Indie Game: The Movie – Coverage from the Los Angeles Screening 04-03-2012

Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky - IGTM

[Tuesday 3rd, 2012 – Santa Monica, California] — The Laemmle’s Monica 4Plex theater in Santa Monica was packed with an enthusiastic crowd that included developers from Haunted Temple Games (whose Skulls of the Shogun will be bombing XBLA soon), Richard Lemarchand and crew Naughty Dog Studios (and makers of the highly successful Uncharted series) and the organizers of IndieCade (Celia Pearce and Sam Roberts). Undoubtedly there were many other developers and industry types by these were the ones with whom we had a chance to exchange a few words in anticipation of the screening.

James Swirsky, Lisanne Pajot - filmmakers, and Richard Lemarchand of Naughty Dog at the Indie Game: The Movie screening in Santa Monica/ (photo Copyright 2012

Indie Game: The Movie focuses on three micro development teams (in other words one or two people) in this case Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Team Meat/”Super Meat Boy”), Phil Fish (Polytron/”Fez”) and Jonathon Blow (Braid). Eschewing a more geek-driven approach, the filmmakers – Toronto based Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky – instead choose to focus their narrative on the more human element, and the developers’ respective reminiscing, ponderances, struggles, setbacks and victories come together very well as a storytelling exercise, building a lot nail-biting sequences and heart-tugging realizations.

While Jonathan Blow’s story is intriguing, he serves as a sort of quiet master in the background and virtually disappears in the third act of the film, with priority being given to the much tenser stories unfolding for both Team Meat and Phil Fish’s Polytron. We won’t spoil anything, but what unravels is more than capable of making even the most jaded troll’s eyes well up with tears, which is a tribute to the filmmakers, one of whom had had very little exposure to the indie game world before the film started production.

Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky - IGTM
Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky Q&A - IGTM Santa Monica screening (photo copyright 2012

As a document of indie game development, the Kickstarter-funded film succeeds by not attempting to cover too broad a sample, focusing instead on only three stories that manage to convey what it is that distinguishes indie games as an artistic, often profound form of expression in their own right but perhaps more importantly it opens a conversation to build a bridge between the game community and a mainstream audience. While AAA companies make that sort of personal understanding near to impossible due to the sheer size of the teams, focusing on indie game developers affords the public an unprecedented glimpse into the true nature of these thinkers, artists and engineers too often misunderstood and grossly misrepresented by the news media.

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From the film, here is a clip of Phil Fish showing Fez at PAX East: