It has been close to two months since I saw Indie Game the Movie for my second time. I had previously seen the movie four months prior during the Game Developers Conference 2012 at a screening in the Moscone Center but I wanted to see it a second time before making any full judgment on it. This time it was on my home turf at the IFC Center in NYC. Now it’s been a hectic time since I saw it, what with E3 and whole lot of other things, but now I finally have some time to dedicate to writing my thoughts on it.
So what do I, Shawn Allen, a gaming aficionado who also really loves film think of Indie Game the Movie? Well when I first saw the movie I thought it was great. Well told, well shot, great music, meaningful and without any glaring flaws. I felt inspiration, happiness, relief, empathy and a whole lot of relatedness with the people featured in the film. I see a lot of these sentiments mirrored by so many people online as well, which is good, for the most part, I guess.
After my initial reaction had time to simmer and the wow of just simply being at my first GDC wore off (days after returning from it, even) my initial feelings began to change and I started to think about the movie on a deeper level. Then after seeing the movie for a second time, this time with my wife, I was able to formulate a much more complex analysis of the movie and everything surrounding it.
First, let me get this out of the way. I think it is complete bullshit how the movie dealt with the whole Fez partnership tale. I’ve heard about how things went down from different people and the way the whole story gets blown out of proportion in IGTM is just… disappointing. This isn’t Jersey Shore or some other vapid show where people are getting millions to have their stories butchered, it’s a movie that is supposed to inspire and show people a side of things they might not have known about. The handling of that whole drama was one of the first big flaws that I came to realize existed in what I initially thought was a “great” movie, and my opinion of began to slowly erode from there.
I think Indie Game the Movie poorly represents independent games development. The movie takes a rather safe route that is more concerned with preserving a story arc than taking any sort of risk to show the independent game development scene for what it really is, a vast spectrum of diverse people all working on pet projects, only some of which ever become monetarily viable. These projects vary widely in content, platform and artistic merit and many are never spoken about at any of the many game developer gatherings. Instead the movie is about three platformers, all of which managed to gain Microsoft as a publisher & one was already a financial success. The strict adherence to a story arc forced the directors hands to create an almost fictional, idealized world instead of the reality of most indie game projects. As one person said it, that’s why it’s called Indie Game “the movie” and not “the reality”.