I'm sure that no matter who you are, you know someone who plays a Massively Mulitplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). Maybe it has been a positive influence on their life and maybe it hasn't been. Whatever the case may be there's no denying the impact that MMORPGs have on the gaming society and our culture in general. It's a worldwide phenomenon and there are several games, though World of Warcraft seems to get the most focus these days.
In 2008 Director Juan Carlos Pineiro-Escoriaza released his film Second Skin for the SXSW Film Festival. It was lauded for it's all around quality and it quickly gained ground with the gaming community. Since I'm also a game reviewer here at DVD Talk I suppose it's only natural that I give the release of the DVD for Second Skin a shot. What I found was a solid film about the lives of those addicted to MMORPG. Second Skin is fascinating, though-provoking, insightful, and more importantly, it's fair. There's a certain love for the material here and the film balances the positive and negative aspects of playing a MMORPG deftly.
It starts out with an introduction to what the MMORPG really is and how many people across the world play. Let's just say that some of the numbers Second Skin throws your way can be staggering. For instance, did you know that the amount made from online transactions alone is over $20 billion? How about that more than 50 million people around the world play a MMORPG? What about the fact that some people spend 11 hours playing a game, 8 hours working, 4 hours sleeping, and 1 hour doing everything and anything else they need to do, like using the bathroom and eating. Pretty crazy, huh?
The focus of Second Skin is pretty diverse and well balanced. On one end of the spectrum you'll be watching the story about a girl named Heather and a guy named Kevin. These two met in Everquest II and fell in love. Now, Kevin lived in Texas and dealt with online relationships before. Heather lives in Florida, just got out of a long relationship, and has no online dating experience. They grew to love each other as they played online together and eventually met in real life. Their story really isn't unique surprisingly. People have been hooking up online for quite some time and the film tosses the statistic out there that 1 in 3 female gamers will date a male gamer, though at a 10 to 1 ratio the odds can be rather staggering.
Another focus of the film is on a group of friends who all lived together. Matt, Chris, Anthony, and Andy all come from different points in life though they all share the bond of World of Warcraft. One of the guys moved from California to Fort Wayne, Indiana to be closer to his buddies. Two of them got married and one of them (Andy) has a kid on the way. When the guys are together they seem to be happy and having a good time, but with the way it's portrayed Andy's relationship seems strained because of World of Warcraft. This shifts the focus to the more negative aspects of online gaming: addiction.
Another focus of Second Skin is the look at the addictive nature of these games. The film looks at the life of a guy named Dan who let World of Warcraft take over his life. He lost his wife, job, and house to the game. Dan hit rock bottom and wound up joining a twelve step program to deal with his addiction. At 35 he's starting his life over again, and it seems that no matter what you do that craving to play a MMORPG is always there. Second Skin also shows some other gamers, couples, and people of interest who all have something to say about MMORPGs.
From start to finish I must say that I found Second Skin utterly fascinating. I know several people who play World of Warcraft and I see many aspects displayed in this film in their lives. This is a impeccably produced film that really sends you off with a great understanding about the MMORPG and what it means to be addicted to them. If you have ever played one of these games or know someone close to you who has, then you should definitely check this out. Consider it strongly recommended.
Second Skin is presented on DVD with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Considering this is a low budget release the quality is roughly about what you'd expect it to be. The picture is mostly clean, though it's grainy at a couple of points, and there is some spotty compression. The darker and indoor areas of the film fair the worst in terms of quality, but outdoor and well lit locations are easily the high point of the film. Graphics from many of the games in questions are also scattered throughout the film to differing degrees of success. Interlacing is present as well at times. Overall the quality of the video is roughly what you'd expect from a budgeted release such as this, and it's more serviceable than something you'd use to show off your home theater.
Equally minimalist is the audio presentation which comes through with English 2.0 stereo output. The sound is clear and clean enough, though there's no diversity on the soundstage. The channels are relatively flat and there are no moments that stand out more than others. No subtitles are included on this release.
A decent supply of bonus features comes on this DVD review of Second Skin. For the lighter stuff there's a photo gallery and some trailers for other Liberation Entertainment releases. There's also an audio commentary for the film which offers some additional insight into the project. The other content here is all extended bits of pieces that are featured in the film. An additional look at the Syndicate (an online guild), Heather and Kevin, the Fort Wayne Boys, Avatar Creation, and an Extended Intro are included. There's also some addition Talking Heads content and a look at the release of the film at the SXSW Film Festival.
Second Skin is a fascinating documentary. The life of a gamer that is addicted to an MMORPG is a fascinating thing to examine from the outside looking in. There are arguments for both the benefits and detriments for playing these games. Yes, you meet new friends online and have fun while playing the game, but if you're not careful it can take over your life. You forgo sleep, work, and personal relationships to play games like Worlds of Warcraft. The focus of this feature is diversified just enough and the film moves along at a very brisk pace. Whether or not you play a MMORPG this film is very entertaining and educational. Check it out!
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