Second Skin

This is a documentary focusing on gamers who play Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs). It follows a few small groups of gamers distributed around the country, all playing either World of Warcraft (WoW) or Everquest II (EQ2). All are rather committed to their games, some consider themselves addicted, with one entering himself into a 12-step program to try and break is addiction.


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Given how easily these subjects could have been played for laughs, I felt this movie was surprisingly even-handed. There were clearly some moments where humor was at the expense of the subjects, but they were few and far between. It was suprising in the Q&A with the filmmakers after the screening that the first question was basically a complaint that the film showed gamers in a negative light. It seemed clear to me that this person was just bringing their own baggage to the event.

That is not to say that the movie didn't have its flaws. The "storylines" of the various sets of subjects were intercut, and at times it was difficult to keep track of the relationships and who the various players were. I also would have liked to see more information about the rehab facility. The woman who ran the facility seemed to have a very negative opinion of gamers, accusing them of feigned helplessness and laziness. She didn't strike me as emitting the kind of energy that someone in recovery needs. And as far as I can tell from the film, her only accreditation is that her son was an addicted gamer. The film presented her as a very negative character, and I wonder how true that is.

Online gamers are often dismissed as anti-social losers, but this look into the lives of gamers and the relationships built between them is an interesting counterpoint to conventional wisdom.