Indie Game: The Movie – Where Are They Now?
In June of 2012, filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky released Indie Game: The Movie, offering an up-close and personal look at the creators of some of the most successful independent games in the industry. Jonathan Blow and his game Braid, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refene’s Super Meat Boy, and Phil Fish and Renaud Bédard’s Fez are all featured in the film.
The movie showcases not only the technical difficulties of building a video game, but also the emotional trials that independent developers go through during the process. As a result, the movie is in some ways more about the people making the games than the games themselves – and ends up being a more emotional ride than many viewers expected.
Now that the film has been out for over a year, and all the games featured in the film have released, we decided to check in with the developers showcased in the film to see what they are up to now and find out how the film affected their careers and personal lives.
This feature originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Game Informer magazine. New content has been added, including interviews with the filmmakers, and an extended interview with Team Meat's Edmund McMillen.
Jonathan Blow – Braid
Braid is the only game featured in the film that had already released during the filming of the documentary. In the year since, Blow has been hard at work on his upcoming game, The Witness. Braid was already a successful game when Indie Game: The Movie released, but Blow did see a small spike in sales after the release of the film. Blow is a completely independent developer, so appearing in the film did little to boost his already successful game design career or open new doors. Still, he was happy to be involved, saying, “I almost turned down being in the movie; at that time I had a pretty low opinion of the ways game development was getting represented on television and in the movies. But from talking to the filmmakers I could tell they were going to have a more respectful approach.” The biggest change in Blow’s life resulting from his appearance in the film is getting approached by fans. “I get recognized in public more often, but that is not a goal that I have been striving for or anything,” says Blow, “In fact, it gets hard to deal with sometimes.”
Current Favorite developers and games: Droqen’s Starseed Pilgrim, Michael Brough’s Corrypt and Game Title: Lost Levels, and IonFX's Miasmata.
Phil Fish – Fez
The outspoken Phil Fish is arguably the most memorable developer featured in the film. The long-in-development Fez was subject to legal complications from former development partners. This situation caused Fish a lot of stress – which he wasn’t shy about expressing in the film. Since the release of the film, Fish has ported Fez to PC with the help of his partner on the project, Renaud Bédard. He’s also dropped hints about the game coming to other platforms, including Sony’s consoles.
Fish, even before the release of Indie Game: The Movie, was not scared to voice his often-controversial views on video games in public forums. Quotes from personal appearances at assorted conferences, as well as from his Twitter account, were often the topic of news posts on video game websites vilifying Fish and his opinions. Fish recently grew tired of it, opting to no longer speak with press. He left Twitter in May by tweeting, “people see me in a documentary and they think they know everything about me. i feel so f---ing naked and constantly under attack.” Shortly after, he tweeted, “im going to get off twitter for a while i think.” The formerly frequent tweeter has been quiet ever since, appearing only on the Vine social network to post short videos that rarely have anything to do with video games.
Before silencing his Twitter voice, Fish did appear on Reddit for an “Ask Me Anything” session, where he said that he is currently working on porting Fez, but otherwise hasn’t done anything particularly creative. Fish said, “I haven’t really ‘made’ anything since the game came out. A necessary evil I suppose but life has generally been really good!”
Update: After a brief stint of silence, which occurred at the time this feature was originally published, Phil Fish has returned to twitter.
Renaud Bédard – Fez
Renaud Bédard was a small part of Indie Game: The Movie, but he played a large role in the creation of Fez. Bédard had planned to leave Polytron after Fez was completed and shipped, but decided to continue working on the game through the PC port, which released in May 2013. “I wanted to leave because I’d been working five years with one other guy on one project, and I needed to get some fresh air,” Bédard says. “Right now, I don’t think single-programmer indie development is good for me.” Currently, Bédard is working on an unannounced title with Capybara Games in Toronto.
Update: Since the publication of this article in the magazine, Bédard's new project has been announced. Learn more about Below by heading here.
