A big garlic pizza (gamer cuisine, you know) and I watched the documentary "Second Skin" last night. It's a fascinating and well-made documentary film for sure! I'd recommend that any of my fellow computer gaming fans see it. Or for anyone wanting a point of view on the emerging phenomenon of communicating, playing or working with others in virtual worlds.
The actual film is farther skewed in a couple areas than what you would believe from the advertising or reviews. Basically the film is about 90% obsessed World of WarCraft players, 9% EverQuest II players, and 1% on Second Life. The Second Life part is a shame, because the movie features several comment segments with an economist who studies MMO economics, and of course Second Life is, among other things, a very capitalist society.
The film mainly provides intimate views of gamers living their lives FOR World of WarCraft and who spend much of their waking free time mentally IN the game. It takes a look at the sacrifices and addictions created to play WarCraft and EverQuest, along with the rewards of friendships and relationships built from the shared experiences of the game. It is all very authentic, as most of us here know gamers like this. But it mostly skews towards the negative, and the movie hits the biggest downbeat with the story of a mom recounting the experience of a gamer son's suicide.
In a rather obvious attempt to balance this out, a very short and interesting segment on wheelchair-bound players finding new freedoms in online gaming is featured, showing one of them using Second Life. This notion alone would make an interesting documentary all to itself, and I'd hope this could be the focus of a sequel documentary.
There's also a fascinating segment on in-game gold-farming in China that's a nice extension on the film's talk of the economics of gaming. But the film misses the opportunity to explore the corporate side of the folks making the games and their thoughts on how what they make so appeals to their customers and how they may take advantage of that. And of course they also miss the great opportunity to explore the user-created business involved in a very in-world economy for a game like Second Life (economies evolved outside the game play of WarCraft or EverQuest, but outright capitalism has been a part of Second Life "game" since the beginning.)
Through the bad and the somewhat good though, the film is a must-see train wreck of lives. Or perhaps it's a glimpse of a part of 20th century life and psychology colliding with a new extension of the human brain and interaction in the 21st.
Despite the mostly negative skew and missed opportunities, I enjoyed the film over all and would recommend it. It's extremely well shot and edited with some nice chart presentations to explain some of the numbers and statistics involved in these games.