Friday, August 7, 2009

Film Review: "Second Skin"

The film, Second Skin, is a documentary directed by Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza. It's premise: To follow the lives of several different "gamers", players of online games, as they go about their gaming business--their lives. Escoriazo makes a bold attempt to show the dark side of gaming, as well as the side that encourages us as human beings.

The film has sparked some lively debate on Hulu, an Internet site where users can watch second run and current films and television, around the clock, on their own schedule. Some viewers felt, after seeing the film that the gamers depicted needed to more or less "get a life", and wake up to what is going on around them. Still other viewers found the film to be skewed in its depictation of the gaming community, stating that of the millions of people playing games, these are only a few--and they were the hard-core few, to boot.

This viewer felt a little sorry for those who just couldn't seem to grasp the idea of gaming as a pass-time or even a hobby. It has become an accepted pass-time to sit on the couch or in a chair and watch the television for several hours a night and even more on the weekend. Or perhaps, instead, to stare at the computer as it feeds the watcher select videos and movies. I wonder what is being given back to society in the sitting before a television set from the time one gets home from work until bedtime, taking a little bit of time to prepare a plate of food during the commercial, probably take out, only to hurry back to the couch so that not a single moment of watching will be missed. TV watchers seem to stare and stare at a screen where actors pretend the lives many of us wish we could have for ourselves.

Is gaming really that different? The gamer is sitting, staring at a screen where avatars live the lives the gamer wishes he/she could have. The similarity, however, ends there. The gamer is the writer and director of the story, interacting with people from around the world through the miracle of our generation: the Internet: Interactive entertainment, at the cost of an Internet connection and likely a monthly fee for access to the game of choice.

It's all escapism.

Some may find it disturbing that gamers sometimes actually do find a potential mate while playing a game. Still, the first face-to-face meeting of the couple really isn't that different from the meeting of a couple going on a blind date...excet that the couple is already deeply acquainted with one another. These gaming couples are not only meeting during the film, they are living together, marrying, and having babies, all while gaming.

How do non-gamers meet new people? Through church, maybe? A sports club? Or a dance club? It was pointed out in the documentary that meeting someone online seems far safer than meeting them in the real world. After all, a woman really can't be a victim of date rape in a virtual setting, can she? I suppose it's only a matter of time before that sad reality becomes a virtual reality, as well.

One segment revealed the lives of people who are differently-abled. These games certainly give them a new and vital way to communicate and associate with the world. On the other side of the coin, the dark side, as it were, we are witness to the rise of a new kind of addiction: gaming addiction. We are privy to the rehabilitation attempts of a young man who has lost literally everything he owns, except for his computer, his internet connection, and electricity.

So...the truth of it: Life, virtual or otherwise, is what you make of it. It is encouraging that these human beings are reaching out to others even while enjoying their hobby/obsession. It sounds to me like many of them have entered into long-term relationships, even commitments, because of the activities that have taken place in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.

I must confess...I am biased about it all: I am a gamer going way back. I even count my days as a pinball player, in middle school. From there, I graduated to Pong, and then to Pac Man. Ever onward and upward, it wasn't really that long before I had my very own Nintendo. And on and on it went, to include Diablo; Diablo 2; Dark Age of Camelot; World of Warcraft; Everquest 2; Matrix Online; Star Wars Galaxies; City of Heroes; Lord of the Rings; Second Life; and IMVU. Really, to be honest, IMVU is more of a 3d chat program, ad Second Life is more of a 3d creative environment.

Four and a half years ago I went off the deep end, like one of the women in the film, met a man. He moved 1800 miles to be with me, and now we're engaged. I must say that, without a doubt, we are soul mates, and we are very, very happy. And...We rarely game. We also don't watch much TV except for the occasional Hulu show or You Tube. But we still play, oh yes we do! Just not "in world" any more. And really...we don't miss it.

To quote Willy Wonka: "We are the music makers...and we are the dreamers of dreams."

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