MUBI is showing Indie Game: The Movie (2011) May 31 - June 30, 2016 in the United States and many other countries around the world.
We made this film because we wanted to watch this film.
I grew up a video game kid. It dominated everything. In my head, my hometown was charted not by street names or landmarks, but by which arcade cabinet resides in which convenience store. I was obsessed.
For reasons I’m not entirely too sure of, this obsession eventually quieted down. Games and I parted ways for awhile. I think some part of me thought I had outgrown them.
It wasn’t until an interview Lisanne (my co-director) and I conducted with an independent video game designer out of Winnipeg re-introduced me to games and let me know that video games had been growing and evolving without me all this time.
Video games were now a fully-fledged art form…a notion that was being hotly debated at the time. But to us, the debates were silly and it was rather clear: Games were art. And by extension, game makers were artists, and the production process a creative journey.
My obsession was born anew, and we started looking around for films following games, talking about games, reciting the history of games, anything really…we found next to nothing.
This made very little sense to us.
Over the past three decades or so, video games, in the most bombastic, loudest way possible, have quietly become one of the most prominent forces in shaping our present day culture.
The video game industry is bigger than films, television and music, yet, still carried the mainstream markings of a cultural niche—relegated to magazine sidebars and the odd ‘video game phenomenon’ news-piece. (Luckily this is becoming less and less the case every day.)
We have countless films dedicated to the craft of movies, music and art—for the most part, we know how those things are made. But no one talks about how games are made. This gigantic landscape sculpting force; and no one is really exploring the artistry behind it.
Indie Game: The Movie was born out of a fascination with the idea of game creation as a means of expression. If the subjects in this film were of a different time, I have no doubt they would be writers, sculptures, musicians or poets. But their living rooms and daydreams were populated with Nintendo Entertainment Systems and Sega Genesis games. As a result, video games as a medium for expression makes for a natural language.
Any artistic pursuit is filled with crushing doubts, fleeting triumphs, frets about audience and an ever-present uneasy balance against commerce. In many ways, making this film was like filming a mirror. Every moment of artistic joy and crisis we’d film, would be followed by it’s analogue in our own production process. You can take the story of Indie Game: The Movie and replace video games with film, painting, novel, etc. and not skip a beat.
We never set out to create a film that explicitly argued games were art. Rather, we just wanted to show the process by which many games are made. We wanted to show the sacrifice, the brilliance and the tumult that goes into dedicated yourself to a game’s creation. To us, it’s self-evident.
In the end, this is a film about creation. It’s about making ‘stuff.’ What happens when you dedicate yourself and your life to make that ‘stuff.’ And what happens when you put that ‘stuff’ out into the world.
For the Ed, Tommy, Phil and Jon, the developers in this film, that ‘stuff’ was games. For Lisanne and I, that ‘stuff’ was this film.
We hope you enjoy our stuff.