This is no King of Kong (the acclaimed film which followed 2 video game players as they competed to achieve a new world record on the classic arcade game Donkey Kong) and it’s not exactly a movie either. More accurately it’s a movie-length documentary following 3 independent game developers, each with a game at a different stage of development. The games in question are Fez (at the time of filming, midway through it’s development), Super Meat Boy (fast approaching it’s release date) and Braid (which had already been released to critical acclaim).
Much is made of how the developers’ individual psyches and childhood experiences influence their games. This and the fact that the developer’s like to complain about generic massmarket games is slightly ironic given how ultimately, they all end up making what are at a basic level 2D “Run and jump” games (think Mario but with added bells and whistles).
Considering how this could all be slightly dry subject matter, it’s impressive how the director has managed to mine such a rich seam of emotion from it. The developers have all poured their heart, soul and financial security into their games and the stakes are high. The games *need* to succeed. This is something that the documentary really gets across well to the viewer and there are a number of emotional moments as the developers flit between despair and elation.
The flipside to this is that you get the feeling more than a couple of times that dramatic moments have been exaggerated at the expense of the truth. For example Fez’s constant crashing at it’s initial showing appears to make it unplayable, but not much later on this doesn’t seem much of a problem at all – you see a queue of people all happily playing and enthusing about the game. Similarly Tommy (Super Meat Boy programmer) is distraught when he realises his game is not featured on Xbox Live Marketplace on it’s release day but then the film switches to show his co-developer Edmund who doesn’t seem at all bothered and in fact doesn’t even mention it. You get the feeling this issue was quickly resolved after an email to the publisher.
Still this is a well made, interesting and occasionally emotional documentary. Recommended especially if you are interested in video games, and even if you aren’t you will still get something from it.