Us and the Game Industry – how indie games are the new counter-culture

Set for release this winter, the documentary film Us and the Game Industry promises to explore the motivations of indie developers like thatgamecompany. Filmmaker Stephanie Beth tells us what she learned from a new era of rebellious entertainment

Something important is happening with games at the moment. It has nothing to do with the blockbusting mainstream success of Modern Warfare 3. It isn’t about the increasing convergence of Hollywood movies and Triple AAA interactive entertainment. It is about a quiet revolution in the indie sector, where small studios and even lone developers create offbeat subjective titles rather than noisy mega-bucks shoot-’em-ups.

Because, just as in movies, it is the game design outliers who are producing the most interesting work, and who speak about the future of the medium. Last week saw the release of Journey, a beautiful, elusive adventure game by the small LA studio thatgamecompany. Set on a dying desert world, it encourages players to co-operate anonymously over the internet to solve puzzles and reach a looming mountain peak. There is no text, there are no missions, the structure is poetic and abstract. It is like nothing else out there.

The game tells us little about itself, but we may soon find out much more about how it was conceived and why. Three years ago, veteran New Zealand filmmaker Stephanie Beth was introduced to indie games by a young researcher at her documentary production company. She discovered designers like Jenova Chen, the Shanghai-born creator of Journey, as well as Jason Rohrer, who makes thoughtful, philosophical adventure games like Sleep is Death, and Petri Purho who crafted the ‘sand box’ puzzler, Crayon Physics. She saw in the indie sector something comparable to the counter-culture scene of the sixties, and it fascinated her.

Read the complete article at The Guardian.