Have you heard the one about Lichtspeer? I doubt it, and that’s the point. While the world listens to the stories of the games which made it – the Minecrafts, the Fezs, the Braids – a thousand other stories go unheard. For every overnight millionaire there are a countless many for whom dreams and livelihoods are swept away by the relentless oncoming wave of new games. We are alright, a new documentary by Polish filmmaker Borys Nieśpielak, is the brutally ordinary story of indie game development.
It follows game-making duo Bartek Pieczonka and Rafał Zaremba in the months leading up to the launch of their spear-throwing indie game Lichtspeer, as they cope with the pernickety frustrations of PlayStation certification, the wearying grind of bug-fixing crunch, and the terrifying prospect of ‘what if no one cares?’.
We are alright is a fascinating look at the other side of the coin. It shows two people’s stark existence while they put relationships and other people’s savings on the line to realise a dream we all buy into daily, one way or another. It shows Pieczonka and Zaremba as people like us, striving towards making something meaningful, and the toll it takes upon them.
Along the way they offer poignant insights into the reality of indie game development: the daunting nature of releasing a game on Steam among so many hundreds and thousands of others; the roulette of media coverage both on big websites and among streamers or YouTubers; and the cost, both human and monetary, of it all.
We are alright isn’t a glitzy piece of documentary making but its low-key charm matches the story it tells. That it’s a Polish piece doesn’t make it any less enlightening – I’m certain indie stories like these share common ground the world over. It’s well worth a watch.
The best option for watching We are alright is probably to rent on Amazon for $3, but you can also buy on Steam for £7 (the store auto-translates to GBP for me). Borys Nieśpielak told me his plan is to have the documentary available everywhere, but he’s only one guy so it will take time.
Lichtspeer, incidentally, is available for $10.