Rather than focusing on World of Warcraft or Everquest, Second Skin focuses on the people who play those games and that’s what makes it so appealing and captivating to watch.
At some point, developers figured out a way to craft entire virtual worlds where thousands of players could play at the same time. These games come in the form of different genres, but the most popular ones are MMORPGs (which stands for massively multiplayer role-playing games.) Second Skin follows the lives of seven people who play these games, including World of Warcraft and Everquest II, and the documentary tries to convey what makes those titles so appealing to millions of players.
Anyone who’s played any of the aforementioned games (or pretty much any other MMORPGs for that matter,) knows that they can be pretty intimidating at first. There’s a lot to take into account when you play those games, including guilds, experience points, equipment, raids, expansions and so on. Second Skin does a poor job of explaining what those mechanics are like, but that’s not necessarily bad. Rather than focusing on the games themselves, Second Skin focuses on the people who play them and that’s what makes it appealing and captivating to watch.
Second Skin features a series of interviews with World of Wacraft and Everquest players who dedicate a lot of time to those games and shows how those games have influenced their lives. Some of the topics discussed include relationships that were possible thanks to the games, people who can’t stop playing, how the relatives of players feel about the person losing themselves in the game, developers who have worked on those MMOs and more. In a way, Second Skin shows the two sides of the spectrum. That includes people who, for instance, have met significant others through the games and people who used to play the games for hours on end. But the topics explored don’t end there, Second Skin also deals with virtual communities, conventions and there’s also a segment on Chinese companies who farm gold on World of Warcraft so that they can resell it to American players.
There’s a case presented showing a person who’s so obsessed with the game that he shows suicidal thoughts and decides to attend a 12-step program to get over his fixation. At first, I thought this was presented in such a way that it communicated the idea that people can get addicted to video games (which time and time again has been proven not to be true.) If anything, these problems are a reflection of something else (depression, low self-esteem or social anxiety.) Nevertheless, little by little, you see how those negative attitudes towards games comes from something else and it’s fascinating to see where those people come from.
But not every interview about online games shows the negative side of the genre. For instance, there are people with disabilities who use World of Warcraft as an escape, allowing them to do things they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. In a way, Second Skin explores a strange phenomenon that a lot of people has heard about, but not everyone is aware of and even if World of Warcraft isn’t the gargantuan virtual game it once was, this film is still captivating to watch.
Between some of the interviews and segments, some statistics are shown to illustrate how popular MMORPGs are and to get to know the people who play them and these are useless and in some cases, misleading. For example, there’s a comparison between the amount of money World of Warcraft made and one of the most popular movies that year. Since the price of movie tickets and games are usually different, this information is irrelevant and inaccurate.
Second Skin focuses on one of the most fascinating aspects of video games: the rise of massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Since the release of this documentary, a lot has happened in the industry and World of Warcraft isn’t the giant that it once was, but even if things have changed tremendously in the last couple of years, Second Skin remains an interesting film that I’m glad I watched.