Second Skin: The MMO Documentary

By Alec Meer on August 12th, 2009 at 12:01 pm.

I’ve not had the chance to watch all of this yet, because the idea of observing moving images whilst listening to dialogue seems like a frightening impossibility to me. What will they think of next? If you, however, are convinced you can embrace this ‘video’ medium, perhaps you should watch Second Skin – a 90 minute documentary about how and why people spend so much time in online worlds, and some potential repurcussions of it. Online relationships, for instance – one guy reveals that, upon finally meeting his Everquestian beau in real life, she threatened him with a knife. To counter that kind of thing, there’s the raw, racuous of joy of one couple’s wedding conducted both in the real world (“henceforth you will no longer be two, but one”) and in-game (“from this time forward, you will share the name “Soulslayerrrrrrrr”).

From what I have seen so far, they’re concentrating on World of Warcraft and Everquest II, rather than making the all-too-regular mistake of innacurately pushing cocking Second Life front and centre just because it’s got unconvincing genitalia in it.

Some canny editing (the staring, heavy breathing avatars during the discussion of online relationships, for instance), stereotypes both endorsed and busted, and a general aura of sympathy-meets-tragedy make it an interesting watch so far, even if it doesn’t seem to explore that deeply. Haven’t got to the addiction element of it yet, which I’m sure will contain the most contentious elements. Anyone watched the whole thing yet and care to comment?

The thinger below will take you to the full movie, but it’s only watchable for free until the end of tomorrow.

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36 Comments »

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  1. Heliocentric says:

    I’d watch one of these on eve, about how they are all viscous bastards.

    I wonder if the acknowledge how mmo’s support parasitic relationships which won’t stand aside from within the game, effectively holding “friends” for rent.

    Just like medical services should be seperate from profit, so to i believe the same of peoples social lives. But then, tell that to my 3 dozen russian brides who make up my battlefield 2 clan. /truth

  2. Owen says:

    I shall have a looksy.

  3. Christian says:

    And if you want to watch it after the end of tomorrow (hehe, that would make a great movie title..), it’s also on Hulu.com.
    You’ll need an American IP-address though (I use VPN, but any proxy should work..).

  4. Premium User Badge

    Seniath says:

    Caught this at the Bradford Animation Festival last year, found it alarming and heart-warming in equal doses. Coincidentally, two days later I lost myself to the release of WotLK…

  5. Hudson says:

    You mean a MOCKumentary? This movie sucked.

    http://hudshideout.com/blog/?p=3152

  6. TotalBiscuit says:

    I can’t say I was too impressed with this to be honest, though it’s nice to see a few of my friends on there. Hi Starman and Renata \o_

  7. TOOTR says:

    Cheers – I have never come across the ‘snag’ site before – its great.

    Arr good old RPS – opening my eyes to more media..and on that :

    I’d appreciate the RPS unholy quartet to recommend their favourite regular podcasts sometime – apart from the fantastic one you produce yourself. I use the word produce with a raised eyebrow as indeed the audio is as bad as you often point out BUT the content is always enjoyable.

    Oh you guys!

  8. Mungrul says:

    Back when I was playing WoW (as an Undead Rogue), I was obsessed with sneaking into places I shouldn’t have been.
    I managed to get into the main Alliance city and the train networks underneath, and in one quiet corner I found a couple obviously engaged in some serious “Roleplay”.

    That gave me a good chuckle.

  9. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Does it have an interview with Felicia Day, if it doesn’t then it holds no interest for me at all.

  10. Larington says:

    Not bad at all. Reasoned exploration of the whole thing. Those adverts were annoying, though.

  11. Collic says:

    Yeah the media player is poison. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the iplayer.

    The resume function is it’s one saving grace.

  12. Phlebas says:

    A female beau? That must have come as a shock.

  13. milko says:

    “I’d watch one of these on eve, about how they are all viscous bastards.”

    mmmmmmm, syrupy.

  14. We Fly Spitfires - MMORPG Blog says:

    Sweet, thanks, bookmarked it to watch later.

