Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary released in 2012, chronicling the development of Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Braid and their effects on their creators. It’s a very personal story, focusing primarily on four individuals and the massive swings in their tone, mood, and outlook throughout the development cycle and through release.
I appreciated its ability to create a narrative that felt honest without being contrived. It’s clear for these games in particular that a lot was riding on them, and the pressures to complete them in a timely manner that satisfied everyone were real and weighed heavily. It’s shot, edited, and paced very well to show both interviews and real moments of triumph and despair as they happen.
In other words, I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys video games, and especially indie games. Anyone who likes a good documentary about real people is likely to enjoy it, as well.
But something else struck me after watching: the format of the movie. How I watched it.
It’s a Steam “game”. It sits right above Left 4 Dead. It has achievements. It has menus of the caliber of, well, good games, rather than slow, clunky DVDs.
This made me wonder if this will be the new way of consuming media in the future. We’ve already seen the influence of YouTube, where content creators can upload a video of any length and share it, then further connect it to others with annotations and channels. No one is restricted to “half an hour minus commercials” anymore. Creators can aim for the audience they want and not be overly burdened by executive influence.
It seems a natural extension of these increases in malleability to incorporate new forms of media into a single product. This Steam
game movie has the main documentary and a number of extras, all accessible through the program. (I recommend the trailer, followed by the funny action movie reimagining of said trailer.) Achievements track how much of the content and features you’ve accessed, which indicates to others what you’ve seen.
And most recently, the documenters released DLC for the program: extra content since the film was released last year, continuing the story past the credits. The game/update scheme of computer gaming today seems a natural fit for this need to quickly patch and incrementally add to any product, including a film. (And further, quite necessary when recording the turbulent world of indie game development.) I’m also curious to know what software was used to host this documentary, and if a standard will arise to facilitate this transition and enhancement.
All of this feels like a glimpse into the future of accessibility and connectivity in forms of media beyond games. Valve is letting non-game software be sold on Steam now as we speak, and I wonder if it will become a digital movie (or television) platform very soon. They have the infrastructure in place for downloading, enjoying, updating, sharing, and showing off what you play.
Why not the same for what you watch?
Edit (2013-09-11): Some discussions on Reddit pointed out some flaws in my thinking in this post. Primarily, I completely failed to mention Netflix, which clearly has a hold on the television and movie market. I still believe, though, that Steam has a few qualities that users might enjoy that Netflix does not provide. IGTM’s software allowed play of several short clips of interviews and topics that wouldn’t necessarily suit well in Netflix’s library. Steam has interactivity among users, where they can amass a representation of what they have completed. Right now, that is entirely personal on Netflix, and hey, maybe the same urge doesn’t exist for passive media. But Facebook wants us to show off our collectively consumed media, too. So perhaps a trend is starting.