Although the gaming industry has been dominated by massive budgets and AAA titles, indie games have finally started to get some much deserved love from critics and gamers. The masses are seeing more indie titles thanks to social media, crowdfunding and the numerous conventions that take place around the world every year.

On the surface, being an indie game developer sounds simple and even a bit romanticized. Work for yourself, make awesome games, meet fellow devs and gamers all the time…who wouldn’t want that life? Well, the new documentary Surviving Indie shows us the reality of making indie games.

Richard James Cook

Surviving Indie was written and directed by game developer Richard James Cook and documents his journey as he tries to make it in the industry he loves. Throughout the film, he talks about the many ups and downs he’s faced, from graduating at the University of Texas to losing his apartment due to serious financial troubles. While the frustration that comes from rejection and having low (or no) funds takes a serious toll on him, he reminds viewers (and perhaps even himself) that it is all about the passion he has for games.

That passion definitely shines through when Cook talks about games he’s been working on that are set to come out next year. We’re shown behind the scenes footage from his upcoming game, Super Combat Fighter, which looks like Kung Fury meets Mortal Kombat. Another game Cook mentions working on is Battlesloths, created by Phil Johnson and produced by Friday the 13th: The Game’s Executive Director, Randy Greenback.

Super Combat Fighter

Surviving Indie also features others in the industry, including Rami Ismail (Ridiculous Fishing), Kellee Santiago (Journey), Becca Bair Spurgin (Arcadian Atlas), Ryan Zehm (Sky Soccer), Jay Tholen (Hypnospace Outlaw) and Tyler Coleman (Merchant). Although everyone has a different story to tell, the message remains the same- this is hard as hell at times, but worth it.

However, don’t get the impression that the film is a “rags to riches” story with a warm and fuzzy ending. While, admittedly, I was expecting a film that begins with hardship and ends with success, once it was over I had a lot to reflect back on. Within a few minutes I opened my Twitter and saw the flood of #indiedev and #indiegame tweets and immediately thought about the struggles they’re most likely going through, trying to get our attention for a project they’re sweating over.

Rami Ismail

In this day and age, many consumers want quality entertainment- games, films, music- yet complain when they have to spend money on content. Surviving Indie’s core message could easily be applied to filmmakers, musicians, etc. and definitely makes you think before you roll your eyes at a mobile game costing a dollar.

I’ve been a gamer since I first got my hands on a NES in 1988, yet Surviving Indie was eye-opening. If you truly love gaming, I highly recommend checking the film out and seeing it from a different side.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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