There was some controversy surrounding the representation of Fez’s legal struggles in the film, and it is one of the few elements of the film that Bédard is unsure about. In the film, Polytron is at odds with its co-founder who is threatening legal action, and it is unclear if the filmmakers reached out to him for comment. Bédard says, “People that have seen the movie ask me questions about that, and where I stand with that, which goes a bit into personal space and it’s not something that’s much fun to address. Still, I completely understand (and respect) [filmmakers] James [Swirsky] and Lisanne [Pajot]’s approach. They were trying to show the emotional and mental distress that a situation like that can cause, and how Phil goes through it. Bad breakups happen, it gets messy, and it’s not a bad thing to show that it happens.”
Otherwise, Bédard is happy he was able to be involved with Fez. It has created many opportunities for Bédard, who says, “I’m not sure how much of that to attribute to the movie itself, but reaching a general audience, students, and bedroom developers is definitely something.”
Current Favorite developers and games: Candy Box, Québécois Gamesbymo’s A.N.N.E., games from Aliceffekt, Guacamelee, Starseed Pilgrim, Ni No Kuni, Monaco, Fract, and Xra’s Memory of a Broken Dimension.
Tommy Refenes – Super Meat Boy
During the film, Tommy Refenes was struggling, financially, mentally, and physically. Things have gotten better for Refenes since the film and game released. “It was tough. I was working about 20 hours a day and getting very restless sleep where I’d often wake up taking panic gasps of air,” Refenes says. “The success of the game helped in a way, but really just not being in that situation anymore was a much bigger help.” Refenes is hard at work on Mew-Genics with McMillen, and is also working on two side-project tools that will help developers create games.
Refenes is mostly happy that he appeared in the film. Refenes says, “I’m honored to be a part of the movie; but I do wish that it wasn’t being filmed at the most stressful time in my entire life.” In retrospect, Refenes said he might have opted not to be filmed at certain points, and he would have chosen different words to express his distaste for non-independent games. “Everyone thinks I hate triple-A games because I said Halo and Call of Duty suck,” Refenes says. “I don’t think those are good games, but I never discount the work and time that went into them – but that’s not something that comes across in the movie.”
Much like McMillen, Refenes gets recognized in public now. “I never know what to say to people when they come up and talk to me. I’m always nice but when they say stuff like ‘You were really inspiring’ it still catches me off guard and I stumble over myself. It’s always flattering when it happens, but it’s just weird.”
Current Favorite developers and games: Cactus’ Hotline Miami, Mossmouth’s Spelunky, Fire Emblem Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Grand Theft Auto V, and Jonathan Blow’s The Witness.
Edmund McMillen – Super Meat Boy
Since the release of Super Meat Boy and his appearance in the film, Edmund McMillen has released The Binding of Isaac and an expansion, The Wrath of the Lamb, which just broke 2 million units sold. Currently, McMillen is hard at work on Mew-Genics with his Team Meat and Super Meat Boy collaborator, Tommy Refenes. He is also working with Nicalis on porting The Binding of Isaac to consoles and fostering a classic Game Boy game collection, buying large bundles of Japanese games online.
Appearing in the film has created a few life changes for McMillen. He now gets recognized in public by fans, something he’s not entirely comfortable with. “I put my foot in my mouth a lot,” McMillen says, “I’m not the most appropriate person when it comes to joking and I always just assume that people know my sense of humor and I end up saying something weird.”
He is glad that he appeared in the film, even if it has become a sort of ‘be careful what you wish for’ situation. “I didn’t want people to recognize me. I didn’t want to be this poster boy for indie games. I want my games to be them,” McMillen says. “I don’t know how to take a compliment like, ‘Hey, I like you.’ – ‘Really? Cause I’m not a huge fan myself, so I question your taste.’” McMillen loves talking about what he does, but for the near future, he will be doing it off-camera.
Current Favorite developers and games: Surgery Simulator, games from Tyrone, 1001 Spikes, Spy Party, Spelunky, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Jonathan Blow's The Witness, and Kid Dracula for the Game Boy.
Head to the next pages to see previously unpublished interviews with the filmmakers and Edmund McMillen.
I spoke with filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, the duo behind Indie Game: The Movie, thorough e-mail, but unfortunately due to timing and space, I wasn't able to include their interview in the original article. To find out what their up to, and to find out more about the upcoming special edition of Indie Game: The Movie, you can check out the full interview below.
