Documentary Review: ‘Indie Game: The Movie’

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By Kristofer Hammer

It is hard to sum up this documentary into something that can be quantifiably explained because like most documentaries, Indie Game: The Movie, the 2012 winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Documentary Editing Award, delves into a mostly unknown topic. However, unlike most of the documentaries out there, this one is close to my heart.

Indie Game, which acquired the title of ‘Best World Cinema Documentary Editing’ of 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival, is an anomaly within the universe of our understanding of video games.

It offers an explanation of the concepts, the features, the people and the process involved in the creation of the game rather than the meaning.

Any footage that already exists on a game’s creation or creative process is about games of a different echelon than the game portrayed in Indie Game—the AAA grade of games that are very different from what the footage portrays.

While it is important to commend Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky for directing a very well done film, both in its message and cinematography, I find it more important to commend the developers for opening up in front of the camera in a real visceral way.

Independent games are made with a higher level of emotional investment as well as more personal risk, given the budget and the lifestyle that the makers have to work with.

I personally never gave much thought to the work that goes into a game. You see a player on the screen, you evaluate what they must do, you do it, and you  either win or you lose.

Games can be summed up into these four parts, and the overall vision and intention of the game can be lost as a result.

What makes Indie Game: The Movie such a spectacular piece of work is that it can make everyone realize the simple truth that we know exists but never think of: people actually make games.

Someone works hard to make something that we enjoy. Someone puts part of themselves into the game whether that is a message, a concept, a theme, or even background scenery. Someone creates this art.

So where does this notion get lost? These days, with big budget releases, multiple year development cycles, 100+ manpower development studios, PR and marketing, and the typical $60 price tag, we don’t see the vision that we do in an indie game.

It is important for people to see the distinction between personal and collective games.

Indie Game is a true love letter to gaming, and anyone who has ever made a personal connection to a game can relate to this film.

 

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