Second Skin

Second Skin


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) have drawn millions of people into their virtual worlds. When Juan Carlos Escoriaza saw the difficulty one of his friends was having juggling the online and the real world, he became intrigued. But it was hearing about the existence of a virtual economy which started him on the making of this film.

This is a cleverly made film which will be popular with gamers, and as a non gamer I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.

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Over a period of two years and on a low budget, the producers travelled around the US interviewing a few hundred people before finding the gamers to feature in their film. Beginning with Second Life, they eventually found their most interesting subjects among the players of World Of Warcraft.

All the characters are treated sympathetically. Though some at first seem sad and deluded, given the chance to follow through their stories we can warm to them. There are the couples who met through gaming, most of whom seem to have found their perfect partner, though one guy talks of some previous disastrous meetings in the real world. “It’s OK. She lives a long way away, but she did like stabbing.” And there’s the, “Will they, won’t they?” thread of Heather and Kevin whose romance in the virtual world is about to begin for real.

There is a lovely montage of clips from both worlds, showing the couples as their real and virtual selves. Then there’s a gamer wedding in Vegas that had some of the audience whooping for joy.

We follow a group of friends as they stock up on fast food ready for the release of the next version of World Of Warcraft. They don’t intend to move from their chairs for days. Obesity is a major problem among gamers.

The film doesn’t avoid tackling the serious issues. Poor Dan has become so addicted to games that he is contemplating suicide, having lost his job, his partner and all his money. We see the strain put on relationships by the cost of gaming but, as one guy points out, this is his hobby. How is it any worse than spending his evenings watching TV or drinking in a bar?

Then there is goldfarming, for those who prefer to buy with real money what they need in the virtual world rather than putting in the hours of play for gold. The ones who put in the effort are workers in (mostly Chinese) sweatshops for whom this is just another way of scraping a living.

An excellent mix of real and virtual world visuals keeps all this highly entertaining. I particularly liked the way Dan was shown going out into the real world, finding that everything around him was blurring and unable to remove the icons from his field of vision. The gamers in their marathon sessions are shown in fast forward, mouths popping open for food, waste wrappers piling up around them, never losing their concentration. This is all further enhanced by a great soundtrack.

Towards the end of the film we meet some people who have more to gain than most from being able to enter a virtual world. These are people who will never be able to run or even walk in the real world, for whom gaming really is a second skin. So many more are aware that their appearance doesn’t match up to the real world ideal, and in games they can be as beautiful as they want to be. As the film points out, “What does this tell us about the real world?”

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2008
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A journey into the world of MMPORGs.

Director: Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza

Year: 2008

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: US


Doc/Fest 2008

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