What are you up to now? Are you working on a new film? Are you still working together?
Lisanne: Currently, we are just finishing up the Special Edition of Indie Game: The Movie. The Special Edition is kind of the ultimate and last word on the movie. It’s the film, plus over 250 minutes of extra content.
James: We kind of kept on shooting, even after the film was done – and released! There may have been a tad of Stockholm Syndrome going on, but we really wanted to take the project full circle, and give the audience a very thorough and complete experience (if they want).
Lisanne: So, the Special Edition contains epilogues with Ed, Phil, Tommy, and Danielle. Plus, it contains a host of stand alone short films with people we interviewed for the original film. These were great stories that belonged in some movie, but just not the version of Indie Game: The Movie we were making at the time. So, we’re really glad to finally be sharing some of the great stuff we got. In addition, there’s in-depth Q&As with us and everyone in the film. It’s really the perfect compliment to the movie and a great way to mark off that chapter in our lives/careers.
Do you want to do more documentaries about video games and their creators? Or will you pursue other subjects?
Lisanne: Once the Special Edition is out this Summer, we have four different projects were pursuing. One of which we hope to start this Fall. Two of those projects are very much videogame related, and if we get the ‘Okays’ from the right people, they will be amazing to work on. The other two are non-videogame, but certainly within the same cultural sphere. We’re thinking that if you dug Indie Game: The Movie, you’ll dig the next project we’re working on.
James: It’s funny though, when we were in the thick of making and releasing Indie Game: The Movie, we were pretty convinced the next project would be decidedly non-game related. It may have been that we were running out of ways to shoot someone at a computer, but we were really hankering to shoot something with explicit action/activity. However, once we were left to think about our next film, we kept on gravitating to game stories. We have decades of this culture-changing industry and a handful of films talking about it. There is so much left to explore.
How did the release of the film affect your careers? Has there been a significant change in the sort of projects being offered to you, or the sort of projects you are pursuing?
Lisanne: Making and releasing Indie Game: The Movie has been life changing. Artistically, personally and certainly career-wise.
James: The last ten years of our lives were spent shooting commercial work and running a business-for-self. And it was a decade-worth of saying ‘yes’ to everything – never knowing where from, or if the next project is coming. The scariest thing we did for this project was to say ‘no’ to commercial work – effectively killing our business – in order to shoot and produce Indie Game: The Movie full-time. But, it’s paid off.
Lisanne: We are now in this wonderful position of having really compelling projects offered to us - which is amazing. And also, the success of Indie Game: The Movie has given us the ability to strike out on a second independent project of our own, with a certain amount of support, recognition, and audience that we of course didn’t have the first time around.
James: I’d like to say that those things will make project #2 easier to get done, but I think our artistic ambitions have grown in step with the success of the film. So, the next thing will likely not be easier to
do... just different.
Were you happy with the critical reception of the film?
Lisanne: Yes! We knew we were making a film that gamers and developers would very likely enjoy and respond to. However, we were very much also aiming to tell and make a more universal story that just happened to take place within games. And by all accounts, we did that. When we showed the film at Sundance, and the reviews started to roll in, it was amazing.
James: People were saying the things that we were secretly dreaming they would say. It was really accessible and really resonating with people outside of games. The film ended up with 93% Rotten Tomatoes score, a New York Times, Critics Circle awards, on a ton of top ten lists, and is one of the highest rated films on Netflix. The reception has been unbelievable.
Interestingly enough though, when we do get an overly critical reaction – which is wonderfully rare – it comes from people very close to the subject, sometimes indie devs themselves. We were actually told to expect this from a fellow filmmaker, Gary Hustwit - the creator of Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. He’s had years of designers viewing his work, and saying, "But what about ______?" And we’ve certainly had a bit of that.
Lisanne: The film was never meant to cover all aspects of videogames or even independent games for that matter. It covers four specific stories and experiences, ones that we think are quite universal. But to cover every experience and every aspect of game development would be near impossible and ultimately make for a much worse film. But, I’m actually talking about rare exceptions. The overall reaction within and outside of gaming has been a landslide of positivity. It’s been incredible.
Do you think the film had a tangible impact on the success of the games featured?
