If you’re new to the industry, or you’re debating whether or not to go into game development, there are a few movies you should probably watch. Now, it’s easy to ask, “Are there even . . . more than 2-3 movies about game development anyway?”
Yes, there are.
And by watching these films, you can get a better idea of what it means to create video games as a career. It gives you more of a detailed look than any forums out there, any online groups, and even school. Learning about the industry, how things are done, and how work is continuously obtained is a whole different ball game. It’s not about learning how to create, it’s about learning how to secure a spot in an ever-changing, highly competitive industry.
1) The Double Fine Adventure
Back in 2012, Tim Schafer (LucasArts, Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island) started the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter campaign that changed the way games are created and funded. A documentary crew captured the process, everything from the Kickstarter pitch, to what happens after a game is launched.
The film captures the delays in production, the financial dilemmas, the layoffs, deadlines, and the soul-crunching expectations of the public. Everything you could ever want to know about what happens behind the scenes can be found in this historic documentary series. There’s even a remastered version out now.
2) Branching Paths
If you’ve ever been curious about Japan’s indie development scene, look no further than Branching Paths. It’s an 83-minute long snapshot at Japanese indie games circa 2016 that will open your eyes wide.
Turns out, much like the American market, Japan has an issue with innovation. Large studios have fallen behind on technological updates, and are known for taking less risky projects. With innovation dying, it’s up to the indie scene to bring the original gameplay experiences players crave.
By the end of the film, you’ll have your answer to the burning question: “Will this be the beginning of a movement?”
3) From Bedrooms to Billions
This 150 minute documentary focuses on everything from the British Video Games Industry from 1979 to present-day. It focuses on advancements in technology, the growing interest in indie games, and more specifically, the changes and choices that made way for the UK’s billion dollar video games industry.
Rather than focus on one specific team of creators, or on one specific game, it focuses on the industry as a whole. How it went from 8 bit games to influencing both Japanese and American consoles, financing, etc..
4) Atari: Game Over
If you watch even just one documentary from this list, let it be this one. Any video game fan, aspiring game developer, or established game developer, has plenty to learn from this film, because it shows the rise and fall of the famous Atari.
And yes, it even explains the crash of 1983 and the video game burial excavation.
This is a great film for one major reason: it shows that you can have it all and then lose it in the blink of an eye. In order to survive, you have to think long-term, you need backup plans, and most of all, you can’t let it get to your head. Never assume you’re above mistakes. Never stop thinking strategically.
5) Minecraft: The Story of Mojang
It went from cult classic to an unexpected hit – it was Minecraft. By 2010, Markus “Notch” Persson ended up leaving his day job and founding his own studio, Mojang.
This documentary focuses on the studio’s first year, including their work with industry icons like Tim Schafer, games journalists, and even Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade.
Basically, this is the perfect documentary for anyone trying to start their own studio. It’s ideal for anyone looking to put something out and make exceptional things happen. Obviously, the chances of replicating a Minecraft story are slim, but everyone can wish, right?
Oh, and you can watch it on YouTube here.
Just Keep In Mind . . .
No one else’s story is like yours. This is something that everyone makes the mistake of assuming, in every industry. Just like a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a secure job, following in someone else’s footsteps won’t generate the same results.
It’s just how things go.
But that’s not to say it’s a bad thing. Everyone is different, and therefore, everyone’s story is unique. Play up your individual strengths, pursue your own dreams, and come up with your own ideas. It’s encouraged to look to someone else for motivation, or even inspiration, but don’t watch these documentaries thinking you’ll wind up celebrating the same success story sometime in the future.
The industry is ever-changing, and it’s certainly filled with people who are willing to lend you a helping hand. But at the end of the day, everyone needs to watch their own well-being more than anyone else’s. It’s competitive out there, with so many new developers popping up each day.
To make it in the industry, you really need ingenuity and persistence. And a little research and insider look never hurt anyone!
Best of luck.
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