Monday, April 28, 2008

Second Skin: MMORPG documentary


Creepy but insightful. Good machinima

Second Skin premiered at the Boston IFF , linked with Rofl con, shows U.S. MMORPGers in their native element: middle America, working middle class, primarily white American men in front of screens doing their thing. The doc focuses on WoW and EverQuest, locking into the depth of play and the competitiveness that create strong links online and that translates to friendship circles offline (for many).

Again and again, players give testimonial that the meaningfulness of life online as an Blood Elf or knight translates into power in the real world: the presence of one’s virtual posse wherever they go.

We are legion.

Addiction and duplicity is where things continue to get stuck in what happens in MMOs and how it’s reported to the world.

1. Not growing up and getting on with real life (Andy one of the gamers has twin in course of doc).
2. Losing your health, teeth, job because your’re playing and depressed…

Scot Osterweil pointed me to a report from Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health that suggests it is not the most avid gamers but the most maladjusted who get stuck in the game spin cycle of doom. Makes instinctive sense, but
here is the report

Edward Castronova is the leading “expert” in the doc and he makes the defense of synthetic worlds that he has in print: so many people play here because the real world is not so good; synthetic worlds provide a critique of our culture. Over-weight girl in small town can be an angel fairy in EQ.

This line of reasoning is like a painkiller or sedative. I am not keen on it. Does not address root problem of why the girl bummed out to start with. Ender’s Game got the perils of real life meeting the perils of virtual ones on target. It seems to hurt all over.

Director Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza gave a lucid post-screening. He said that MMOs will no more bring down Western civilization than television did. Each new popular medium brings its own change. This is totally reasonable, but it’s not what he shows. The movie errs on the side of the dramatic and extreme….because it’s boring I supposed to show a well adjusted gamer just going about daily life. The fairly explicit point of the movie is that there no “well adjusted” hardcore gamers.

IMHO, MMOs, five years into it, are already morphing into different kinds of animals: more of them and more diverse…and mostly more casual. I felt claustrophobic and creeped out by a lot of the movie. Maybe that was the point.

They did some very nice non-permissional WoW machinima. The game animation in general looked great.

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