James: Leading up to our premiere and in the film’s early days, Indie Game: The Movie was certainly playing off of, and benefiting from the profile of the developers and the games in the film. A lot of people were watching the movie that was about Braid or Super Meat Boy. However, as the film grew – with Sundance, its theatrical release, iTunes and especially Netflix – and was exposed to, and gained traction with a huge amount of non-gamers. We saw more and more people talking about buying and playing, ‘those games that were in that movie’. Of course, all of those games would be successes, movie or no movie. But, it’s extremely rewarding and satisfying to think that Indie Game: The Movie is not only exposing people to this side of gaming, but actually prompting them to seek out and actually play these games. And personally, whenever you can give something back to your subjects – after they’ve given so much to us and the film – it feels really, really good.
What is happening with the HBO show? Is it still happening?
Lisanne: Good news / bad news. Bad news is we can’t talk about it. The good news is we can’t really talk about it.
Who are some of your current favorite indie developers? What games have you enjoyed and are playing right now?
James: Well, the Special Edition was officially delayed by three days when Lisanne lost herself to the world of Ridiculous Fishing. It absolutely consumed her. And that doesn’t happen often. The guys at Vlambeer, along with Zach Gage and Greg Wohlwend, are doing really interesting stuff. And they’re doing it in a very prolific fashion that is equally as impressive as the games themselves. If you’re an indie dev and in search of inspiration, you should be following these guys.
Also, it donned on me the other day that Greg Wohlend (who also did the poster for Indie Game: The Movie) is the throughline to some of my all-time favorite iOS games: Solipskiier, Hundreds, and Ridiculous Fishing. So, going forward I think it’s a solid rule of thumb: Pick up anything Greg Wohlwend is attached to.
Head to pages three and four to read the full interview with Edmund McMillen.
I spoke with Edmund McMillen for this feature and had an extended chat about Game Boy games, trying to convince your parents that video games are worthwhile, and why flea markets are awesome. You can check out the full transcription of the interview below.
What are you up to right now? I know you’re working on Mew-Genics. Are you working on anything non-game related?
I’m working on Mew-Genics and Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Mew-Genics is the one I am hands-on with. Rebirth, I am basically working with Nicalis on. Currently they’re remaking the game, then basically I’m on once they have the remake remade, then I will help with the all the new content and all the new design.
How do you think being in the film has affected your career overall?
It’s been odd. I didn’t notice much of a difference until recently, where for the first time ever the press has been contacting me about stories – like this for example. I always had to work really hard for press and I really was on the ball when it came to e-mailing as many people as possible when it came to working on something new. And Mew-genics has actually been the first title that has gotten coverage without me having to actively beg for coverage.
Do you think that is a product of being in the film or do you think that is a product of Super Meat Boy being an excellent game?
I’d say it is probably a combination of the two. The movie has definitely gotten me out there more and I think maybe I am more approachable because people have seen the movie. It’s hard to gauge. I don’t know how much of it is the movie, how much of it is what I’m working on, and how much of it is Super Meat Boy. The name recognition is definitely there and I’d like to think that the movie definitely got more people playing Super Meat Boy.
It’s interesting because people will come up to me and say, “Hey, I saw the movie! I love Super Meat Boy. What are you going to work on nex?” and I say, “Well, I’ve made The Binding of Issac.” That’s what I did a year after Meat Boy and they don’t know, because to them when the movie ends, they just go to Meat Boy. Since the movie I’ve released The Binding of Isaac, the Wrath of Lamb expansion, and the basement collection.
I’d say that most of the reactions and stuff that has actually changed, has been more weird awkward social interaction of people stopping me when I’m out doing something or whatever.
Do you find yourself getting recognized more now? Usually game developers in particular, their faces aren’t shown in their video games. Do you find yourself getting recognized more now?
Before the movie, twice in my life had I gotten recognized on the street and it was basically because they saw me talk at USCS or something local. It was always something local. Now it’s weird. I mean I’m in no way a celebrity, but I really feel for celebrities, because the taste that I’ve gotten is not something that I am comfortable or familiar with at all. It’s more awkward than anything else. I just don’t want to come off like an a***ole. I’m just not that good socially and I always feel like I’m not living up to what they expect. I don’t want to let them down in some way. Especially if I’m busy and I’m trying to get to some place and someone stops me and they say something about the movie and they kind of just linger there and I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I don’t know what they want, and I don’t want to be like, “Hey, I’ve got something to do,” and blow them off. I just don’t know what to say and it’s awkward.
