By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
Earlier this year, many of us got a look at Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary about independent game developers. The film explored the makings of two games: Fez (2012) and Super Meat Boy (2010), the latter of which featured the only development team in the film (“Team Meat”), and—speaking strictly in terms of the film’s presentation—perhaps the most stable person explored of the film’s four subjects: Edmund McMillen.
McMillen is someone who, since the original Meat Boy on Newgrounds, I’ve followed around the Internet to some extent. He blogs fairly often, but more importantly, he makes games, and he’s been making them for the last decade. But so have a lot of people, which begs the question: what makes him so special? For one, what speaks to a lot of people, including myself, is how open McMillen is about who he is, how he feels about things, and how life to this point has moulded him into the meat boy he is today. We get a feel for who McMillen is in Indie Game, but now, with the release of The Basement Collection (August 31), he lets us see in full detail where games like Gish (2004), Super Meat Boy (2010), and The Binding of Isaac (2011) came from.
If you’re still wondering why he’s so special, to be honest, it is somewhat more of a personal thing. McMillen has a very dark and twisted sense of humour (for example, his Dead Baby Dressup series on Newgrounds [not as graphic as one might think]), something that I’ve learned to hide better, but definitely share. One might see the tattoos of dotted lines on his wrists and neck and not know what to think. In Indie Game as well as The Basement Collection, McMillen opens up a lot on personal subjects, and it’s very clear that he’s seeing everything on a level above the rest of us.
In The Basement Collection, the factor is explored as we’re provided nine games (two of which need to be unlocked) from McMillen’s developmental past. Most, if not all of them, can be played on Newgrounds or found elsewhere on the Internet for free. The Collection costs four dollars on Steam, but what that extra couple of dollars goes to are unused clips from Indie Game, updated graphics, downloadable tracks, and, perhaps most importantly, many bits and pieces that went towards the making of these games and the childhood memorabilia McMillen connects with them.
The games automatically featured are Aether (2008), Time Fcuk (2009), Spewer (2009), Grey Matter (2008), Triachnid (2006), Coil (2008), and the original Meat Boy prototype (2008)—all with features included and the time spent on their development listed next to their names. The importance of these games and how they’re played is that every one of them was in some way personal to McMillen in their development. For instance, Coil, which is a very short, uncomfortably sexual game, follows an ambiguous story of a woman unsure of what she wants, all explored in the form of watching something grow maternally, as if producing a baby, or in this case, spreading a disease under a microscope. In the end, the game was developed based on what McMillen saw in his mother during a difficult time when his stepfather was diagnosed with cancer.
As one plays through the games, it is interesting to watch McMillen’s skills as a developer grow. He experimented a lot in his storytelling abilities with games like Aether and Time Fcuk before getting a more secure handle with future games like Super Meat Boy (the original concept of which was based on McMillen’s love for his then-girlfriend, now wife, Danielle).
Each of these games is fun, with most of them carrying McMillen’s signature flash-style art and difficulty (especially Meat Boy). I don’t think I’m reaching in saying that McMillen has gradually come into place as an important figure in independent game design; he’s proof that everyone has something to offer in what they create.
And of course, if you just want to know how the games are, they’re, again, a lot of fun to play and will most definitely take up much of your time. The Basement Collection is a purchase worth making (as are Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac hint hint), and you can follow his blog at www.edmundm.com!