Indie Game: The Movie

In the 1960s, the invention of the home movie camera revolutionised the world of film. The affluent history of cinema is hugely indebted to the camera as a consumer product. The camcorder’s independence from studio control and totalitarian marketing statistics turned their consumers into producers, and gave birth to new strains of cinema that went some way towards defining film as the art form of the 20th century.

Since the 1960s there has always been a programming and computer graphics underground. As with any developing art practice, there must be an underground in order for new ideas to flourish. Until recently, these small rebellions have had no envoy to the mainstream, existing in basements and dusty university laboratories in the hands of a marginalised few.

…an extremely polished, mainstream aesthetic that does not pander exclusively to video game fandom…

INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE may have several objectives, but its most blatant one is to highlight the blood, sweat and tears that go into video game development. The directors have skilfully formulated a highly enjoyable and accessible story, in which several likeable developers struggle to complete their games. Assisted by the suave cinematography and editing, the directors’ perspective on the industry and its practitioners offers a refreshing change of pace.

2007’s documentary THE KING OF KONG conforms to a well-established representation of the video game industry and its fandom as marginal and eccentric. INDIE GAME dismisses this stereotype and implements an extremely polished, mainstream aesthetic that does not pander exclusively to video game fandom. When discussing the creative process, the sole creator of platform and puzzle game Braid, Jonathan Blow, describes the “creation of a highly glossy, commercial product” as “the opposite of creating something personal”. The accessible and didactic format of INDIE GAME ensures that there is no room for personal interpretation by the viewer, as the directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky are cold and domineering with the film’s message.

…game design freeware allows consumers to produce better digital media than their mainstream counterparts…

INDIE GAME informs us that the video game industry’s contribution to the world of art is not restricted to its inspiration behind commercial spin-offs such as STREET FIGHTER, RESIDENT EVIL and SUPER MARIO BROS, which pay tribute to the language of video games in their format and rely on a guaranteed profit from the game’s loyal fan base. INDIE GAME also offers its audience a gateway into digital interactive media. Its format employs a soft approach for potential new recruits, as the triptych of projects chosen as its focus shows three different, but equally accessible approaches to a medium whose potential is infinite. The most important initiative for INDIE GAME is the raising of the collective consciousness to a world of new user-generated media that are created independently of studio control.

This film is not just about the independent games market. Indie games are an example of the wide range of user-generated content being developed today that is free from the constraints and the marketing strategies of major corporations, from podcasts to short films. INDIE GAME is a glowing testament to the fact that the current standard of game design freeware allows consumers to produce better digital media than their mainstream counterparts. While new wave independent producers can’t match the grandeur and spectacle of Disney or Epic, their innovation with the technology is unrivalled.

Today, interactive digital media is a primary element in the praxis of day-to-day human existence.

It is important not to forget the spirit of the computer scientists and artists whose experimentation helped to develop computer graphics in the beginning. Without an inquisitive attitude towards the technology in all art forms, the media will inevitably flatline and become sterile. Everyone, gamer or not, should explore interactive films such as Dan Pinchbeck and Robert Briscoe’s Dear Esther, and Evan Boehm’s The Carp and the Seagull. These consumers turned producers have pushed the outcome beyond the limitations of traditional video game and film.

AVATAR buffoon James Cameron talks about technological innovation in cinema in a most superficial manner, like it’s a tourist bus ride to celebrity houses: passive, thick with shallow thrills and leading to a dead end. At the other end of the spectrum, independently motivated programmers and designers are usually interested in achieving a comprehensive philosophical understanding of our relationship with technology, and the culture developing from it.

Echoing cinema’s development in the hands of the consumer, for the vast majority of indie game developers distribution is free, digital and easy – and although producing any image in a computer graphics application requires a level of skill not required for film, the personal learning resources available today are much more advanced than in the 1970s. Today, interactive digital media is a primary element in the praxis of day-to-day human existence. The work and research of these computer scientists floods from our hands, swamps our homes and is part of who we are. In 1985 Donna Haraway affirmed that “we are all chimeras, theorised and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs”. In 2012 we are cyborgs who are free to create digital interactive art, and INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE is our emancipation proclamation.


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