It’s too bad you didn’t have a catch phrase are something that you could say from the movie.
Yeah, I know. I wish I could just say a catch phrase and then I’d probably have an out. Everybody is always nice and everybody is always cool. It’s just mostly me, and I feel like I’m a jerk. I put my foot in my mouth a lot. I'm not the most appropriate person when it comes to joking and I always just assume that people know my sense of humor and I end up saying something weird.
Are you happy that you appeared in the film? Do you think it’s been a good thing?
Yeah, I think the film was really good. I think it for me personally, it definitely helped everyone around me understand what I do. It helped my mom understand what I do and people who are related to me. So many people in my life – even when the movie was being filmed and Meat Boy was being released – my mom was still sending me news paper clippings of jobs that had something to do with computers. She thought that I should move towards that stuff. There was definitely a huge misconception. I had been making games for eight years then, and I had been getting by. I wasn’t wealthy, but I got by. I worked hard and I got by, but for the most part everyone in my family still saw me as, “I play video games all day,” and who knows how he pays the bills.
It’s funny that you mention your parents, because Indie Game: The Movie is the movie that I want to show my parents so they can understand why I'm passionate about video games.
That’s what I really appreciate it for. It’s an isolated incident when it comes to who they are showing. You are getting one piece of the puzzle of many different experiences. I think it’s really hard for people who don’t play video games or understand video games and how they are made to see it as an art form. I really think that the movie talks about it without talking directly about it. I think most people at the movie theater that understand art in general no longer don’t see video games as art. It’s just something that’s clicked. “Oh, the guys in the movie they were artists and they were expressing themselves and making something creative, and they released it and they saw some success and that’s awesome," and hopefully inspiring people. I really love it for that.
I love, of course, the feeling of inspiring people. I hope they don’t get the wrong idea. Even though the film touches on so many things, I always say that I wish the film was more clear that this wasn’t my first game, even though they were. There was a whole segment about a bunch of other games that I had made, but a lot of people come out of that with the idea that I just kind of fell out of the sky and me and Tommy made a game together. It was the first game that did really well but it was a long process for me. It was years and years and years of work and building on this foundation and fan base that was able to get me even the option to do an Xbox 360 game. It took a lot of work, and that kind of illusion is something that I would love to be able to squash, in a way. I want people to understand that you do have to work for a very long time and you do have to work very hard in order to get anywhere with anything that you are doing.
And it’s not about the money. It’s not about the possibility of selling a s***-load of games. It’s about the fact that you enjoy doing it regardless. It’s nice to have some bonus, which is what it was. It was the extra bonus at the end of the completion of the project, but it wasn’t the goal. The goal was to do something. I was trying to do something as good as I could do it. I wanted to make something better than anything else that I had done that embodied who me and Tommy were, and put us out there and hopefully people could enjoy it. It was my first mainstream option that I was given. I wanted to take the opportunity to do something as good as I possibly could do it. If it made a lot of money, that would be great, but we didn’t expect it to make as much as it did.
Speaking towards sales, did you see sales in Super Meat Boy rise when the film released?
Yeah, the game had been out for a year. Because they say at the end of the movie a million copies had been sold because that’s what we hit at the year mark. The anniversary mark. We didn’t notice a jump in sales, but we noticed that it stabilized. Once the movie came out, because sales will slowly drop off as time passes, it was basically at our year mark. The sales that we had there had been higher, a very stable, but higher sales number since that point, since the movie came out. Our year three sales have been as good as the year two sales. It kind of keeps it there. It’s pretty surprising. It’s interesting.
If for some reason another opportunity to appear in another documentary film of a similar film arises of a similar nature, do you think you’d go for it?