    Did anyone see the UK documentary Another Perfect World? It explored virtual worlds and MMOs and focused mainly on Second Life, EVE Online and Lineage although it did touch on gold selling in WoW.

    Check out a 30min slice of it here:

    http://blog.weflyspitfires.com/2009/06/25/another-perfect-world-watch-it-here/

  15. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    Now I feel like buying toilet paper and cleaning agents.

  16. Heliocentric says:

    Fine! Vicious, but i swear eve players have a higher surface tension than normal people.

  17. rei says:

    I lasted four minutes. I felt a little embarrassed watching it. They could’ve skipped the silly editing and just showed the game as it actually is.

  18. El Stevo says:

    The ads are really annoying. Is there any point in doing them so frequently if they’re the same two adverts every time? Is there any point in doing them at all if they’re not localised?

  19. mister_d says:

    FYI: This film has Chinese circus monkeys in it!

  20. sfury says:

    ” Is there any point in doing them at all if they’re not localised?”

    You mean beside annoying the $%#@ out of you?

    That was mildly interesting since I don’t have any MMOer friends and haven’t played at all any of the damned things.

    Also most people in the documentary seemed a bit overweight, no? Is it because they are all: a)Americans b)gamers c)MMOers, or the three combined?

    Now I’ll run.

    They’ll never catch me.

  21. Mil says:

    A public service announcement from your friendly neighbourhood pedant: beau is a masculine word, and only applies to males. The feminine equivalent is belle.

    (Phlebas hinted at this, maybe a bit cryptically).

  22. Hedenius says:

    One of the worst documentaries i’ve ever seen. Extremely biased and pathetic. Anyone who thinks about watching this should do a search for “Gaming Generation” on YouTube instead.

  23. Reddy says:

    Overall i enjoyed the film. It was a bit more unbiased than most of media exploring online gaming.

    After looking at their main site, i have to say i understand what they were aiming for, and may even pick up a copy of the DVD (sans ads) when it comes out August 25th.

  24. mister_d says:

    Just finished watching and didn’t find it to be bias either way. There was a good variety of different stories and perspectives.

    I wish they had gone more in depth on the topic of disabled people using MMOs as an avenue to do things they can’t do in real life. It was quite touching when the first disabled gamer guys who was in a wheelchair, had limited upper body mobility, and was mute explained how his avatar is just like him as far as his personality, but that the game allows him to communicate and move freely.

    @sfury: I just assumed it was because they’re Americans more so than gamers or MMOGamers.

  25. Danarchist says:

    I watched it myself and for the most part I found it to be very focused on showing gaming as almost a mental disability. The gamer “hive” they kept going back to I have never seen the like of in close to 20 years (thats right i played zork!) of hardcore gaming. In the end it showed the guys that had quit gaming in brightly lit rooms or wedding settings smilling and happy, and the guys that were still gaming were shown in messy houses looking depressed with their girlfriends/wives crying or upset. As someone that has spent a big chunk of his life around a director I can tell you that was shot that way on purpose. Everyone loves to watch a train wreck, that’s why the news has 1 segment on happy things and 4 on horrible murders etc. The director of this isnt a bad person, he just knows how to make money for his work.
    In the end it was the usual diatribe on gaming destroying modern civilization with a couple of token “Happy pretty people” thrown in to make it look different than the other half dozen of these films. I would love to have one of these film crews come visit me or my much more hardcore gaming brother. Were both well employed, own homes and have happy female counter parts that dont collect unicorn figurines. And besides being a wow raid leader my brother is a personal trainer and fights in the UFC bush leagues. There are lots of very normal people that play online games MODERATELY without life destroying side effects. You will never see them in a movie like this for more than a few seconds.

  26. rei says:

    They’ll never catch me.

