Indie Game the Movie / Web Junkie – Double Documentary Review


Over the weekend I watched two ‘web’ based documentary-films on Netflix, so I thought it would be fun to review them together. I’ll try not to drone on too much. You know what I’m like – and we have two to get through.

And yes I realise what a sad, lonely wench I am staying in to watch documentaries whilst the rest of the world is going down Fury Road. Oh well!

Indie Game the Movie (2012)

indiegame

I’d watched this before, a couple of times in fact. It’s a really solid and dare I say inspiring documentary. The premise is of course indie games, or more to the point, the crafting of indie games. Anyone who has a Steam account or even X-Box Live, will know that there are loads of indie games out on the market and without the constraints of big companies like Sony or Microsoft, creative indie programmers are able to make pretty much anything they like. There are some fantastically weird games out there that obviously come from the depths and crevices of wild imagination.

The documentary follows the story of three indie games, their construction and release – and their respective creators. We have Braid (Jonathan Blow), Fez (Phil Fish) and my personal favourite Super Meat Boy (Edmund McMillan and Tommy Refenes). Anyone played any of them?

It’s a thought-provoking documentary and if you’re interested in gaming or programming then duh, obviously you should watch it and why haven’t you already? But even if you’re not, it’s still got that classic ‘fly on a wall’ documentary feel, where it’s just fascinating enough to watch people – watching them work, watching them panic, argue and make death threats (I’m talking to you Phil Fish) and of course the excitement of reaching their goals. Which they all deserve so much.

Super Meat Boy is my favourite of the three (my boyfriend loves Fez). Edmund and Tommy based it on all the games and adventures they loved as kids. And I love stuff that’s got that kind of feel – made purely for the unadulterated joy that we only truly get as children. Plus they’re about my age and that means I get a lot of the games references! (Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, Mario etc)

super

The life of a programmer can be a lonely one and it’s interesting to see the sacrifices that these guys have made. I have no doubt they could all be earning mega bucks at an institute like Microsoft (they’re all highly talented coders) but they’d rather make the games they love, even if it means sixteen hour days, no life, no money (they’re all stinking rich now, don’t worry) and hateful, bitchy comments from ‘fans’ online.

Why are so many people so horrible online? You think because you’re anonymous it’s okay to be a complete cretin?! Say that to my face. You motherfucker.

A lot of us have dreams and Indie Game the Movie does serve to show that our dreams are possible. It just means a lot of hard work along the way. But it’s one of those films that afterwards you think ‘right! I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that and I’m going to achieve this…..’ and then the next day you’ve probably forgotten how you planned on taking over the world but, well I guess you could always watch it again?

Web Junkie (2013)

web

I actually watched this first, which was lucky – as I found Web Junkie to be a depressing – though undoubtedly engaging – documentary. It was also the first foreign language documentary I’ve watched – Web Junkie is entirely in Chinese (but does have English subs) – and though it was weird having no Louis Theroux type figure to pop up and ‘explain everything to the audience’, it did make things less biased. It was really fucking strange though.

Basically, in China, the government have classified their idea of ‘internet addiction’ as an actual disease and have opened up a rehabilitation centre – a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and prison – to ‘cure’ teenagers.

At first appearances it seems fairly sensible – we’re given horror stories of kids dying whilst playing video games. We’re told of adult nappies – to avoid missing any gameplay. I really cannot see any pleasure in sitting there shitting yourself, just to level up on World of Warcraft – so yeah, you can see the point. Especially when twinned with videos of insane Internet Cafes where hundreds of teens all sit elbow to elbow playing games all day.

web4

But as time goes by, the documentary does seem more disturbing. The children can’t all be addicts surely? And who even says it’s a disease?! The teens are fed medication, forced to sit through medical tests (and boring, patronising seminars about how none of them ‘understand’ what it’s like to be human). Some kids even willingly admit that their parents drugged them before taking them to the hospital. One poor boy was told he was going skiing – when did it become okay for parents to lie like that?

web2

As the film went on, I felt more and more as though the problem was not with video games or the internet, but rather the relationship these kids had with their parents. I mean, one man admitted he had beat his son and even tried to stab him. A boy receiving treatment told of his father yelling at him ‘why don’t you kill yourself’ because he wanted to play a game online.

I’m not a parent, but that doesn’t seem right to me.

The vibe at the clinic was not the happiest, the only time they acted normally – like teenagers – was when they were alone together inside their dormitories, inevitably talking about the heady highs of gaming!

It seemed to me that most of these kids were pretty normal – obviously some had taken gaming to the extreme (nappies!) but a lot of them just got pleasure from it. Not everyone is social, not everyone is an intellectual or a sports star, but we all have something we’re good at. For some of these kids, it was just fun being online.

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About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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60 Responses to Indie Game the Movie / Web Junkie – Double Documentary Review

  1. sweetarchive says:

    I don’t care much for web documentaries, my Sweet, but your reviews KICKS ASS!!!!! you cracked me up!! I just sat there enjoying your lovely and awesomely honest write-ups. Your’e great, Emma 🙂

  2. Over here in Korea, pro-gaming is huge and there are 24 hours TV channels showing all the head-to-head action. Players are rock stars and there’s a lot of money to be made. Do I like your review? Yes, Yes I do.