I think I’m done at this point. The funny thing is that Indie Game: The Movie is one of the three movies that had filmed me and Tommy at the exact same time. And another one, I believe she just e-mailed me and said it was finished. I don’t know if I’m in it. I probably got cut due to being prominent in Indie Game: The Movie but I think it was called, Us in the Game Industry or something along those lines and they had filmed me. She had actually filmed me like half a year before Indie Game: The Movie, so it was right when Meat Boy was bubbling. The ideas were kind of starting so it was interesting. And then GamePro was doing a documentary on indie games and they came and interviewed me a couple of times for that. But that died.Then there was another, a PBS special, that I don’t think ever finished. I think it was supposed to be a bigger thing but it turned out to be like a half hour.
I love talking about my work and everything, but I feel like, I dunno – James and Lisanne were really pleasant to be around and it was a really hard time in my life. They were really gentile, nice, kind people. It was nice to just have them around when times were tough. If it was anybody else I think I probably would have hated them. And I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable with them in my house invading my space at those stressful moments, but for the most part they were just so gentile. And they just felt like kind of family, so I was totally fine with it, but I don’t need any more. I don’t need anything else.
The movie filled me up to the point. There’s a part of you, of course, where you think of the documentary crew coming in and are like, “Maybe this will really make people know who I am!” and all this other stuff, too. But it’s one of those 'careful what you wish for' situations. In the end, that’s not what I wanted at all. I'm just not that kind of person. It's nice that people are inspired by my life and liked the movie, but it’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want people to recognize me. I didn’t want to be this poster boy for indie games. I want my games to be them. I’m more comfortable with someone coming up to me and saying, “I really like your game,” than someone coming up to me and saying, “I really liked you in that movie,” because I don’t know how to respond to that. Because I can’t take that as a compliment. Because all I did was go crazy on camera. It didn’t take any effort. I didn’t do anything. I worked really hard to try to get better at making indie games over the course of 10 years that I’m comfortable with talking, but I don’t know how to take a compliment like, “Hey, I like you.” Really? Cause I’m not a huge fan myself, so I question your taste. I don’t know. It’s weird.
I think it kind of showed me that I’m just not that kind of person that cares like I don’t think I’m cool. I don’t think anybody else should think that. I don’t really think that I’m that nice of a person. I might come off that way in the movie. But for the most part I’m not. I’m a pretty selfish person. I care about the people I care about and everyone else can *** die. It’s nice to inspire people, and at the end of the movie it was a very touching moment for me because I was lucky enough to have certain people who inspired me in a similar way that I hope to inspire others. Because I love my life. I loved my life before Meat Boy. I enjoy what I do so much that I want nothing more than other people to be able to have this, because this is fun. It’s fun being creative. It's really, really fun. It makes me happy. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. It’s magic. It’s like creating stuff is the closest thing to magic that exists in this world and to be able to inspire others to have that experience and have that kind of happiness is amazing. And I love it a lot, but I’m just not a huge fan of myself. Like, as a person.
You don’t want to embrace the celebrity of it. You’re not like a reality TV star.
No, and I don’t get anything from it. I thought that I would. Like I was saying in the beginning, I thought that “Hey, this will be cool. People will know who I am,” and there was a part of me that was, “Oh, those a***oles that were d***s to me growing up that criticized me because I was a f***ing weirdo and so forth, that will show them!” But in the end, I didn’t get anything. I got nothing from this. It didn’t make me feel good in that way at all. I didn’t expect it. I thought at the least I’d feel, like something, you know? And people would just assume – it turns out I’m just not that kind of person. It gave me more of a clear view of my needs and wants, I guess. It let me realize I’m in love with the process. I’m in love with creating. And I like kind of being behind the scenes. If you’re a cool person I’ll probably like you. I like creative people. I like people that inspire me. For the most part, many other indie developers and creative people do inspire me. But I’m just not, I don’t know...
I get what your saying. It’s interesting to hear your reaction to being a celebrity within the video game industry, within that subset of specific people.
Read on to learn about McMillen's love for obscure Game Boy games.
What are you playing right now? What are your favorite indie developers. What are your favorite AAA titles? Do you play big-budget AAA games?
