When people think of video game movies, usually they think of bad rip-offs, poor execution skills, or Hollywood butchering the original story of the video game series. However, not many, if any, video game movies have taken the shape of a documentary until now. Indie Game: The Movie takes such a shape, and the result is a gaming movie looking at the lives of various indie game developers as they attempt to create games and in a roundabout way, connections to the world around them.
The movie features the indie game developers at Team Meat, consisting of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, the developer Phil Fish of the long awaited Fez, and to a lesser degree, the developer of the critically acclaimed Braid, Jon Blow. The film crew follows Team Meat as they rush to finish the highly anticipated Super Meat Boy, and Phil Fish as he struggles with a lawsuit over Fez while still presenting the game at PAX. Other video game developers are shown, mostly during the beginning of the film, though. The film takes a step back from the video games themselves and looks at the relationships these developers have with their work.
The best part about the movie is the amount of feeling which oozes from every pore of the people featured. Time after time the audience is exposed to a side of game developers often over looked. All developers feel such a close relationship with their work, and Fish even describes himself at one point as simply “the guy… making Fez.” All the developers see their titles as deeply rooted in themselves as people and in their want to communicate with the outside world through the only way they know how.
The level of emotional depth the developers share with their work is also astounding. McMillen takes us on a voyage through his childhood where teachers felt he was mentally disturbed. McMillen describes how he would draw monsters, “only monsters,” when he was younger and it is from these drawings, teachers and other adults thought he was disturbed. His mother though defended him saying he simply liked to draw. The most memorable drawing is of a young McMillen floating through space and the caption reads something along the lines of my friend is space and myself is my friend too. It is a deeply touching look at a young McMillen who felt almost alienated in the world, but still found a way to work accept the world around him.
Refenes is probably the most genuine person in the film, and if not then certainly the most frantic. The film opens with him waking up and turning on XBLA in hopes of seeing Super Meat Boy featured on the storefront, only to be let down. From here he grows frantic as he searches for the game, curses, searches some more, and finally slumps over himself at his desk chair. He provides a voice over for this scene saying how he already knows the game has failed, all from this one mishap. Refenes also shows how the development process has taken over his life and describes his social life as nonexistent and the only thing he really does anymore is make the game.
One of the most memorable parts from Team Meat is when McMillen is describing the game Super Meat Boy, and namely the title character of Meat Boy. Meat Boy, as described by McMillen, is simply a boy without skin. His insides are exposed to the world and even the smallest things can kill him, such as salt. At this part, we see McMillen contemplate the character of Meat Boy saying how Meat Boy’s girlfriend, Bandage Girl, is the protective layer for Meat Boy from the rest of the world. Meat Boy needs Bandage Girl, not just because they are boyfriend and girlfriend, but because Bandage Girl protects Meat Boy from the outside world so he isn’t harmed. ”Maybe [Meat Boy] is in pain all the time,” says McMillen, and this adds a depth to the character I for sure never considered.
Finally, the film is full of heart rarely felt in any film today. It is a look into the people who make video games and the amounts of love and stress these people put into making each title. The film is a magnificent title worthy of your meager $10. Speaking of which, it is currently on sale on Steam for $4.99. So go buy it. You won’t regret it.