Unlike in parenthood, Refenes has experience in the video game industry. He's famous in the world of independent development for his programming work on Super Meat Boy, a legendary 2010 platformer that helped usher in the modern marketplace for indie games. He's also a film star: Refenes and game designer Edmund McMillen were the focus of the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which tracked the development and surprisingly successful launch of Super Meat Boy. The movie was a critical and commercial hit, picking up an award for documentary editing at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
"I didn't think it would turn into a movie that goes to Sundance or goes on Netflix, and that millions of people have watched and recognize me at Starbucks in the middle of nowhere kind of thing," Refenes says. "That's strange and now when I go and show a game, people come up to me and their nervous to talk to me."
Super Meat Boy, meanwhile, performed so well that Refenes had a moment to breathe after more than a year of high-stress programming and surprise publishing deadlines (most of which was documented in Indie Game: The Movie). But fans were still clamoring for more Meat Boy, and in 2014, Team Meat announced Super Meat Boy Forever, an endless runner heading to mobile platforms.
That's when development on Super Meat Boy Forever stuttered, and eventually stopped. McMillen left Team Meat to work on The Binding of Isaac and other projects, and Refenes took some time to focus on family and personal life. He got married. He breathed.
And then he came back. Refenes revived Super Meat Boy Forever in 2017, bringing on Offspring Fling designer Kyle Pulver and Undertale artist Temmie Chang. It was still an endless runner, but it wasn't for mobile platforms any longer -- Nintendo gave the game a Switch spotlight at PAX Prime 2017, and it's also heading to Sony and Microsoft's latest consoles, alongside Steam. (It'll hit Android and iOS eventually, Refenes promises.)
Today, Super Meat Boy Forever is coming together as a streamlined endless runner with quasi-procedurally generated levels. Each stage in Super Meat Boy Forever is broken into platforming chunks -- there are about 100 sawblade-packed scenes for the first level alone, each of which can link to the other shards to create a unique landscape with every new instance.
Even though it's an endless runner, Super Meat Boy Forever still feels like Super Meat Boy -- it's ridiculously difficult, including punching, sliding, jumping and wall-sliding moves, and it's packed with twitchy gameplay moments. This is a game built for speedrunning, even though it was initially designed for mobile devices.