I play video games period. That was a misconceptions with the movie. It was kind of odd. We get a lot of people that are like, “Yeah, I saw Indie Game: The Movie! F*** main stream games!” but, it’s like, “What? Mainstream games are what made me want to make video games.” I play mainstream games, and for the most part, a lot of mainstream games suck, but there are some good ones. And currently right now, let’s see – what am I playing? Well, I have a bit of a curve ball. Right now I’m collecting a lot of Game Boy games. So, I’m playing a lot of obscure Japanese weird game boy games.
Like Kid Dracula?
Yes, that’s the one I’ve been playing! I’m like, "How did I never know about this?" It’s so good. It’s really great. I just got a box of Game Boy games. They’re cheap, too. I think it was $150 for 100 Japanese game boy carts? They’re not even listed, it’s just like, “100”. That’s it.
Did you get any gems in there?
I don’t even know what a gem is. I got them today. So, it’s like 100 Japanese games that, I doubt, I don’t know what the f*** is in there. I don’t know if it’s like a Mario game. It’s like a treasure trove. And that’s kind of what I’m going for now. I want to dig through it and play. I know that there are some gems in there and I did come across the Kid Dracula, which I didn’t know what the hell itwas called other than I know what you’re talking about because I know he’s a Dracula kid. But yeah, it’s just one of those. I know there’s got to be tons of…I found advanced wars…the original Game Boy Advance Wars. I can’t play it because I can’t f***ing read it.
Wait, there was Advanced Wars before the Game Boy Advance ones? I didn't even know that.
Yeah, I didn’t either. Yes, there was. I was like, “What is this. This looks like Advance Wars from the sticker." I put it in and yep, it’s Advance Wars. Exactly Advance Wars. I wish there was a translated version of that, because I’d be playing it.
It's funny that you mention Game Boy games, because I did an interview with Matt Nava who was the art director on Journey. He went and opened his own studio recently and I was asking him what he wanted to make and he talked about the simplicity of Game Boy games. Specifically the first generation of Game Boy games and how much he loves that they’re just sanded down to only what needs to be there. It’s very interesting.
It is, it totally is. And that’s definitely one of the reasons I’m diving back in. I used to have this insane NES collection and I had to sell it in order to pay rent and stuff during Meat Boy development. I sold everything. I thought about recollecting, but oh my god, I’m so cheap, I’m just so cheap, because I always have rules set in place. Back in the day over the years when I collected all of these, I had 450 NES carts and I had a rule that I would never pay more than $3 for a cart, no matter what. So, it was kind of a fun little adventure where we would take trips to Sacramento and hit up all the Good Wills and flea markets. If it was $5 I would try to haggle down, and if not I would try to buy as many as I could in order to get the price down to an average of $3 each. I got some great finds. Like, you find some treasure in that, and I loved collecting it. I love collecting it more than I like playing it for the most part, because I just had an emulator either way. But I had to sell them all. I thought about collecting them again. Like the average price of an okay NES game is like $7 to $10 and I’m like, “Dude, I paid $3 for these! I’m not going to pay any more!" So, I have a rule set in place with the Game Boy games where I don’t pay more than an average of $5 for any Game Boy game cartridge, unless I get doubles and I trade those in to a store and I buy with credit.
You had to adjust for inflation. That culture of finding gems in flea markets is sort of dead these days. I remember finding a Chrono Trigger at a flea market and getting really excited, but it’s just not there anymore.
Yeah, I love flea markets. I’m still a huge fan of going through peoples junk and finding treasure. I’m odd. I used to have dreams where I’d find NES carts. I’ve got stories and could go on forever, but anyways – there was actually question that you did have.
Yeah, we got side tracked by Game Boy. Are there any indie games and developers, who are you following? What are you playing right now as far as independent games?
I’ll play anything by Vlambeer . I really love those guys. I really love their style. I think that they have great designs always. They’re always surprising. I just played through Surgery Simulator, which is great. It’s really hard. A lot of people don’t give it credit for it’s design. It’s hard to be humorous with game design. Only a few games have been able to do it, like Enviro-Bear. The guy that made Enviro-Bear also made like this weird physical version of Oregon Trail.which was really hilarious. And then Surgery Simulator was just hilarious. It’s just hard to do, and I don’t think enough people give it credit. There’s just not that many people out there that use game design in a way that’s humorous. And it was really really well executed. I really like that game.