In the documentary “Second Skin,” filmmaker Juan Carlos Piniero Escoriaza takes us into the real life world of people who basically prefer to spend their real life inside MMORPG’s. For all you square people out there MMORPG stand for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Just kidding about you being square, I had never heard of the term either. But I had heard of colossal time wasting games like “World of Warcraft,” and “Everquest” as well as the virtual worlds “Second Life” and “Sims” where people can create a character in a utopian fantasy world and spend countless hours posted in front of their computers armed with a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew, a Hot Pocket and a waistline growing as fast as their logged hours played. But hey, to each their own and as several people in “Second Skin” say, we all have our little time wasting addictions and online gaming is theirs.
“Second Skin” does a really nice job introducing the newbie to the world of online gaming. We see what the games are all about and what kinds of people play them. As it turns out, the games are much, much more community and friend oriented than I had previously thought. With something like 50 million online gamers contributing to various online fraternities, real life friendships and loves have been born from the computer worlds in which the people virtually “meet.” I walked away from the film thinking of MMORPG’s as more like, interactive chat rooms from when the internet boom first happened. But with swords.
People meet and give false impressions of how they look in real life (in this case it’s pretty obvious as most people aren’t handsome knights, ugly Ork’s or stunning princesses) but end up developing a relationship built on communication and coalescing interests. In a way meeting in virtual reality is a much more “fair” way to judge someone as you truly like then for who they are and not how they look. Such is the case with one couple in the film who met in the game “Everquest” and we see them finally meet in real life and attempt to make a go of it.
Yet my quibble with the film comes from the fact it felt a little one-trick and none of the people involved really grabbed my interest. The premise of the film and how it plays out seems to be “here are gamers, men and women addicted to gaming, and this is how screwy their life has become due to these games” and that doesn’t really open up much discussion for viewers. For instance one man in the film has a wife who is pregnant with twins. Rather than plan for the future, he decides to take half of his vacation days, load up on junk food and play the new version of “World of Warcraft” with his three roommates for as many hours as they possibly can. The giddiness over who will pass out on their computers first is tempered by the pasty, doughy physiques of these self involved men as they stay up for days on end playing a video game. I guess what I’m getting at was I wasn’t sure how I felt about these people. While it’s not my place to judge them and they certainly aren’t hurting anyone but themselves, it also became increasingly hard to care about any of them.
Yet for that shortcoming, “Second Skin” is pretty interesting fare. The film delves into some insane outsourcing to China that gamers are involved with as well as the effect the games can have both positively and negatively. There’s no doubt the world of virtual reality will continue to flourish and the effects of that on society are yet to be seen. But having seen “Second Skin” I don’t really think it’s hurting anyone. Heck, think of how short your commute will be if everyone just stayed home and played games all day?