Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Oct 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Indie Spirit

ae supermeatboySanta Cruz native subject of Sundance-winning documentary

Edmund McMillen remembers the moment when his professional ambitions became apparent. He was a freshman at Soquel High School, when a local independent artist named Clay Butler visited as a guest speaker.

“I just thought he was the coolest guy in the world,” says McMillen. “I knew that I wanted to do exactly what he did, which was whatever he wanted. Just to get paid for being creative and doing your own stuff. And I knew it wasn’t a very lucrative career because you risk a lot to do it, but I could just tell right away that if I had the ability to do that I would be very happy.”

That revelation was only the beginning of a long process of making his dreams a reality, but the payoff has been substantial. Now an independent video game developer, McMillen is a subject in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, winner of the World Cinema Documentary Editing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and an official selection for the SXSW Film Festival later this month. The film will be screening at The Rio Theatre on March 2, followed by a Q&A with the film’s directors, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, as well as McMillen and his partner Tommy Refenes.

McMillen and Refenes created the popular game Super Meat Boy, the development and release of which is featured prominently in Indie Game. In the video game—available on Xbox 360, Windows PCs, Mac OS X, and Linux—players control Meat Boy, a red, cube-shaped character, as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the game’s antagonist, Dr. Fetus.

Beyond Indie Game’s narrative about the challenges of creating and distributing independent video games, McMillen says the film is “about independent artists trying to live the American Dream.”

Those artists work in a medium that exists at the intersection of art and science—a video game begins as an artistic seed that requires scientific cultivation. “It’s a very left-brain right-brain thing,” says McMillen. “Most developers I know are usually groups of two. In Team Meat, Tommy is the very technical side, he builds the engine himself, he programs everything. And I do all the traditionally creative stuff: character design, game design, level design. Together we make the full brain.”

ae supermeatboy2In addition to design and development, Indie Game focuses on independent distribution, which is important beyond a developer’s desire for recognition or wealth. Because of the interactive nature of video games, a developer’s artistic journey is unfinished until another person plays the game. “When you release something, you’re definitely having a bit of a conversation with a large group of people about what you’re doing. It’s cool to see how people view what you’re doing and interact with them in that abstract way,” says McMillen. “It can also be crushing,” he adds with a laugh.

McMillen can laugh thanks to the success of both his game and the film, the latter of which comes as no surprise to him. “It’s hard for me to talk about the film being good because people will think, ‘Well, you’re in it, of course you’re going to think it’s good,’” he says. But it was a sense he had from the first time he met the filmmakers, which is why he and Refenes granted Pajot and Swirsky full access, even during moments of considerable vulnerability. “They were just so like-minded that I just knew that whatever they were doing was going to do really well,” says McMillen.

For McMillen, who still resides in Santa Cruz—the city is used as a framing device for his story in the film—Indie Game represents a significant period in his life. But while his story is one of success, it is also one that is far from over. “I’ve got years to go and hopefully many more games to make,” he says. “But for me it’s all about the adventure of doing it and not so much about the outcome. I know I’m going to get better and that’s what’s exciting.”


“Indie Game: The Movie” screens at 7 p.m. Friday, March 2, at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit indiegamethemovie.com, or indiegamesantacruz.eventbrite.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Field Work

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers explain how the harvest works, and what kind of wine to expect from this year's crop

 

Libra's Two Choices

Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Nut Kreations

Co-owner Craig Olsen goes nuts over nuts

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Friends who are wine club members of Martin Ranch invited us to the winery’s fun and festive annual barbecue, where the wine is flowing and the food just keeps on coming. Music and dancing are part and parcel of the action, and a good time is guaranteed.

 

Beer Bus

Santa Cruz’s new Brew Cruz, award winning ales, mole by el Jardín, and Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay