Jul. 10, 2012
1:01 am


Lessons from Indie Game: The Movie

I downloaded Indie Game: The Movie last month, and the film’s been kicking around in my head ever since. Andy Baio recommended it, saying that it “perfectly captures the anguish from developing a long-term project.”

To create is to make a personal connection, regardless of the platform

Jonathan Blow, the developer of Braid, talked about how the major studios will create something glossy with mass appeal; to do that is to remove the rough edges and take away the personal connection between the developer and the player. As with any art form, it’s about the communication to another individual through whatever platform or medium. In this case, that platform is video games, leveraging just about every storytelling medium into an interactive bundle.

The best games I’ve played are games that have an emotional component. RPGs like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger do this through character, story and charm. Braid does this through a story woven through the core game mechanic. Fez does it through ambiance. No matter what you’re creating or making, ultimately that act is about relating to your audience in some way — through enjoyment, utility or feeling.

Great projects take a toll

During long-term projects, life goes on — everyone in the film detailed parts of their personal lives that were happening at the same time. The film shows both the everyday and details the dramatic. At times, life seemed to stand still for the creators; at others, life would go on, steamrolling through everything.

The game creators seems to be in limbo (or maybe in purgatory) during the development process.

Anything worth doing is worth doing all the way

The creators of Super Meat Boy worked nonstop for nearly two years. Braid took three years. Fez took five years to complete. In each case, the end result is an amazing work.

All three are the vision of one or two people working toward the end goal, taking a single idea and expanding upon it until it’s complete. It’s really fascinating to see that process up close, from the anguish of the endless work to the catharsis of release. From the interviews in the film, the creators had a sense of what the finished product should be, and didn’t stop until they achieved that goal.

I’ve now played the three games featured in the movie. (I knocked out Fez this past weekend, and it’s a really beautiful game from beginning to end.) Though they’re all platformers, they’re all so different and unique — it’s clear that each game expresses something different from the designer.