"I was actually seriously depressed for about three to four months after Braid came out," says Jonathan Blow, the best-selling game's creator in Indie Game: The Movie. This 2011 documentary (which you can watch here) follows the progress of four independent game designers as they go through the stressful process of preparing their games for the Xbox Indie Games launch.
It wasn't even negativity about his game that got Blow feeling down. "Some of the most demoralizing things were actually positive reviews. And in many cases it would be just a very surface understanding of the game that didn't even see what I thought was most special about it. And that was a little bit heartbreaking." Blow saw his game as a way to communicate his vision, the same way an artist hopes to communicate through their work.
The desire, and subsequent failure, to connect with an audience is one of the prevalent themes of Indie Game' — but are the developers being too sensitive in their frustration at gamers' lack of understanding? What do you foresee as the future of independent development? Speak your mind in the comments.
Possible Discussion Topics
1. Do you agree with Phil Fish about video games being the ultimate art form?
2. What factors do you think are most important for an indie or mainstream video game to be successful?
3. If you've played all three of the games profiled, which was your favorite and why?
4. Was all of the stress the developers experienced justified?
5. I was convinced we would witness a complete breakdown from either Tommy or Phil. Was there anyone you thought might totally fall apart from the pressure?
6. Although it happened after the release of the documentary, Phil Fish announced that he wouldn't be making Fez II because of his frustration with the industry. Do you think he's overreacting to the hardships he faces as an indie developer? Or do you think the gaming community is as hostile as he makes it out to be?
Documentary Club is a weekly feature in which we watch and discuss the finest documentaries available to stream on Netflix. Join the discussion.
Sonia Halbach is the winner of the Studio@Gawker Netflix competition. She lives in New York City and moonlights as a young adult writer with an emphasis on 19th-century historical fantasy.