  3. Jordan Dodd says:

    Interesting read Emma. I’d never heard of that game movie but it sounds like I certainly should check it out. Indie games make up over half the games I own. Its amazing what some people have created with fuck all budgets and manpower

    • emmakwall says:

      Ooh I think you’d like this definitely then Jordan!!! I love it and I’m not even the biggest gamer. I love indie games though, I love the ones with sentimentality (even sadness!) attached. Have you played To The Moon? About the old man who is dying and it’s his dream is to go to the moon?! VERY emotional!!!!! 🙂

      The wonderful thing about indie games is they can literally do what the fuck they like! There’s no-one saying “oh you can’t do that it’s rude” or “you can’t do that no-one will understand it” – they do what they like! Boooooom!

      • Jordan Dodd says:

        I have read about To The Moon. It helps that for the most part, the bigger publishers are releasing essentially the same game every year with a different name or number at the end of the title – interest in indie gaming has gone up as a result, and cos they aren’t working for a big developer, you’re right, they can do whatever they want.

        It is especially cool now as you can buy games in ‘early access’ and can play it as it is being worked on, so you can actually be a small part of the process as the devs use player’s reports to improve the game. It is awesome, and almost always worth the money, which is rarely over 30 bucks for one game.

        I have to avoid even looking at steam sales tho because it is so easy to buy a ton of games for 20-30 bucks, there are so many good indie games out there these days, and so many good deals. I love it!
        I’ll definitely have to check out this doco

        • emmakwall says:

          Yes so true!!! I mean look at COD – they bring it out every six months!!!! How can any development or thought really go into a game that is released in such close proximity to the last.

          Haha, sometimes there are games on Steam for literally £1 though! I mean!!!!

          So cool though, nice to chat to someone about it 🙂

          • Jordan Dodd says:

            Yeah it is cool to chat about it, I stopped buying PC gaming mags because they have such a small amount of pages dedicated to early access and indie games.

            And yeah, CoD is the perfect example for what I was talking about. Give it a new name, charge 80 bucks+ for it and all the kids will buy it. Its pathetic.

            And yeah, Steam sales are great. Sometimes I spend too much but I rarely regret buying an indie game, especially if it is what, 2 dollars? Hell one game that I have sunk many many many hours into cost me a tenner. That was on special though I think.

            Indie games rule!

            • emmakwall says:

              Steam sales are great…but dangerous! How much do you think you’ve spent on gaming over your lifetime? (if not too personal)

              CoD did have its moment of course, but that’s long gone now. Nip it in the bud!!!

              What did you play when you were younger? Nothing has EVER surpassed my Gameboy (seriously!) I loved that thing more than……….most things!

              It would be good to have a magazine dedicated to indie games. Hmmm…an idea?!

              OMG just realised definitely more than a hour has passed since we last spoke….Part IV?!!!!!!!!!!!

            • Jordan Dodd says:

              Hehe look at the book I’m writing! Nothing is too personal 😉

              Probably haven’t spent heaps overall on games, I only buy them on special. And I don’t like stuff like COD or Far Cry, most expensive games suck. I do really want GTA V though!!!

              Ha get this – my mother didn’t allow me to play videogames when I was a kid. I never had a SNES or a gameboy, just played them at friends houses. She bought me a playstation when I was 15, I’m fairly sure I was pretty ungrateful. I was raised in an…. interesting way. Me and Mum are really close though now, which is cool.

              A mag just dedicated to indie games would rule. I’d buy that in a second. But instead, PC magazines focus on games that are 6 months away, and they’ll ‘review’ PC monitors or PC cases, which is just lame.

  4. vinnieh says:

    Very interesting Emma.

  5. beetleypete says:

    Too old for games, but I like the look of the Chinese documentary though.
    Cheers Emma. Pete.

  6. Love your reviews, Emma!

    The first one is so interesting. It’s great that people do what they love instead of selling out to make money (although they do end up making money in the end) but 16 work days and no personal life? Before they know it people will be putting them in the rehab you mention in the second documentary. Speaking of which, that’s horribly depressing! Poor kids, being drugged to be taken to rehab. But I suppose if you’re crapping your pants to play games online drastic measures should be taken.

    Thanks for sharing!!

    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks Mel ❤ and I think the same about you!!!! I'm looking forward to House of the Devil this week 🙂

      Oh yeah, they've made heaps of money since beginning their journey into games. I'd say they're all millionaires easily. Sigh!!!!

      I prefer Indie Game as a documentary, I think it's more fun and inspiring. Web Junkie is worth a watch though. I think only a very small handful had an actual problem – the rest were just…dumped there by their parents really. I mean get them help yes – but keeping them locked up here just seemed so horrible. And they wonder why these kids started playing games in the first place?! Crazy.

      I'm still keeping my eyes peeled for hilarious and awful DVD covers!!!!!

      • Hehe! Me too!
        I wish I had a hobby that would naturally turn me into a millionaire!!
        It really is too bad about hose kids though, it’s like their parents are just giving up on them without trying.

        • emmakwall says:

          Me too!!! I’d like someone to pay me to sleep! (that’s just ridiculous isn’t’ it!!!!)

          Yeah I felt sorry for them. I don’t have children but I just thought wow, if that was my kid I’d give them a hug!!!

  7. Lovely reviews Ems. I’m especially interested in the second one.😘

  8. theipc says:

    Clam!!!

    DO I need to come over there and shoo you out of the house like a stray cat???????

    Love Pen!!!

    #?????????

  9. They both sound pretty good but I think I might watch the first one over the second. Great reviews Ems!

  10. Jay says:

    Interesting pair of movies, and well reviewed, Emma!

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