How much are we willing to sacrifice for our creative endeavors?
This is one of the central questions in a documentary about independant game developers, Indie Game: The Movie. The movie follows three teams in various stages of production, from pushing to the finish line, to not being sure how to react once you get there.
I was interested in this movie not only because I was familiar with several of the games covered (Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez), but as a programmer and `creative type`. All of the teams in this movie were staking their financial, professional and personal futures on their game (the developer of Fez said he`d commit suicide if his game was a flop). All were spending long hours, sacrificing food, sleep, time with loved ones or even hope of a social life, all to do something great.
It`s a romantic notion in a way, giving yourself fully to art. I`ve always believed in a more moderated approach, with a day job and attempts to have a real life, a real marriage. It is not a small thing though to ask a spouse to sacrifice time together for the sake of a nights programming or writing. It`s certainly something that has to be at the core of the relationship from the beginning, as it was for one of the Team Meat developers. But even in that case there are often questions as to whether it was worth it, whether it would be better to walk away or whether you are in too deep to quit now.
It`s important to face these questions head on rather than let them sneak up on you. But often the work of just doing a thing gives us little time for reflection. That`s one of the reasons I appreciate the forum of this blog. It gives me a chance to sit quietly in a coffee shop and talk to good friends about this thing we`re all trying to do.
Also at the center of this movie is the question of how to react if something you create is loved for the wrong reason. I think we all want to be like the married Team Meat programmer who can just watch TV on release day ignoring stats and comments. But at heart we`re obsessives, wanting to know how something is doing, wanting to know if people get it, and maybe trying to explain ourselves if we think they don`t. Should we explain ourselves, with social media we can, but we also risk being chided as being pretentious. Creative works are democratic, people can enjoy them however they like, but it can be hard if someone appreciates your work ironically rather than for what you wanted to say.
Indie Game: The Movie not only gives us a picture into how our favorite things are made, but challenges those in creative fields as to what they really might be getting into. We all have to think about it sometime, but happily for many of us it is still worth it.
Indie Game: The Movie is available on Netflix and for one more week as part of Humble Bundle 7. It contains a fair bit of salty language, and some Aqua Teen Hunger Force-esque content, so consider yourself warned. Worth the wade though.