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Second Skin takes an intimate, disturbing look at three sets of computer gamers whose lives have been transformed by the emerging genre of computer games called Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Everquest allow millions of users to simultaneously interact in virtual spaces. Second Skin introduces us to couples who have fallen in love without ever meeting, disabled players whose lives have been given new purpose, those struggling with addiction, Chinese gold-farming sweatshop workers, wealthy entrepreneurs and legendary guild leaders--all living within a world that doesn't quite exist. Second Skin focuses on a couple who met in a virtual world, an addict whose life was ruined by MMOs, and a group of MMO gamers who spend most of their lives inside virtual worlds. Written by
Fascinating film about the Virtual World of Gaming
This amazing wide-ranging documentary had its world premiere this week at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. The overflow crowd here loved it. This film could have easily been done as a pro- or anti-gaming screed. Instead, it really presented a balanced picture of the gaming subculture. It demonstrated that community doesn't have to be in-person physical community and certainly can exist in virtual form. (Incidentally, this phenomenon isn't new, there are many other sorts of virtual communities that have long existed on the internet outside the gaming world.)
It showed how these massive interactive role playing games involving millions of people - particularly World of Warcraft - can be addictive and, indeed, dangerous. It also showed the bizarre global aspect of Chinese "gold farming" where thousands are working in computerized sweatshops to earn virtual prizes to be sold to American gamers for real money. Thus these gaming communities have many of the negatives that exist in the real world, but they also have many of the positives.
The film also shows couples who have met in the virtual world and fallen in love. It shows disabled people who are able to live better lives in the virtual world than in their own damaged physical bodies. The film shows that participants can learn much and strengthen their own self-esteem from the gaming experience. There is a danger of addiction, but most gamers seem to grow out of that after a while and live normal lives in the real world.
The film combines both personal stories, useful statistics, and analysis from scholars who have studied the virtual world of gaming. The games come off as magnificent forms of entertainment that can used or abused like any form of entertainment - TV, alcohol, etc. The film is well-edited with fabulous graphics taken from the games themselves.
For those of us on the outside of the gaming culture, Second Skin is a wonderful and very fair-minded introduction that shows the different aspects of this fascinating subculture. I hope this film gets a wider distribution so that more people can gain a better understanding of this somewhat hidden aspect of our society.
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