Choosing to express yourself your own way is always a tough road. Many times, you’ll lack the time and resources to successfully bring your vision to reality. On the flip side, what you lack in resources, you make up for in passion and creativity. Some artistic endeavors require this bumpy road of challenges and obstacles to be fully appreciated. That seems to be the core of Indie Movie: The Game, a wonderful documentary by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky.
I want to start by saying that contrary to what some believe, a documentary is much more than a story worth documenting. A deft, artistic hand is needed to bring the beauty out of the reality. Truth is, even the most fascinating “real life” stories require a vision to be told properly. It’s not enough to simply point a camera at a subject and expect them to do all the work. Indie Game: The Movie is a beautiful piece of filmmaking that compliments the content perfectly. It’s always a joy to have artists tell a story about artists.
The film mainly features two independent game developers who have decided to forgo working for larger companies to make the games they want to make and play. It’s the dream of many to work from home, create on one’s own time schedule, make exactly what one wants to make without too much interference, and reap all the rewards. But hold on…it’s not that simple. The documentary showcases the struggles of maintaining such a dream and how life can derail plans at an instant. Years of development go into games which, in the end, can be skewered by online reviewers and hated by players. One misstep (such as impossible levels early in the game) or game-killing bugs will undermine all the work that went into getting the game to launch. Unlike a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s usually just a couple of people who can take the full blame for a flop…and gamers can be especially brutal in venomous criticism. Not such a dream anymore, is it?
However, the film isn’t fully a cautionary tale about striking out on your own. Sure, the money runs out and depression sets in. Life is spent in a small room staring at lines and lines of code. Builds are tested and retested, and retested again and again. Sleep is lost and microwave burritos are aplenty. The doc is about the kind of passion needed to endure a difficult process that weeds out the weak of spirit. It requires blind faith in oneself to successfully pull off the dream of creating a game in one’s bedroom that is played and beloved by millions. This is a story about believing in yourself and it translates to any field of creativity.
The subjects of this film were born to develop games. They love what games represent and when they saw a certain level of intimacy missing from monster commercial games, they decided to walk a harder path to rectify it. I don’t think they ever saw it as a choice. Who would develop personal games that they would want to play? Sometimes, waiting is not an option. If you have the skill, the discipline, and the nerve, you grab the baton and make a run for the finish line yourself. Bonus points for you!
There are those who might shy away from Indie Game: The Movie because they find video games a colossal waste of time. What could be less interesting than the tale of tortured developers attempting to make time-wasting applications for the apathetic youth? Video games are a special kind of art form that not only marries science and aesthetic creativity perfectly but also requires a direct line to the audience. We’re not talking about the type of art where, “If you get it, you get it.” You’ll know what I mean if you stroll through any modern art exhibit. If you don’t get a video game, it has failed. It needs you, the player, to understand it. It needs your help to bring it to life. It’s an interactive relationship. Developers don’t have the luxury of leaving you out of the equation. You are the most important part of making games. They are made for you.
Indie Game: The Movie may not be a true story of life and death but it’s a fascinating look at the artistic process and struggles that go into making independent games. Regardless of whether you play games or not (although I believe everyone plays some type of game now and then), you’ll be able to appreciate the passion that the developers have for the world they create. You might ask yourself if you have what it takes to lock yourself in a room and push yourself to the boundaries of insanity to watch your dream come to fruition.
Whoa, that sounds like a pretty cool game concept, doesn’t it?
You can download or stream the doc from the Indie Game website – http://buy.indiegamethemovie.com/