He seems to find these immaculate shots that really just reek of set-up.

Ultimately though, it's a fulfilling and invigorating experience, and I won't lie that I welled up on more than one occasion. Especially when we FINALLY get to see Edmund McMillen of Team Meat roll a tear. It had to come eventually dude, you're not made of stone!


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