A remarkable statement about a modern paperless product with paperless funding, paperless sales and paperless enjoyment. However, the exposure of the artists and the hovering threat of failure will never change.Yes, you have seen films about starving artists; however, this is a whole new game. Electronic games may the first commercial art conceived, designed, manufactured, sold and updated online. As with the exploding market in online news reporting, the news is that games are going indie.
In fact, they have always been indie from their invention and manufacture through their bootlegging, hacking and marginally legal distribution. The cycle has come full circle. The big money has become totally aware of the even bigger money in computer games. They are on it like LEDs on a flat screen and the money is endless.
At the other end of the spectrum is a group of inventor/artists who are building games one sleepless night at a time. These young men and women have something to say and choose to say it through the art and science of programmed interactive images.
Profit is a motive for them but it is not the main motive. The drive is to be heard, to be recognized and to be identified with the art form that is number one in their lives. These modern day Thomas Edison’s are independent electronic game designers.
They design their artwork on the computer, program the actions of the figures on the computers and, they hope, will sell their games via online digital distribution. An almost entirely paperless operation, this industry may be one of the cleanest in the world. No trees were killed in the production of this game.
More to the point, the authors and artists behind today’s games are the ultimate evolution of the computer revolution. They have worked on computers since they could push buttons. Post war baby boomers, grow old and die.
If the medium is modern, the stresses are as ancient as the Roman senate. There is all of the endless bickering, the unmovable deadlines, the begging for start-up funds and unjust slings and arrows that bedevil the most sophisticated and credentialed capitalists in the boardrooms of today. These kids are cool.
The ones that succeed will have made it through a school of hard knocks that rivals anything thrown at the garment industry, Madison Avenue or wildcat oil drilling. This film is the story of the birth and christening of three computer games that made it through the trial by fire and the people who stuck with those games when every thread of common sense told them to stop. This is the story of independent game design.
The stars of the show are Edmund McMIllen and Tommy Refenes who cranked out the major idie hit “Super Meat Boy,” Jonathan Blow, the brain behind “Braid” and Phil Fish, the designer of the award winning “Fez.”
Unknown to the forty and over crowd, these artists and programmers are household words in the bedrooms and basements of teens, pre-teens and post-teens around the world. These games may have higher name-familiarity within their demographic then Barack Obama (although not more than Jesse James). To millions around the world, these are the symbols of America.
The film tracks the final stages of development of “Super Meat Boy” as it is released online and the sales start to register on the developers’ computers. The gaming public is thoroughly fickle--there is no loyalty in this world.
No matter what anybody predicts, anything can happen. Five years of work is in the balance. The validation and even the identity of those who conceived and birthed the game depend on the gut feeling of millions of potential consumers. The game has to touch them as it touched the makers. There are no guarantees.
“Braid” is a game built around a love story, a gutsy move in a market where action and violence get all the airplay. Of all of the game developers, Jonathan blow says it best. The game is the love letter from the artist to the public. It embodies those facets of life that make life worth living. The rejection of the game is the rejection of the person.
“Fez” wins an award during development but the two developers have a terminal fight and one walks out. Facing a deadline that cannot be missed, the PAX video-game expo held in Seattle and Boston, and cast adrift by his estranged partner, Phil Fish frantically tries to cover all the bases with himself. At the expo, he is faced with game-breaking bugs that could make him a laughing stock instead of a millionaire.
True to the players, emerging filmmakers Lisanne Pajot James Swirsky raised the money for the film via crowd funding at the website Kickstarter. People who donated would get the movie after it was finished. The film is being distributed for press reviews online as a streaming video.
There is nothing new about entrepreneur documentaries, it is a tried and true format. This film excels beyond the average because of the depth of the feelings that the filmmakers pull from the subjects of the film. The audience gets the message that the video games are the personas of the game artists.
Perhaps the developers even lose a part of their identity to their games. It is this fine line between obsession and insanity and highly motivated genius that makes this film enjoyable and informative. Additionally, it is a great look inside the computer gaming industry, a strange mix of ancient capitalism and modern fantasy.
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Directed by: Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky
Featuring: Jonathan Blow, Phil Fish and Edmund McMillen
Release Date: May 18, 2012
MPAA: Not Rated
Running Time: 94 Minutes