Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Indie Game: The Movie": Socially isolated XBOX game developers pin their lives on the next gaming show

Indie Game: The Movie”, directed by Lisane Pajot and James Swirsky, gives a look at the world of independent computer (XBOX360) game developers, and what makes them tick – as they ramp up for a show in Boston.
These mostly are “informal” young men with loose social connections.  Some say they have their backs up against the wall.  If they don’t get their games working and make a decent result at the show (in terms particularly not only of official reviews and sales but Facebook Likes) their future “careers” are over.  One is a diabetic and is shown injecting himself, but still wants to make enough to help his parents pay off their house.

There is something familiar but disconcerting when one of the gamers says that if he doesn’t make it, his life is over and he will kill himself.  People either succeed or fail in his world. When they fail, they disappear forever.  Everyone is on his own, without  many real-world social connections (although the men do have teams and little companies, and some have girl friends, and particularly attentive cats, which never seem to damage the computers). This was the most striking point of the movie. 

One of the developers explains how his game, “Super Meat Boy”, is supposed to work. The character has no skin, and be killed by a spray of salt.  He explains how the player learns the game.

At the show in Boston, “Peter” has to constantly fix his game, Fez, as it freezes when real users try it. 
This may be one of the first films where the “visuals” consist of heavily indented java code.

It's worthy of note that none of the games seem to be violent. They seem to involve imaginary characters that evoke some sympathy from the players. 
I wondered how gaming programs compare to chess-playing programs, which normally have run on super-computers, to play at an international level.

I wondered how good the games that emulate fantasy baseball or football work.  Is there a game that can replicate in detail all the physics of pitched and batted baseballs, allowing for different stadium outfields?  When I was a boy in the 1950s, we invented pinball-type baseball games to be played in cardboard stadiums.

I could think of other ideas.  Imagine a game set on an extraterrestrial planet that is tidally locked and where only an annular ring (in perpetual twilight) has a climate mild enough for the characters to live.

Or imagine my screenplay.  A guy like me is abducted by “angels” and taken to a space-station near Titan.  Both the “angels” and “me” need each other to “survive” on our own terms, as the Earth back home is on borrowed time.  That sounds like an idea for a game, doesn’t it?  I shouldn’t give too much away.

The film website is here.  The film  (BlinkWorks Media) showed at Sundance.

Google Talks actually has a 50 minute interview with the directors on  YouTube:


Bill Boushka said...

A comment was accidentally placed on wrong blog, and rejected. I think the comment belongs here on this film.

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Bill Boushka said...

(That comment was "anonymous".)