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Old 06-14-2012, 01:53 PM   #1
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Rate this Review: Indie Game: The Movie

Yes, I know this isn't a videogame, but I think it is important enough to be reviewed and published on a videogames site, as it has actually been reviewed by other game sites as well.

HIGH Team Meat's game being a success.

LOW Not enough Blow, are other indie devs even.

WTF On how unexpectedly bleak it sometimes was.

A videogame-related documentary movie? In this day and age? Yes. And to be more specific, it is more focused on the 'indie' scene within the gigantic and mainstream billion-dollar generating industry that is the videogames one. However like film, 'indie' productions are not as mainstream, in terms of numbers and recognition anyway, and when there is recognition, it is universally positive, and what is shown in this documentary are a bunch of incredibly talented developers working their fingers, and sanity, to the bone on their videogames, except Jonathan Blow, who merely reflects on the mass success of his 2008 indie game Braid had received.

In this 100 minute cut of the film, it focuses on four independent developers: Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes of Team Meat, Phil Fish of Polytron, and Jonathan Blow who I already mentioned. There are more, but only in the 300 hours of extra footage advertised on the blu-ray special edition of the movie, which hasn't been released yet. At the time of filming, Team Meat are trying to finish Super Meat Boy so they can distribute it Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade service, and Phil Fish is also trying to do the same with his game Fez, except both encounter many problems in which it is preventing them from developing their games, personal and work-related. However, with Jonathan Blow, he talks about Braid, his game-design philosophies, and what it's really like to be 'indie' rather than working for AAA developers, all of them touch on that really. Blow's game Braid became a huge success, being one of the highest-rated indie games and Xbox Live Arcade games of all time. Though this seems like a good thing, Blow touched upon the fact not many of these reviewers or gamers even, 'understood' his game. The game is a platformer and puzzle game, with a love story, which is uncommon in videogame narrative, and with many metaphorical and often-ambiguous themes, which he believed these so-called people did not pick up upon, and went into a depression despite the game's 'success'. Also noting that not just with his game, but indie games in general having a more 'personal' connection with fellow gamers, in which the bigger games do not have, and occasionally they berate them without being to comfortable on the high horse about it. His role in the movie is important in highlighting what it is to be 'indie', and his running time is far shorter than the other three, and now we get onto them.

Phil Fish and Team Meat, are trying to the best of their abilities to get their game out there, whilst having personal issues or even work-related issues e.g. Phil Fish having legal troubles with a former work-partner, and thus compromising to the game he has been developing for at least three years, and the fact FEZ kept delaying, and delaying its release. On the other hand, the Team Meat guys have debts and their sanity often drifts away, just check out Edmund's facial hair at a certain point. It's funny, but also sad. That, and also having to deal with Microsoft, who they believe 'do not care' about their game, when they game is meant to be in a promotional position with them. When the whole movie isn't focused on them, other scenes would consist of where they live, the gaming expo Phil Fish is showing FEZ at, and I have to say, it's a very well-shot movie at times. Like a documentary film should. Cinematography and the editing is top-notch, after-all the movie won a Best Editing award at Sundance, so they're not wrong there.

This documentary was more bleak than I first thought it out to be, Tommy Refenes and Phil Fish joking about killing themselves, and/or not working in games ever again at one point, they are that stressed. There are laughs, but also tears. This is obviously not meant to be a comedy, but it's nice to know these people are human beings, with supporting families, and goal they are passionate about achieving, and that of course is finishing the games they are creating. In the end, you expect a happy ending, and it certainly was. Team Meat's game became a tremendous success, on their first day, and now in the present. And their lives changed for the better. And that is the risk you take when being 'indie'. Team Meat keep doubting and doubting and surprise surprise, through all that ache and pain, and hard work, their game, like Braid, became a commercial and critical success among indie games and Xbox Live Arcade games. Phil Fish's game however, and at the time of filming, didn't release, but successfully got the game noticed at the fore-mentioned expo by gamers and gaming press alike. FEZ did eventually release in 2012, after this movie had completed its filming though.

This movie was made by gamers, for gamers, whether you actually care for, or even play indie games, you should watch the movie anyways. I already knew about the whole 'indie' scene and I enjoy indie games as much as the bigger and more marketed titles, but wasn't fully-aware of the struggles some went through and that's what this whole film's purpose is, trying to convey the harsh realities one side of a very popular culture and industry suffers from. I'm sure it's the same with independent films as well, and THIS is a independent film itself. Getting the recognition, getting a message across the audience you are also apart of, etc. The only problem I have with it is that four indie developers may not be enough to represent the 'indie scene' as a whole however they were other indie developers that had a few seconds of screen-time and a lot more in the special-edition blu-ray that has yet to be released, so I can't really complain there. Overall, words cannot describe on how fantastic this film really is, and this may be a bit clichéd of me to say, but has inspired me a little to wanting to work hard on an idea, any idea, and make it happen, despite whatever stands in your way and how bad it is. You always have your family, your friends, your partner, and the one hobby that makes you who you are and that you are proud to be playing videogames, or creating them, or both.

Disclosures This movie was obtained via the directors' official website and reviewed on my PS3 video-player. Approximately one and a half hours long it was. And I watched all of it. Twice.

Parents The movie contains a few swear words, and a few things that may be too disturbing for a child to look at - mostly games or drawings by Edmund McMillen.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Being a movie, you can adjust the sound volume and you can watch the film with the choice of multiple languages and subtitles.

Last edited by Gazanator; 06-15-2012 at 09:12 AM. Reason: Grammatical error
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Old 06-15-2012, 12:09 PM   #2
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Re: Rate this Review: Indie Game: The Movie

Hey Gazanator

I like the idea of the review and there are some good thoughts in there but I think you're struggling to get them across.

The text is really dense and jumps from idea to idea within the same paragraph and sometimes within the same sentence. I think the paragraphs are too long - they could benefit from being split out into a short, fairly high-level view of what the main thrust of the story was for each developer - for example paragraph 1 about Super Meat Boy, paragraph 2 about Fez, then a counterpoint para 3 about Blow and how that compares and contrasts to the first two. At the moment they are all mixed up in large dense paragraphs. I think you're still a bit wrapped up in the movie and that is reflected in the text.

Then maybe a short section about how well it all works as a movie, what its message is, did you get any sense of the games from the movie, or was it just focused on the struggle etc - basically assessing how the film succeeds in light of its subject matter. Your final para addresses this to some point but needs to be cut down a bit and reworked so it has clear, concise sentences - you have a tendency to use long sentences with lots of commas all through the review.

While you've included a wealth of detail, I think there needs to be less of it; it seems strange to advise someone to make it more general, but that's what I'm thinking.

A good read all the same. I feel a bit glib offering the above advice, especially about the structure of the piece, and you can take that on board or not. However I strongly feel that the text should be thinned out a lot.

Hope this helps!
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Old 06-15-2012, 12:14 PM   #3
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Re: Rate this Review: Indie Game: The Movie

Fair enough, and this is my first ever movie review by the way. I've written a few videogame reviews before, so writing this was a challenge I admit. And reading it back, yeah, incoherent is the perfect term when describing my writing style haha. I can't be bothered to edit it anymore now, but I'll take your advice on board and attempt more fleshed-out reviews in the future, and will probably just stick with videogame reviews too haha.
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