I feel ridiculous. Why am a sobbing like this? It’s a documentary about game designers, one I’ve already watched. I knew how it ended before I pressed play. In the dark living room, I am sitting on the floor while my sister sits on the couch behind me. I’m sure she can see my shoulders shaking and I’m totally embarrassed.
But I don’t cry at the sad parts, or the stressful parts, I cry at the ending. A happy dénouement makes me cry harder than anything else in the world.
Indie Game the Movie, is an incredibly well made documentary about the ups and downs of the lives of three independent game designers. Not exactly your typical tear-jerker material. But the directors have a way of telling the stories of these creative men that makes me feel every ounce of their passion and dedication for what they do.
The part that makes me cry, on both viewings so far, is the story of Ed and Tommy, two geeky, thirty-something guys, who make a game called Super Meat Boy. They are the most awkwardly adorable men you’ve ever seen. The movie follows their story from when Microsoft / Xbox decides to add Super Meat Boy as a downloadable game up to the day the game is highlighted on the ‘front page’ of every Xbox in the country. (Kinda like being Freshly Pressed, but better, because they get paid.) Ed and Tommy have to get the game as perfect as possible by that date. The documentary captures their anxiety over the task and all the ‘what if’s’ they suffer through. From the extremes of ‘What if every one ignores it’ to ‘what if every one loves it?’ There is the potential to make a lot of money here, and both of these guys have nothing. Ed’s wife supports him while he develops the game and they live in what looks like a two-room apartment. Tommy lives with his parents in their doubly-mortgaged house.
I’m going to give the end of the story away here – but believe me, it doesn’t matter. Knowing won’t change a thing about the experience of watching it. Super Meat Boy does great and they both make a lot of money. But the point is this: the build up and the climax and the denouement of their story is so satisfying and wonderful that I bawl my eyes out. Just as much on the second viewing as for the first. The joy bubbles up, filling my heart and my lungs and covering my skin with goose bumps until I have to cry to let all the emotion out.
I tell my sister about this silly movie about game designers and since she’s just finished making her first iOS app, she wants to see it. At the very end, when Tommy is paying off his parents mortgage, I hear a sound behind me and sure enough, my non-gamer sister is sobbing just as hard as I am.
There is a lesson here for writers. In the end, the specifics of the story do not matter. What matters is how you tell the story.
And for whatever bizarre reason, a well told story with a happy ending always makes me cry.