You don't hear a lot about indie games from Japan. While a culture of low-budget, experimental video games created by small teams has flourished in the West over the last ten years, the same can't be said for the homeland of Nintendo and Sony. But that's finally starting to change, and a documentary titled Branching Paths hopes to chronicle the rise of the nascent Japanese indie game scene.
Directed by Anne Ferraro, the documentary will feature interviews with numerous Japanese developers by Yoshiro Kimura of Onion Games, and delve into the financial and cultural problems that could hold indie developers back, as well as Japan's history of "independent creators building lively communities, even within industries where large media companies rule."
Some of the steps forward have been very tangible and visible: Events like Bitsummit have sprung up to bring independent developers together, while the siren call of Kickstarter has enticed gaming legends like Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi to strike out on their own with crowdfunding. Even the prestigious Tokyo Games Show added an indie games pavilion to the event in 2013.
Still, not everyone is quite so sanguine about the current status of indie gaming in Japan, at least when it comes to providing full-time employment for developers who aren't already superstars. "I don't think the indie dream is possible just yet," says one man in the teaser trailer. "It's like, if you want money, don't quit your job."
Branching Paths: A Journey in Japan's Independent Games Scene is due out January 2016.