Review: ‘Us and the Game Industry’ unlocks the business

Bryan and John in "Us and the Game Industry."

The awkwardly titled “Us and the Game Industry” is an otherwise accessible, engaging documentary spotlighting the vital world of independent computer game development. Produced and directed by Stephanie Beth, the film takes such an emotionally based, non-wonky approach to its featured business, it should absorb gamers and non-gamers alike.

Although this loosely organized movie introduces us to a variety of young game programmers, producers, illustrators and designers, the focus is on thatgamecompany, a video game studio based in Santa Monica that has produced such successful titles as “Flow,” “Flower” and, perhaps most notably, “Journey.” It’s the last game, released for PlayStation 3 in 2012, that receives ongoing attention here as Beth explores its development, audio-visual beauty (it’s set in an enticingly rendered desert) and highly fluid and expressive methodology.

The “Journey” creative team, including director and thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen, producer Robin Hunicke, Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory and designer Bryan Singh, weighs in on various facets of the groundbreaking game.

Other successful game designers including Jason Rohrer (“Sleep Is Death,” “The Castle Doctrine”), Alexander Bruce (“Antichamber”) and Zach Gage (“SpellTower”), plus staffers from Copenhagen games studio Die Gute Fabrik (“Mutazione”) also thoughtfully chat about their work, inspirations and goals as well as video games as an art form, what constitutes a “game” and 2-D versus 3-D video design.


But for as much as we learn conceptually and artistically about these creations, how video games are technologically built is never exactly shown or discussed. A bit of that kind of essential insight would have nicely rounded out this intriguing snapshot.


“Us and the Game Industry”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.