One of the more difficult elements of a documentary is being able to make the subject matter interesting to anyone who views it, and not just those interested in the subject matter. Gameloading: Rise of the Indies is a Kickstarter backed documentary which excels at just that – being an interesting film for fans of gaming and people who have no interest in gaming at all. Directed by Melbourne couple Lester Francois and Anna Brady, Gameloading follows the creation and release of the indie hit The Stanley Parable, whilst also taking a look at the vast world of indie games.
Firstly, it’s inevitable that comparisons will be made to another Kickstarter backed documentary; Indie Games: The Movie. Where Indie Games: The Movie is an interesting film for gamers, it’s quite a difficult film to get into for those who have no interest in gaming. Going into Gameloading I was concerned that its focus would be solely on how indie games are made and, whilst that’s certainly a large element of the film, it’s not the main focus.
To me, what makes a documentary interesting is how it goes about documenting the subject matter it’s presenting. Is it heavy handed and works too hard to prove a point, ala Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock’s films? Or is it vague and self congratulatory like Drew: The Man Behind the Poster? Thankfully Gameloading is neither of those as it is littered with assured interviews with indie game developers and those associated with gaming.
Davey Wredon and William Pugh, the minds behind The Stanley Parable, are some of the films most interesting characters, and their relationship whilst making the game is the backbone of the films theme universality. Both Wredon and Pugh live in different countries, meaning The Stanley Parable was made without the two even meeting during its production. This relationship is not unique to these two people, and is something that is explored in great detail throughout Gameloading. There are groups of friends living all over the world who meet up occasionally for events like the Independent Games Festival, or participating in side-events like Train Jam. Train Jam is essentially a train version of what has become a common event with indie games – Game Jams. These are events that are held usually over a weekend where random developers are bundled together to make a game based on a particular theme.
It’s here that we meet a name that even non-gamers may know, Zoe Quinn. Gameloading touches on the contentious subject that is Gamergate in a clear manner that helps explain what Gamergate is and how it originated. It’s here that Gameloading works wonderfully to show the face of those affected by the abuse related to Gamergate. Zoe Quinn’s story is an interesting one that shows why she created Depression Quest. It’s not because of a desire to be the center of attention, but instead quite the opposite. It’s about using the tools that she knows and understands to explain problems that she – or others – may have.
Although this is a film about indie games, it could be argued that the film is essaying the industry as a whole. Gameloading explores things that have been around in other mediums for decades and shows how these ideas have been implemented into gaming. Ideas such as how people can use a medium to express themselves in unique ways. Where someone else may write a story or make a short film, these people choose to use the medium of gaming to express themselves. It’s here that the ever broadening scope of games is assessed. Alongside Depression Quest, there are many other game developers who use simple programming tools to help them tell their own story.
Whether it be by exploring more artsy elements, or even religious ones, the limits of what makes a game is being tested. One of the more eye opening moments is when a developer creates a game that he describes as being a ‘religious experience’. His ‘game’ is an immersive experience that is designed to give the feeling of meditating and relaxing. Some may argue that these experiences should be given a different name other than gaming, but just like an experimental film, they are just pushing the boundaries of what a game can be. There is no end goal in sight, there are no goomba’s to stomp or zombies to slaughter, it’s simply an experience.
Whilst I wouldn’t say that Gameloading is an important film, it does show that important things are happening in the world of gaming that are helping people. The need to progress with the digital world that we live in is greatly important, and with the help of games and game development, people can do just that. There’s a suggestion that just like learning to read and write, coding will become something that children will be taught in schools leading to it becoming second nature.
In the end, Gameloading is more than just a film about the world of indie games. It’s about how the game industry can help people with personal issues, to help them express themselves. It’s about bringing people together, regardless of whether that person is on the other side of the country and you may never meet. It challenges the idea of what an indie game is, and what a game can be.
Gameloading: Rise of the Indies will be available to stream from April 21.