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Last night I hosted a movie night at the Gaslight office to watch “Indie Game: The Movie”. I broadcasted invites across Twitter, reddit, and the user groups' mailing list I’m on. We ended up with 13 attend, five of whom were high school age or younger. I think there’s some potential to maybe have a regular Cincy Indie Game Dev meetup night.

The movie itself was pretty good. I enjoyed the intimate, behind the scenes look at the successful development of several games. We got to see early prototypes of “Braid” and the experiences that led up to it’s development. We got to see the iterative work on “Fez” and the cost of not shipping. We got to see the thought process behind “Super Meat Boy”. I really enjoyed getting to see how these guys worked. More than that though, the movie focuses on the emotional and psychological experiences of these developers as they go through multiple years of work on their projects.

I don’t actually know very much about indie game dev, so I don’t know if the movie portrays a typical experience or not. The overall image it shows is the sole developer working too many hours in somewhat poor conditions. All of the developers highlighted struggled with depression of some kind induced by burnout and exhaustion. The movie made a specific point that to do this you had to make adverse trade-offs between your work and your life. As an outsider, I want to believe you can participate in indie game dev and still maintain work/life balance.

The coolest part of the evening was after the film. We had some great discussion about the movie itself, indie game dev in general, and factors affecting getting started. A couple of the teens demoed a game they had been working on. Vincent was just beginning to use impact.js. He had a ninja able to run and jump and almost land on a moving platform. He’d also hooked up some audio as well. It was a nice start with only a few hours of experimentation on his part.

A friend of Vincent’s (who’s name I sadly don’t remember), demoed a game he wrote last summer using Unity. It was a complete tutorial level for a fairly novel game concept. Being done in Unity, it was 3D, first person. The main hook was that you could rotate the world around you in order to make your way through the level. He said it took him most of the summer to build. The actual coding of the game wasn’t that much work. It was mainly the work he did on the menu system and the artwork.

I think we could get a handful of regular attendees for a monthly game dev group. It’d be good motivation to have something to demo and show. It’s also be good to talk about our experiences developing, problems we’re having and how to overcome them.

As a brief aside, I had downloaded the censored version of the movie from their website. Unfortunately, I had not screened the movie. Even being censored, there was still quite a bit of content I wish I hadn’t projected up on the wall for my and other kids. I work in the indie software biz to some extent and know the coarseness most of us have, so I’m not really surprised. I think indie game dev is a great way to attract kids to programming. At least one of the scenes would have been very uncomfortable to watch if there had been any young women in the group. I wish the film had been more sensitive.