Game Boy 011 – Ebb and Flow

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

I was going to start sharing my GDC thoughts this week, but there’s Japanese gaming in the air. This weekend marks the 6th edition of the BitSummit indie gaming festival in Kyoto, and that’s pretty much all I’m seeing on my timeline right now — people taking in cool indie games, and enjoying (drunk) social outings around town.

I won’t lie, it’s making me pretty fucking homesick right now (when you lived in Japan for over 15 years, it’s hard not to consider it one of your “homes” for the rest of your life).

But on top of BitSummit, this week also marks the release of Ebb and Flow, a fantastic new documentary from the team at Archipel. Archipel, composed of Anne Ferrero and Alex Zabava, is the duo that for the past few years has been producing the Toco Toco series, which I’ve highlighted and recommended on this blog countless times because I think it’s terrific — each episode focuses on a Japanese creator, and although quite a few of the episodes focus on the games industry, they touch on all creative fields. They also produced the excellent documentary Branching Paths, that takes a look at the growing indie gaming scene in Japan.

Archipel as a label was launched fairly recently, and is to be the home for all of the duo’s future videos, including more Toco Toco, and even more excitingly, what looks like more long-form videos.

Ebb and Flow — with the subtitle “Conversations on the recent momentum of Japanese games” — is a great exploration of the recent resurgence in popularity of Japanese games on the world stage (they point to the start of 2016 as a milestone date). It features interviews with the creators of all those games (Nier: Automata, Yakuza, Monster Hunter: World, Rez Infinite, Persona 5, and lots more), and I of course loved seeing my friend John Ricciardi (co-founder of the Tokyo-based game localization company 8-4) be included as well, to offer some context.

It’s easy for me to recommend everything that Archipel produces — every time I talk to Anne, I tell her I’m her biggest fan — but at the very least, if you have an interest in Japanese games, you really need to watch Ebb and Flow (and follow that up with Branching Paths, to see a similar story from an indie perspective).

Andre the Giant

HBO released a new documentary about Andre the Giant this week, and it’s quite good. I already know Andre’s story — from being a fan of wresting during that era, as well as the great biographical graphic novel  by Box Brown — but this is a nice round-up of his career, and there were bits that were new to me. The part where they talk about his legendary farts had me in stitches. It’s an amazing life, but a sad one as well (because of his condition, and how he decided not to properly deal with it).

Soichi Terada (Toco Toco)

It’s as if Toco Toco could read my mind. Earlier this year I discovered and fell in absolute love with the music of Soichi Terada (through the music of Shinichiro Yokota) — his Sounds from the Far East compilation is the record I’ve listened to the most this year (and I’m listening to it right now as I write this). Imagine my very pleasant surprise when I find that the latest episode of Toco Toco — my favorite documentary web series — is all about him. Thank you, Anne.

Spielberg

The second great documentary I watched last week (following the Clive Davis one) was the Spielberg documentary that aired on HBO. It’s a really fantastic look at the man’s career, and makes you appreciate even more what he was able to achieve through his life’s work (so far). Unlike the Clive Davis one, I didn’t really learn anything new here, but I quite enjoyed the look back at the films I grew up watching, with interesting comments coming from his collaborators. Well worth watching.

Clive Davis: The Sountrack of Our Lives

I’d of course heard of Clive Davis, and knew he was an important figure in the music industry, but I didn’t really know much more than that. Watching this new documentary that was produced for Apple Music, I found myself really enjoying finding out how big an impact he had on the industry, and the journey he had (from lawyer to head of a record label), and the artists that he pretty much guided to success. Doesn’t matter if most of the artists featured aren’t really what I’m into musically, I just found this documentary quite fascinating. Well worth watching.

Pumping Iron

This is it, the film that gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger. As famous/infamous as this documentary is, I’d never seen it, and so didn’t really know much of what to expect (other than the famous scene where you see Arnie smoking a joint after he wins the title). I did enjoy this, although you have to take it more as a “slice of life/day in the life” kind of presentation on the topic, instead of something that really tries to examine and explain a particular topic. There’s barely any narration, and so it’s just mostly light interviews with all of the people involved, and the dialogue bits that happen as the cameras follow these dudes in their quest to, well, pump iron like no man has pumped iron before. But it was pretty entertaining, and yes, Arnie shines through, and it’s fun to see the machiavellian tendencies he reveals (“I can just tell him to do the wrong thing”).