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Second Skin - Movie Review - 2008

Online is A Game of Lifestyle

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Second Skin - Movie Review - 2008

Second Skin - Characters in Real Life

Pure West Films
Second Skin delves into the world of massively-multiplayer online gamers, especially those who have organized their lives around playing the game of 'The World of Warcraft,' where they design avatars and, through them, interact with each other in cyberspace. As we see, the relationships sometimes jump from cyberspace to real life.


Second Skin takes us into the world of online gamers who make each other's acquaintance in the virtual reality of the massively-multiplayer online game of 'The World of Warcraft' and subsequently change their real lives in order to continue the relationships they've formed online and pursue them real life. We meet couples who fell in love in cyberspace and married in real life, young men who move thousands of miles across the country to live with their online teammates, players who join the gaming syndicate and consider other members as family, and people who've become so addicted to playing the game that they've lost their jobs and their families, and have had to reclaim their lives by going to rehabilitation programs. We also learn about 'gold farmers' - Chinese online workers who sell their services as surrogate players to earn weapons and other gaming assets that they then transfer to patrons who're seeking a shortcut to higher status and rank within the game.

'The World of Warcraft,' and similar multi-player interactive online games such as 'Second Life', have millions of players. The documentary shows that the games are the centerpieces of a huge and highly profitable industry, one that has developed its own culture, with social organizations -- clans and syndicates -- that have specific codes of behavior, as well as a wide range of products and merchandise.

Cast of Characters

Online, players, represented by self-designed avatars, go on quests and do battle, flirt, celebrate conquests. The gamers are mostly young twenty or thirty-something singles.

They're typical blue and mid-level white collar workers, men and women, really from all walks of life. Avatars are sometimes designed to reflect the players' physical attributes, or they may have wildly exaggerated musculature, animal characteristics and vivid coloration.

In addition to three roommates and several couples -- who could well be your family members, co-workers, classmates or friends -- we meet game creators, Chinese gold farmers, business analysts, psychologists and the leader of The World of Warcraft syndicate.

Theme and Intent

The documentary is an insightful psychological study that focuses on a range of specific gamers, but has broader implications about the impact that the creation of alternative realities in cyberspace can have on real life behavior and expectations. The gamers' high degree of concentration on cyberspace artificiality is alarming, and there are other disturbing issues raised by their dependence on elements of a world that simply isn't real.

Cinematic Style

The way that director Juan Carlos Pineiro-Escoriaza bounces back and forth between the real world and cyberspace, capturing the interactions of players and their avatars, is a smart and entertaining way of presenting the film's subjects and theme. The footage shot in gamers' homes is intimate, revealing and funny. The graphics are superb.

Bottom Line

Second Skin is entertaining, intriguing and gives you a lot to think about whether you're a gamer or not. It's entree into an unusual and surprisingly well populated corner of our complex contemporary world.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Second Skin
  • Director: Juan Carlos Pineiro-Escoriaza
  • Release Date: August 7, 2009
  • Running Time: 94 mins.
  • Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
  • Location: various US cities
  • Language: English
  • Company: Pure West Films
  • Trailer
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