Monday, August 10, 2009

Second Skin Review


I got a chance to watch the Second Skin documentary this weekend. It is airing on until August 13th and I had a meta viewing of it with Bindpoint and twitter peeps via my wowcast livestream. The event was nice and I always find it’s way more fun to view stuff online with other people.

I can’t say any of us were all that pleased with the tone the documentary took on gam ers. I had this fear the first time I saw the trailer for the film when they showed the clip about the guy wanting to commit suicide. Our consensus is that negativity sells more than optimism.

I’m not sure but I have a strong feeling that the writers and producers of this film were not gamers. The stories they chose to cover had few spotlights of good and strong, strong undertones of serious negativity. The negative part is a given because of the stories they chose to focus on.

Most of the people I game with are successful, gifted, talented, smart, creative, and good natured people. They are not hopeless addicts who can’t distinguish “laziness” from “addiction.”

However, the part of the film that really bothered me was the serious missed opportunity the documentary made. Here was a chance to get inside the life of a gamer, to show the meta connections, the actual interactions that happen online. What did we get instead? We got 10 second blips of online characters doing emotes to each other. If a non gamer sees this documentary, they’re going to sum up our online interactions to a silly looking bear charging a silly looking monster and a couple of elf creatures riding horses.

How do you actualize the threads of connections that happen in a game? To document it, you have to really grasp what is happening beyond the computer screen but most of the documentary focuses instead on the imagery of the glazed over look of an obsessed addicted gamer staring at a monitor.

People are going to say I’m extremely defensive about gamer life because I’m one of those hopeless addicts who has no life and validates my existence through these “online experiences.”

But even if I push myself aside, I can’t help but be offended for the other people around me who don’t really deserve to be typecast into this hopeless negative light. I’m not sure why media outlets feel like they need to tell the “dangers of” stories.

secondskin2I’m constantly fascinated with the stories I hear about other gamers around me and the lives they live both inside and outside of the meta…because it’s all REAL LIFE. Just look at the story of Starman and Renata. That would have been a very nice positive storyline to focus on regarding creativity and community. Instead they get 20 seconds of film time and then the film goes to 10 minutes of two people having a fight while moving in together which really has nothing to do with meta connections but rather the reality of relationships.

And if you go look at the comments on about the movie, you’ll understand why threading these stereotypes about gamers is very harmful to our community. It’s easy for people to misunderstand the life of a gamer. The comments go on and on mirroring this notion that spending time playing an MMORPG is a social problem and gamers are referred to as “these types of people” like we’re lepers or something. I just wish there was some film out there that could help people who don’t game understand the reality of who we are.

The best line of the film came from the one real inspirational blip regarding a boy who has a disability that prevents him from speaking. I love this quote:

“Although they are virtual, they are still our lives nonetheless”-Andrew Monkelban

If somehow the rest of the documentary could have focused on that idea, I probably wouldn’t have come out feeling as down as I did. And the irony of it is that I was watching this hopeless idea of gamers unfold via live stream with about 12 other people online. There we were finding a way to virtually connect and experience an event together in the meta.

Oh and after the film was over, there were several requests to rewind to the Starman and Renata bit! It’s around the 42:28 minute marker incase you want to do the same :)


Leala Turkey said...

I totally agree with you. I too had been looking forward to the movie and was so disappointed in the tone.

Chris Emerson said...

Dang... I was hoping for something other than usual cliches - argh. Thanks for the review though.


Moonknight said...

I was rather disappointed by the film. I thought that the filmakers were going for an honest view into our lives but to me this came off as another "Trekkies" or a "Supersize Me" like film.

I thought it was real fraked up for them to include a story of a kid's suicide and then hint that it was his addiction to EQ that caused it. Let's face it, life is a bitch sometimes and some people rise up above it and some don't.

Strumpet said...

Watching this now. The addiction portion is making me angry.

wowcast said...

