GameLoading: Rise of the Indies Review: Indie Spirit
Kalvin Martinez / May 4th, 2015 No Comments
It is hard to deny the explosion of indie games over the past few years. The popularity and reach of games made by smaller developers is at an all-time high. Now, there are a wide range of tools available that make it easier than ever for indie teams to make games. The indie game scene is incredibly vibrant, with more avenues to get games out to people, festivals and a more receptive audience.
GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is a documentary examining the ever-increasing visibility and viability of indie games. It uses a wide scope to look at the indie game scene. Telling individual developers’ stories in the documentary becomes a way to speak about the scene at large, including the successes and pitfalls that come with making indie games. However, the documentary isn’t solely concerned with a few developers but telling a larger narrative of what it is like to make games independently.
Even if the main thrust of the documentary isn’t following individual case studies of developers, there are several developer-centric segments. The main through line of GameLoading: Rise of the Indies follows Davey Wreden (and William Pugh) as they work on The Stanley Parable and get it ready for release. Charting The Stanley Parable through specific development mile stones to full release allows the viewer to learn more about what drives Wreden to make games. It also gives the documentary a spine to structure the various branching concerns about indie gaming around.
In the documentary, we also get smaller looks at different developers that help illuminate what it is like to create indie games. Robin Arnott details the difficulty in creating more experimental indie games with his sound-based trance-like experience, Soundself. Richard Hofmeier discusses dealing with criticism to his game, Cart Life, and how rewarding “Let’s Play” videos can be. Ryan Green gives an emotional glimpse into what it is like demoing That Dragon, Cancer, which shows what it is like dealing with his son, Joel’s battle with terminal cancer.
Rami Ismali spends most of his time traveling going to different game conferences. Living on the road to promote games becomes a necessity. Trent Kusters shows how scrappy you need to be when promoting your game at a convention like PAX. We see him go from wandering around showing off his game with a build on an iPad in a guerilla marketing way to scoring a table near the Indie Megabooth to set up and demo his game, Armello. These two stories demonstrate how vital it is to self-promote when you’re independent, and how much that fact can be taken for granted when looking at games from a more mainstream perspective.
Viewers also get a glimpse at the uglier side of indie gaming through the stories of Christine Love and Zoe Quinn. Christine Love speaks about how she transitioned from writing prose to creating visual novels, and how she thinks telling stories in games can be very powerful. She also discusses how examining Korean patriarchy in her game, Analogue: A Hate Story touches on the misogyny found currently in games (and the visual novel genre).
Zoe Quinn talks about Depression Quest and why she needed to make the game. She also addresses the issues with misogyny she has faced as a woman making video games. She discusses taking down Depression Quest from Greenlight, receiving rape and death threats, changing her phone number, and the vitriolic nature of internet culture. It is a smart move for the documentary to deal with these issues, especially in contract to how easy it is becoming to make video games.
The documentary also touches on the accessibility and ease of creating games now thanks to the wealth of tools available. From game jam to teaching kids how to code and program shows the barrier to making games in 2015 is thin. Interviews with John Romero, Don Daglow, and Tom Hall put a good perspective on what kind of means are out there now to make video games.
When watching these various developers talk about indie games and making games, it becomes apparent this is a personal experience. Indie gaming isn’t about corporations making games; it is about the individual people making them. There is a very real sense that the games these developers make are a means of expression, it just happens the medium they can express themselves in is interactive.
Watching GameLoading: Rise of the Indies without keeping Indie Game: The Movie in mind is nearly impossible. There are many parallels between each film in terms of structure, style, and focus. The comparison isn’t a bad thing though. While both documentaries have many commonalities, they explore indie games in completely different ways.
GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is examining indie gaming with a much larger focus looking at many different avenues of the scene. Whereas Indie Game: The Movie examined indies through specific case studies of Team Meat, Jonathan Blow, and Phil Fish. It turned the documentary into a snapshot of the early success of indie video games and the growing accessibility of them. GameLoading: Rise of the Indies tells a broader story about the growing number of indie games and the different types of people making them.
The two documentaries are complimentary to each other. Indie Game: The Movie gives an early glimpse of indie games around 2012, while GameLoading: Rise of the Indies updates you on what indie games are like currently. To get a full picture of where indie games were, where they are now and where the future might lie, you’d do well to watch both films.
The broad approach makes the documentary a bit rambling at times, but it communicates effectively what drives these indie developers to make games. It gives gamers a look into what it is like making indepent games within the growing scene and celebrates the spirit of independent game developers. GameLoading: Rise of the Indies is ultimately a very hopeful documentary leaving viewers with a sense of the possibilities in indie gaming.
GameLoading: Rise of the Indies was reviewed using a code provided by the publisher.
tags: documentary , film , GameLoading: Rise of the Indies , indie game: the movie , Movie , review