    If I’d read that just two seconds earlier, I would now be cleaning a mouthful of vitamin-fortified juice off of my monitor.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    It was surprisingly good. Yeah, they did focus on the extreme ends of the gaming spectrum, but nobody would want to watch a documentary about a regular person playing for three hours a day.
    And it was very well balanced for that. I even thought it presented gaming as something positive. Sure, they spend a lot of time on addiction and treat it as the serious thing it is. But then they put it in perspective by showing how the people got out of their addiction, simply by moving on in their lives. You know, by having kids or finding a new job.

    And they did show some of the advantages of playing MMORPGs. Like meeting people, (1 in 3 girl gamers is dating someone they met in the game? I had no idea!) being your true self online, or doing stuff you can’t do in real life. (the disabled kid being really happy in Second Life)

    I’d recommend this to people. I might buy this, but searching Amazon.de for “Second Skin” only returned men’s tangas.

  28. Concept says:

    Was anyone else a bit scared that the Bioware guy was saying that people are who they really are online?

    That guy was creepy.

  29. CryingTheAnnualKingo says:

    I like the notion of a documentary about this subject, but this is just a bad documentary. It is far less intererested in offering scientifically based anwsers to the issue of phyisical addiction to MMOs than it in its tiresome line-up of talking heads, most of them annoying white trash. WoW addicted Dan is the perfect example of the kind of pathetic faux-gamer that makes me steer clear of MMOs.
    The only interesting notion was completely glossed over; the idea that the rise in vitual worlds should be taken as a worrying condemnation of reality. Someone should make a documentary exploring that idea to its potential.

  30. Scandalon says:

    I just wish that MMORPG’s were half as “dynamic”/cool as the “WoW” animation cut-scene-alike made it look.

  31. Scandalon says:

    Actually, make that 98% of all games.

  32. Leeks! says:

    I quite liked that. The aesthetics of the thing really stand out–cool blend of the usual talking heads and machinima esque stuff going on. When the film does offer analysis on gaming/reasons for gaming, I found it reasonable enough, with plenty of positive stories to go along with the negative ones. We shouldn’t forget that documentary film making of this kind still very explicitly holds storytelling as its chief intent, and criticizing the film for not offering a detached, empirical study of gaming culture only reveals your own biases.

    As an anathema on gamers and gaming, the film obviously fails, but that’s only because it isn’t a condemnation on gamers and gaming. As an exploratory portrait of a subculture often misunderstood and dismissed by the mainstream that acknowledges the horror stories often reported in populist media while also demonstrating something of the nuance and positivity of gaming (i.e.: The only thing the film ever presents itself as), it succeeds in many ways.

  33. Kwanchu says:

    hahahaha that was a good one, “and in-game (”from this time forward, you will share the name “Soulslayerrrrrrrr”).” Of course only people who play mmo’s would get that one.

  34. Gl3n says:

    Did anyone else find the whole thing morbidly depressing? People trying to be awesome inside a game instead of out there in the real world.

  35. Danarchist says:

    That in itself is depressing but does go back to the comment above about “If people are enjoying these mmo worlds more than the real world, what does that say about our current reality?”
    In most cases the drones they use for these types of movies are people with either severe mental or social issues, or hyper focused types. The irony being the most commonly hyper focused gamer has add or adhd.
    Games, like drugs and alchohol, have an escapist component that can be emotionally addictive. The problem is when people are talking in a general way about alcohol they do not only interview alcoholics as most of us have a drink now and then and only a percentage have no control over it. If someone made a film like that the general public would cry foul. Since the general public is still unaware of what hardcore gaming entails though crap films like this can be made and everyone goes “Oh! Hrmm thats what thats about…”

  36. TouristofLife says:

    I don’t understand why people are so harsh. I play WoW and yeah, there are people who do go overboard, but there are people who go overboard with everything. Alcohol, Smoking, Drugs, Sex, Workaholics, Food. While at the same time alot of the people I play with are just normal people, with problems, sicknesses, promotions, new relationships and etc.

    I think its great when a documentary like this comes out to educate but when people view it as a means of simply bashing a lifestyle (or lack thereof i suppose one could say) it truly defeats the purpose of the video.