Second Skin – Video games are bad for you week

Our finale for video games are bad for you week is the documentary Second Skin. Second Skin is currently available on instant Netflix.

Second Skin

WATCH: Second Skin (2008) – NR – this movie is not rated. It contains a fair amount of language and some description of bodily functions.

“This documentary showcases how computer games’ virtual worlds are transforming the lives of ordinary people, profiling a couple who fall in love online, a man addicted to playing games for hours on end and a tight-knit Indiana gaming community. Juan Carlos Pineiro-Escoriaza directs this riveting film that looks at video game culture and features interviews with players, designers, psychologists and critics.”

What this documentary lacks in depth (a lot), it makes up for in breadth. Many of the badly photoshopped images they use are hilarious. They use many shots from Everquest II and World of Warcraft but they turn the characters into paper cutouts.

The central thread is a budding romance between two players. In addition to that one of the topics covered is online romance. While fascinating, romance is an absolutely miniscule portion of game and social dynamics.

A much more interesting topic would have been how every girl in gaming gets hit on massively (pardon the pun). One of the sayings in a former guild was, ‘omg it’s a girl! get on vent! get on vent!’. Vent is a program for talking online.

One topic covered is the subject of guilds. Guilds are social organizations of players in game. The focus, albeit briefly, is on the giant guild, The Syndicate. They also cover the excitement of release day for The Burning Crusade, World of Warcraft’s first expansion.

Director Juan Carlos Pineiro-Escoriaza does try to show some of the effects of obsession. Unfortunately his example of obsession, Dan, is not very erudite. In the interviews he doesn’t come across so much as someone whose life was ruined by online gaming as he does someone who had problems and blamed World of Warcraft for them.

I say unfortunately because an entire documentary on online gaming obsession could be quite good. It is something that very obviously happens and most gamers are cognizant of that fact. In fact the term ‘spouse aggro’ is almost universally known among gamers.

The ‘therapist’ Liz that Dan goes to is almost cringeworthy.  She is labeled the founder of online gamers anonymous. She tries to portray herself as being a tough love counselor but comes across more as a whiny opportunist than anything else. Then 2/3 of the way through the documentary, the director drops a bomb that explains a lot about Liz.

Yet still another topic covered are the economics of games like World of Warcraft. As with the topic of obsession, an entire documentary could be made on this subject. They put together a poor man’s Power Point presentation to accompany interviews illustrating Chinese gold farmers.

I am glad that they touch on the help that online communities provide to the physically disabled. A number of the players I know online have various physical issues that make normal socialization problematic.

While Everquest and other online games are mentioned, the overall focus of the documentary is World of Warcraft.

I’m giving this a Watch recommendation because I know of no other online gaming documentaries. This is a very interesting look at one of my family’s hobbies. My wife, daughter, father-in-law and some real life friends play World of Warcraft. Just don’t expect any of the topics to be covered in depth.

People Watch: Someone claiming to be Dan states that his story was taken out of context in a review on imdb. Here is an excerpt.

“They know damn well that part about suicide was because I was being manipulated by Liz which i went out of my way on several occasions to make corrections of the statements said in the first interview. As for the urinating in bottles they edit out the interviews why I urinated in a bottle because of a broken back and edit in that it was because I was glued to the computer playing WoW. The part about Liz speaking about me seeking legal action they did not include that she made sexual advances to me which was the main reason to I seek legal action. Instead they portray her as a nice old lady when in fact she’s a domineering juggernaut.”