I have to admit, I’ve spent many a sleepless night pouring over code, mildly hallucinating, and finding any number of weird tasks to avoid work. None of that left me quite prepared for the surreal video fest of Make It Indie!, a game by Sometimes You that portrays itself as the experience of creating an indie game. I was interested in the concept when I first came across it, and after it made Desura’s weekly release highlights this month, I set myself half an hour aside to sit down and see what I thought.
I played the game through. I sat and thought about it for a while. I went away for a week, came back, and played through again - just to make sure I hadn’t missed the point the first time. If I did, then I missed it twice.
Supposedly simulating the balancing act of life and the struggles of making something, Make It Indie! is first and foremost, incredibly, undeniably strange. You are given 7 days, and on each of them you can carry out one choice from a list of tasks. They include the very unspecific “work on the game,” and a selection of social and personal options (some of which I though might contribute to the game creation progress, such as drawing, but alas no).
Selecting “work on the game” sends you to a matching sort of mini game, where you pick which of the four options all the circles have in common. It’s the only interactive option from your task list, and the only repeatable one. Based on how well you scored in this mini game (and how many times you chose to do it) you end the week with a score out of 100, which determines whether or not you made a game that week. It felt like pretty good pattern recognition practice, although nothing that captivating, and I found it a bit of a let down that it was the same mini game each time.
If you get tired of working on your game and choose something else, strap yourself in for a video that may well feel just a little too long and abstract to be totally enjoyable. Some of them were captivating or soothing to begin with, but they all slightly overstayed their welcome with me. Once the video is over, your day is done (no matter what you chose, it takes all day), and you’re thrown into an equally trippy night time sequence complete with a dream video. I can see that skipping them would take away from the video storytelling experience that Make It Indie! is trying to cultivate, but unfortunately I found myself a little bored and very confused by their inclusion.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I’ve found working on a project repetitive, or a task has taken all day, or events have taken a turn into something a little bit… unusual. But I’ve never felt the need to replicate those feelings in video form and wrap them up into a meta-game that isn’t all that much about making games at all. I’ve definitely never craved playing a game built on that idea. For an exploration into the creative process, I think I’d have liked to see more than videos of rooms full of creepy dolls and guys playing card games before learning I didn’t put a game out that week, sorry. It all feels a little self-absorbed, almost like an in-joke I haven’t been around long enough to understand.
There is a sort of enjoyment to be found in the baffling video clips, and it’s certainly an experience, but I’m just not sure I’d consider it a particularly fun game. Still, as Make It Indie! is available for £1.99 on Windows, Mac, and Linux, if art videos and choosing things appeals to you, why not? If you think you’ll like weird videos that seem to play for just a little too long, then climb aboard and enjoy the ride. There isn’t much else to do.