In the smart, involving documentary "Indie Game: the Movie," when video game designer Phil Fish chillingly asserts that he'd kill himself if he didn't finish his long-gestating game "Fez," you get the feeling he isn't bluffing. That's the level of depth and candor filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky mine here as they profile several independent artists struggling to succeed in the highly corporatized — and often hugely lucrative — video game industry.
In addition to the French-Canadian Fish, who spent more than four nerve-wracking years developing the much anticipated, aesthetically oriented "Fez," the movie also compellingly follows the long distance, rollercoaster collaboration between designer Edmund McMillen and programmer Tommy Refenes as they create "Super Meat Boy," their first major game for Xbox (it went on to sell more than 1 million copies).
Jonathan Blow, who scored with his game "Braid," also offers articulate, post-success perspective on his work and the video game industry.
Fortunately, Pajot and Swirsky don't overdo the minutiae (this is a movie even non-gamers can enjoy), offering just enough insight into the creative process to feel enlightening. The approach wisely enables the filmmakers to focus on the single-minded emotions and personal sacrifice that unite its featured artists as well as the often poignant ways in which their creations prove extensions of themselves.
"Indie Game." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.