I had a similar reaction to the documentary- Monster Camp. I was really excited to get to watch that film as well. I thought for the first time I'd get to see the inside world of LARPers..

Instead, the film was about how pathetic the lives of the people in the film were including the stereotypical guy who has no job who lives with his mom. It deduced LARPing to a bunch of geeks running around a picnic area throwing balls of paper at each other.

And the ultimate conclusion was this idea of hopeless escape for people who refuse to find any scope of normalcy in the the real world. And even those who moved past LARPing ended up playing WoW because it allowed them to continue delving out of reality without ever leaving their home.

I feel like it's time for real gamers to get their faces shown. I must do something!

Spenser said...

Saturday night I got really excited about the film because it was something I had really been anticipating and told my wife to come watch it with me. She didn't really feel like it so I went ahead and watched it on my own.

After it was over I told her she really didn't miss out on anything.

That's the way I feel about the film in general...

I was going to do a write up on the blog, but I would just be repeating what Alachia has already said.

Maybe my expectations were too high. They really did show some good stuff (I could probably listen to Edward Castronova talk for the whole hour) but I feel like it was just LOADED with so much pointless unrelated crap.

I say Alachia needs to make the next meta doc ;)

Jemimus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jemimus said...

A far more positive documentary about gamers, is here:

Its from 2003, and explores the film-maker son's "addiction" to Counter-strike.

Its starts of very negatively, but becomes increasingly more positive throughout. Its really nice to see the father/director come to slowly understand there is more to this community than he realized at first

Perhaps this is a choice for the next movie night?

Nathan said...

Not to totally disagree with any of you but the director and writer who are brothers had the idea to create this documentary due to the fact that one of their friends who was a normal 30 year old, became addicted to Star Wars Galaxies and eventually lost everything.
So, the intent was to make a negative film about gamers but through the research to make the film they realized that gamers and gaming can be a great environment to build relationships (Kevin and Heather) and an avenue where a person can be someone or something that they are prohibited to be in this world (Andrew Monkelban).Once you understand that, there is in fact a lot of good points within in the film.
The negative is that it showcases one extreme man who becomes suicidal because he can't stop his addiction. I believe he would have been addicted to anything if WoW wouldn't have gotten him.
Not to mention the mother is insane, showing how crazy people can be who DON'T play MMORPG's.

Matt said...

I work in game development and love games, but I do not play many MMOs simply because of the time commitment required. I just watched "Second Skin" and thought it was well done, despite the issues already mentioned. My additional comment is to remember that documentaries of this type tend to focus on the "extreme" cases because they are, frankly, more entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, with that comes the danger that people (who may not know better) take these cases to be indicative of the larger group as a whole. This is where I found the film to be lacking. But the lives depicted are no more/less interesting (or sad or troubled) as a result.

wowcast said...

Maybe that's my problem is that I can't view things about gamers objectively. I just imagine my mom and dad watching this documentary and then it just reaffirming that what their daughter does is a waste of time....same with my co-workers.

I've heard these horror stories before so I guess they aren't new to me. I've heard the suicide stuff.. I've seen many fellow raid members fall off the grid due to one more of the negative things pointed out in this documentary.

As always, if you do anything in the extreme, it's 100% toxic for you. There was a time that most everyone I play WoW with now hit that point of coming dangerously close to falling into those pitfalls.

What makes us different from the people in the documentary? I guess the same thing that separates success from failure in the real world... the ability to gain large scope of perspective? I dunno. I'm sure a ton of factors. But the majority of gamers ARE different than what was represented here.

I've kind of gotten a good back story behind the makers of the film. From what I was hearing, the story was meant to shed light on the negativity of gaming due to one of their friends being a hopeless case as well...but in making the film it also helped the film makers see a different aspect of the gaming community as well. You can see they try to touch on those discoveries. However, the overall tone of the movie carried on from their initial objective.

I've been in the meta too long now to not be disappointed that I haven't really seen any media outlet that shows the REALITY of the to speak.

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