Indie Game: The Movie

Year: 2011
Production Co: BlinkWorks Media
Director: Lisanne Pajot/James Swirsky
Producer: Lisanne Pajot/James Swirsky
Cast: Phil Fish, Edmund McMillen, Tommy Refenes, Jonathan Blow

You might see the title or read a little about Indie Game: The Movie and dismiss it because you aren't a gamer or because you're not particularly interested in games.

But wait. What's that thing writers always say about the best movies? Even if it's the most way out science fiction head-scratcher or the most bilstering action flick, movies should be about characters. That's why Die Hard or Silent Running are beloved after decades while Transformers and Terminator: Salvation have faded into the background amongst the other blockbusters.

The creators of Indie Game: The Movie implicitly understood the first thing about making their movie – that it's about people, not games. In this case there's a strong David and Goliath aspect that raises the stakes for the characters that makes you that much more all the more engaged with their struggles.

These are the people who don't have hundreds of staff worldwide and million dollar marketing budgets of the type that have propelled the Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto series rocketing up bestseller lists. They're passionate one or two man teams who think they have a good idea for a game and throw years of their lives into trying to program and release them.

There are actually strong parallels with the independent film movement, from the soulless lack of a social life to the crushing hours and deadlines, right down to the influential festival or trade show that can make or break your name. After seeing Canadian programmer Phil Fish struggle by himself with a years-long programming schedule, audience cynicism after endless delays and a former business partner who wants to make his life hell, you almost cry when he finally gets his game set up at a pre-eminent gaming show (The Penny Arcade Expo) and it keeps crashing.

The structure of the film is pretty simple. It follows up and comers Fish and his game Fez, partners Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes and their smash hit Super Meat Boy and established game maker Jonathan Blow, who's made a fortune out of his game Braid (seemingly unfairly after he explains that he came up with the concept and original programming in a week).

But as the tension, stress and fatigue wear the other three guys down you'll be drawn right in with them and feel every jolt of hope and moment of hollow terror. Don't let the name fool you, Indie Game: The Movie could have been about any creative artists trying to establish themselves by the love of their craft and the smell of an oily rag while up against much better resourced corporate players. It's a story of success, failure and everything in between.

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