There’s a special place in my heart for documentaries about Game Development. In some ways I feel these films are about what I do for a living, except video games are a way more exciting and relatable artifact than a website.
Indie Game: The Movie
Indie Game: The Movie (2012) is probably the first movie that comes up when talking about game development. It follows the story of major indie successes like Fez and Super Meat Boy. In some ways this is a story of the American Dream; work hard, sacrifice all, become a success.
Also, FWIW, I don’t recommend watching the follow up Indie Game: The Movie 2. In a lot of ways it had a “Never Meet Your Heroes” quality to it.
Branching Paths (2016) is about the indie Japanese game development scene. Although Japan is home of Nintendo, Sony, and Capcom, the indie game development scene is much smaller. Kickstarter for funding isn’t popular in Japan and being freelance is somewhat counter-cultural. This documentary does a beautiful job highlighting the differences and challenges when it comes to “being indie” in Japan.
Surviving Indie (2016) is somewhat of the antidote to Indie Game. This movie follows a handful of stories that highlight the sacrifice and struggles of making indie games. The film a couple of developers from Austin, TX which because I’m from Austin felt like I was watching people in my social sphere.
DOOM Resurrected - To Hell and Back
The 3-part NoClip DOOM Resurrected (2017) documentary about the 2016 iD Software revival of the DOOM franchise is incredible. The original DOOM is part of computing history and since DOOM II the franchise has been waning but that all changed in 2016. iD revived the glory of gore and created one of the best games of the year.
There’s a lot to learn in a behind the scenes look at the reboot of a well-respected franchise. You see how the time and care that went into developing the core mechanic of the game, “The Glory Kill”, that became the foundation for what makes the game feel great. Making a successful sequel is hard work and this is a story of people working together, prototyping, gaining confidence and everything coming together in the end.
Bonus: What Comes Next is the Future
What Comes Next Is The Future is not about game development, but a documentary about people who make websites. It’s great to have the history of the web development documented and to get a roundup perspectives from those who have influenced and shaped the Web over the years.
<spoiler>Yours truly is in the first minute of the movie for ~6 seconds! I
guess the director Matt Griffin didn’t like my origin story about making fart
websites enough to make the final cut.
Bonus×2: CODE - Debugging the Gender Gap
CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap is another film about the tech industry, but video games and tech share a lot of the same gender disparity and underrepresentation of minority issues. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. A great documentary about an important topic.
If I missed anything please let me know in the comments! I’ll give any documentary 10 minutes to impress. Honorable mention was Atari: Game Over about the meteoric rise and fall of Atari. But it’s less about game development and more about game culture and history… uh-oh… I think I feel another listicle coming on…