Gameloading: Rise of the Indies Review
The debate as to what constitutes art has probably had mankind locking horns since The Palaeolithic Age, with accusations that some less honourable artists were pandering to trends and far too commercial. In truth, the concept of games as an art-form has often led me to feel that gaming is still living in The Palaeolithic Age. Yes, of course, even Triple AAA games employ artists, very fines ones and probably with a lot of integrity, but does that really constitute art?
Gameloading: Rise of the Indies is a film created by Studio Bento, after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The film tries in part to answer the above question, with a look at the rise, the fall and now the creative onslaught that is contemporary indie gaming.
Is art only ‘true’ art when made specifically for non commercial purposes? Artists have to scratch a living, like all of us. In every form of artistic expression some art is often made with the pure motivation to enlighten, to educate, to inspire, to illuminate and to challenge our perceptions and place in the world. It takes a skilled designer to make the Uncharted games so breathtaking to look at, it takes something else to really go beyond that and make us as an audience think and feel.
The film begins with a brief history of indie gaming; it’s a great overview that manages to sum it this part of the industry in a brief and timely manner. With the advent of computers in the 1980’s, in which bedroom coders ruled supreme and unrestrained creativity was the norm. Then with the rising popularity of gaming, consoles took over as the dominant force and the indie scene died down. To the now, with the internet in almost every home, the distribution of games has become much easier, console manufacturers have recognised the value in smaller, more affordable titles, a fact which hasn’t escaped the PC platform with the likes of Steam supporting indie game distribution.
Enough Waffle, Bring On The Popcorn
The film itself has many strands, with the pitch being ‘These are the stories of people that make indie games’.
No documentary seems to be made without a procession of talking heads, Gameloading uses them with aplomb. They range from industry veterans such as John Romero from id Software, a man who has been involved in gaming since its inception and seemingly has a lot of insight. The other side of that coin was the likes of Mike Bithell; developer of Thomas Was Alone and just seems to be a bit of a rentagob these days, with an opinion on everything.
We follow different developers such as Davey Wreden of The Stanley Parable fame, to games conventions, award ceremonies and the like. Which gives us a bit of an insight to the ups and downs of games development and one of the more human aspects of the film.
We also join a ‘Game Jam’. These events were a revelation to me: Groups of creative individuals meet up for a period of a few days and make game. Making games for the sake of making games, spurting their creating juices out and seeing what they can come up with in the time they spend together. The Game Jam in the film took part on a train journey for a few days and did manage to give me some comprehension on the basics of games development works.
The film visits various global games expos and we meet various artists and their respective creations. We meet creators of such games as That Dragon Cancer. A game inspired by the palliative care of a man’s son whilst the child was dying from cancer. I’m sure I need not go into the emotions I was feeling watching this section. It also shows the potential ability of games to engage its audience that perhaps other artistic mediums would struggle with.
Time is taken to look at games like Cart Life, a game that deals with the drudgery and suffering that is every day real life for much of humanity (also a special mention to Richard Hofmeier – the developer of Cart Life, for being one of the more thought-provoking and engaging contributors). The creator of Analogue a Hate Story was also very insightful to the nature of creativity and managed to crystallise what I felt was the ethos of the film.
We are introduced to Zoe Quinn, creator of Depression Quest. After creating the game Ms Quinn was subject to much online hate and found herself embroiled in the notorious GamerGate bollocks that annoyed the hell out of me (and thankfully I did my best to avoid). It was rather interesting to see and hear the human behind the story though.
We meet the expressionist makers of games like The Path , the sort of games that match my hypothesis of the meaning of true art in my introduction.
The film looks at the educational aspects of indie gaming, a tool for learning and broadening the users experience. It looks at the pitfalls of marketing, the downfalls of plagiarism.
It examines far too much and meets far too many people for a film of its size. This is the problem with Gameloading, it can get a bit to schizophrenic by trying to cover too much and give a complete overview of indie gaming and in doing so often drowns out its own strengths. I did become aware after watching the film and taking my notes that there were two directors, perhaps this explains the films slight confusion.
There were real moments of emotion in Gameloading. Meeting the artists that feel, that create, that want to express themselves by their art in an art form that at last seems to be coming of age and at last show artistic integrity. As a film though, I wish it had chosen a few of the stronger threads and followed those, rather than trying to encompass the whole of the indie tapestrty.
Gameloading: Rise of the Indies is a noble film and a film made with the absolute best of intentions, a film made with a love of the subject that it covers. I recommend any gamer interesting in indie gaming give it a pop.
More than that though, I will be recommending this film to people that often tell me that games aren’t an art-form, maybe, just maybe this will change their mind.
An bold overview of indie gaming.
Real moments of emotion and humanity.
Lacks a firm narrative and direction.