The filmmakers give us a warm, sympathetic presence with game developers who are pouring their heart and soul into their work. It captures the angst of the creative process, the frustration of the technical challenges, and the driving passion and love of games.
The film gives us three stories of indie developers at different points in their career. Jonathan Blow, a veteran finding success late in a long career, with Braid. Young partners, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, releasing their most anticipated title ever, Super Meat Boy, to great success. Rookie Phil Fish fighting to finish* his masterpiece. One thing they all have in common is a vision, often individual, always deeply personal, that they, like artists, are struggling to realize.
Mentioned during the Hotdocs Q&A was the Internet itself as a character. The filmmakers deftly capture the positive and negative influence of the net on the developers, how it can be both adoring worshipper and cruelest critic. The camera brushes aside the curtain of arrogance, cynicism, or bravado that netizens must often wear for defence, and finds vulnerable, intelligent humans.
First time documentary filmmakers, James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, accomplish all this with a light touch, and are barely present in the movie. It doesn’t feel like interviews, but like we are the subject’s trusted friend.
The story of the movie itself is an indie success story as well. Financed in part through two Kickstarter campaigns, the film went on to win at Sundance, and find great success in festivals. A limited theatrical release begins in a couple of weeks, and it will no doubt do well in digital.
* 4X ALLITERATION COMBO!!!