Though Russ Pitts left his job as features editor at Polygon last June, he still wants to tell the stories of the video-gaming community. So he’s producing six short episodes that dig into the experiences of indie designers and gamers in his documentary web series titled Stage of Development.
Stage of Development is looking for something deeper, however, than a docudrama on gaming. Pitts aims to capture the essence of the indie community—a creative and revolutionary group of storytellers who (often quietly) push the boundaries of narrative and interactive design.
Behind the series’ inspiration is Pitts’ insistence that gamers are people too—a seemingly silly claim, but one that endearingly expresses the project’s ambition: to discover the human motivations that drive creativity and production in a rapidly growing and dynamic storytelling medium increasingly dominated by money and clicks.
These are stories like that of “Family business,” Stage of Development’s second episode. It follows Donovan—the ten-year-old son of legendary game designers John and Brenda Romero—who collaborated with his parents to design and produce Gunman Taco Truck, a hilariously absurd post-apocalyptic mobile game in which the player must escape to Canada in a weaponized food truck while fending off nuclear mutants and feeding the hungry.
Other episodes will follow YouTube megastars like John Bain, the hugely popular and controversial gaming critic with almost two million followers; rising indie stars like Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone; and video game musicians and composers like the prolific and multi-genred Gavin Dunne.
“There are so many stories here to tell,” Pitts says. “There are people who make video games everywhere. Some of them are first-time developers. Some of them are career video-game developers who are going indie for the first time. Some of them have gotten so big that they don’t know what to do with themselves anymore. But they’re all people. And what drives them is this passion that they share for video games and for you [the gamer].”
Pitts is producing the web series through his company, Flying Saucer Media, and he has already started production on the first episode, which he aims to release the day his Kickstarter campaign ends on September 16.