One of my picks for one of the best documentaries of the year has to be Second Skin. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games or MMORPG have been around for a quite a few years, with an estimated user based at $50 million, many see this as the future of gaming. Ever since the ability to dial into a friend and play a Doom Deathmatch, I’ve been a huge fan of multiplayer gaming. In recent years, Online Gaming has become much more then just a simple deathmatch. With subscription based games like World of Warcraft flying off store shelves, and people dedicating lives to it, this story was ripe for picking.
Filmmakers Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza and Producer Peter Brauer were the right folks to bring the story to the screen. As story tellers, it would have been extremely easy to focus on merely the negative addiction aspects of MMORPG’s. Rather, they chose to focus on specific lives that had been affected by games like World of Warcraft and Everquest.
Many of the gamers focused on in the documentary are people at crossroads at their life. For example, Andy, a WoW player, is about to become a Father to twins, and shares a close friendship with a bunch of friends who live together in Indianapolis and play WoW. Kevin and Heather, who met through Everquest, meet for the first time in person, and then move-in together. The filmmakers found many of these subjects through the power of the internet, recruiting via forums and blogs.
There is a decent focus on a WoW addict on the path to recovery. During the peak of his addiction, he’d find himself playing 13-14 hours a day. We see him come out of a rehab center started by a woman who lost a son to suicide after a long bout of video game addiction.
The film also delves deeply into the “Gold farming,” that occurs in the games. There are groups in China who play the game for hours straight just collecting gold and selling it to gamers who want the easy way to move forward. For example, 1,000 gold pieces could be worth around $50 or $60 US dollars. Blizzard (the publishers of World of Warcraft) has made almost $1.7 billion from sales. The estimated worth of virtual assets in the game? $20 billion.
The research gone into the film was mind-blowing, with fascinating statistics through out. For example, 1 in 3 female gamers will date a male gamer, and for every 10 male gamers, there is 1 female gamer. So if you come across a fairly attractive night elf in the game, get her on Vent, there’s a decent chance she is a he.
The theme presented through out is the reason why many of these folks indulge in these vast online worlds. While in real life, your place and position is determined by birth, in games like World of Warcraft, you start the same way as everyone else. Class, order, wealth, all must be earned. You can be something you can’t be in real life in a virtual world.
The film is extremely educational, and very entertaining, even for the non-gamer, information is presented in lay-mans terms. It’s exciting to see something like this as the subject of a documentary, especially as the medium is beginning to be taken more seriously. I’ve personally grown tired of having video games and gaming be treated as a kids hobby, in fact, one of my favorite stats was the gaming demographic, 40% of MMO players are between the ages of 23 and 33.
It is my understanding that Pure West and the filmmakers are currently seeking distribution, but if you see this gem come your way, don’t miss it.