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    Friday
    Jul152011

    Hanging Controllers; Looming Questions

    "So...what’s up with the SNES controller?  They know that’s not indie right?"

    When videos from the film get posted elsewhere on the Internet, invariably the comment thread gravitates towards the fact that we prominently feature a Super Nintendo Controller, hanging from power lines and twisting in the wind (people also seem enamoured by the display of varying facial hair, but that’s a different post :) 

    We thought we take a moment to tell the story of how a dangling SNES controller kinda accidentally became the defacto image for the film.

    Back Story

    Early in 2010, in our hometown of Winnipeg, we were walking down a backalley shortcut to grab breakfast.  In the alley, we came across a couple of hanging Nintendo controllers, thrown up on power lines in the manner of old sneakers.  We immediately recognized it as a rather unique and striking image.

    In our heads we imagined a scenario of bored 11 year old creating a kind of accidental 8-bit (or in this case 16) graffiti/public art.  It could easily been a set of 20 somethings on their way to the beer vendor.  But in our mind, it was something a little more magical.

    Around this time, we were strongly considering, but hadn’t made a decision, doing Indie Game: The Movie.  But, we were close enough to almost doing it that James came back later that day and filmed some B-roll of the hanging controllers just in case it might be useful in some way.

    Fast forward a couple months, and we're editing together our first ‘proof of concept video’ (Edmund’s Aether video).  We needed some nice visuals to open the piece with, and we needed to be able to place a bit of a text-based preamble on.  The hanging SNES controller fit the bill perfectly.

    At the time, it was actually doubly appropriate. In an earlier iteration of the video, Edmund discusses how he was a SNES fanboy growing up.  So, the nostalgic imagery of sneaker-like hanging discarded controller was unbelievable spot on.  In the end, that section of the video was cut, but we still enjoyed the imagery and what it could mean in the context of a film about independent games.


    More Than a Pretty Face?

    And that’s why we left it in.  Of course, it’s a lovely, nicely iconic bit of footage, but the image also has a some rather nice subtexts to it.  The type of stuff that film essays delight in crafting a paragraph or two about.  Without going into too much detail, we rather enjoy the references to nostalgia and childhood inspiration - so it works on that level.  Also, if one were so inclined, one could read into the image a pseudo-statement about discarded technology/discarded gatekeepers and how less reliant independent developers are on the big players than they were previous.

    So, the image has those types of fun angles going on with it.  Which is one of the reasons we kept it for so long.  


    Accidental Branding

    Another reason the hanging controller became the image most associated with our film, and let this be a lesson to anyone considering an open-development like project, is because that’s what we had when the Internet found us.  

    The film has been really fortunate to receive a good amount of press coverage over the course of its development, and in each post, the hanging controller was (understandably) popping up again and again.  It wasn’t our ideal image (we hadn’t figured that out yet), but it was the image we had at the time.  And before we knew it, the hanging controller was indeed the icon for Indie Game: The Movie.  A quick google image search kinda confirmed this for us.

    Much of the project has been like this - a process of accidents, discovery and going with various flows.  You try something and it sticks, You meet someone by chance, and they become the person you follow for a year.  You stare at 300 hours of footage, and work bits and pieces until the real story emerges.

    The hanging controller is a microcosm of our experience with this film.  Taking interest in something beautiful while heading somewhere else....

    -James (& Lisanne)

    p.s. Fun little aside: Often people say we should have used a NES controller instead, as that is much more indie-centric.  Well, there indeed was a NES controller hanging.  But sadly, it’s wasn’t hanging nearly as artfully.  What can we say, it just didn’t ‘bring it’ to the shoot that day and wasn’t giving the camera good face. See for yourself...

    (Poor show indeed.  No working the angles. No smizing.  If this were ANTM, the Jays would’ve sent her packing after the first week....Reality TV is the shameful indulgence of many doc folks...er...research, yeah, research)

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Huh, I never really thought that much about the SNES controller. I guess because I assosciate a large amount of the Indie genre with the SNES era; a lot of it is influenced by and similar to SNES games, so I suppose that's what made it seem suitable to me, even if it isn't a controller you would ever actually get the opportunity to use playing Indie games...

    July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteviedoors

    I'm glad you went with the SNES controller. The NES controller has become cliché; it's used everywhere and too frequently to represent gaming nostalgia. The SNES is the oft-overlooked, but just as influential and nostalgic cousin, and I for one spent a much greater part of my life sweating into its curved controller than any other.

    July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBagha

    Is there a high-resolution or wallpaper-size version of one of these images somewhere? I think that would be just incredible.

    December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

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