[dropcap size=big]G[/dropcap]ameLoading: Rise of the Indies is a documentary which had been in the works for quite some time. Initially crowdfunded in 2013, Studio Bento realized they actually required more funding. Instead of this being the death of their project, as has happened with other campaigns in similar situations, they managed to return to Kickstarter and raise more! In total, Studio Bento raised nearly $120,000 for their documentary, which has finally made its digital debut on VHX and Steam.
What’s this documentary all about? Indie games, indie developers, and indie culture, although the focus is primarily on the latter two. Unlike Indie Game: The Movie it provides a wide breadth of experiences and knowledge to be expressed by tons of indie developers, rather than keeping the spotlight tightly focused on three. With that said, there are still focuses, such as a great deal of attention on Davey Wreden of Galactic Cafe (The Stanley Parable). Aspects such as these help humanize the “movement” of indies in popular culture, though already somehow manage to feel dated.
That’s the hardest thing about capturing the indie game movement – it never stops. You can tell the directors had trouble selecting a main theme, idea, or statement to pursue. After all, the community is full of people seeking all kinds of divergent things. Some wish for success, others simply want to make weird games that at least one other person will play. Some devote their entire lives to crafting games while others only do so as a hobby. With such a mix of perspectives and ideologies in the mix what you come out with is a mish mash of everything.
It might sound like a complaint, but that’s what I like most about GameLoading. I appreciate its attempt at doing the impossible – capturing that lighting in a bottle and sharing it with the world. We see the highs of a financially successful launch on Steam, as well as the lows of anonymous abuse due to putting yourself out there. There is a bit of an issue with the framing, however. As with Indie Game: The Movie before it, indie games are still presented as having a direct correlation to becoming a giant hit. Or, that no one notices your game and therefore you might as well give up. The Stanley Parable was indeed fantastic, but not everyone should expect to receive such critical and consumer praise.
My favorite moments were when Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn from Tale of Tales were on screen. They emphasize my personal feelings toward indie game creation. Simply, make what you want. Make what you need because it might not be covered by the mainstream. Again, that’s just one view of indie games. And, yes, despite embracing their outsider status as creators of “notgames,” Tale of Tales is a well-known developer. So perhaps even this example is tinged by the concept that personal creative success needs to be intertwined with monetary success. I certainly wish that were the case for everyone out there!
If you’re a total outsider to the world of indie games then I’m not sure if GameLoading: Rise of the Indies will really inform you about what indie is. It shows you the lifestyles of some key developers, provides footage of unique games, and simply expects you to leave with some greater appreciation for the form. Those who do enjoy indie games already will probably find it a fun, if bit chaotic, overview of what was going on around that time during the past few years. The time capsule provided by this documentary will no doubt be something to reference as indie games continue to evolve.