One of the more interesting-looking films in the SXSW lineup is Second Skin, directed by Juan Carlos Piñeiro Escoriaza. The film is a documentary about people who are utterly obsessed with the virtual worlds of Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). The film follows several folks who spend all or most of their spare time (and perhaps even their time that's not really spare) immersed in virtual worlds in places like World of Warcraft, Everquest, Second Life and other MMOs. Firstshowing.net has the trailer up, and from watching it, it seems the filmmakers handle the subject matter without looking down on or making fun of these folks for whom virtual life is as important as real life.

It looks also like they examine both the dark and light sides of gaming. There's Kevin and Heather, who met online as a knight and a cleric slaying dragons on Norrath in Everquest, fell in love and then met in real life; then there's a guy on the trailer who talks about playing obsessively for 14-16 hours a day, to the point that his addiction to gaming was ruining his life and he became suicidal. I wonder if they'll delve at all into people using Second Life as a virtual space for sexual encounters and affairs (which personally, I find beyond creepy, but whatever gets you off, I guess). I'll be the first to admit that I don't get the whole appeal of virtual worlds and virtual identities; I can grok the concept that people get really into their video games, but the idea of not having much of a life outside of a virtual reality game puzzles the hell out of me.


Then again, I used to spend a lot of time in philosophy discussions way back when IRC was where all the cool geeky kids hung out, so what do I know? Maybe I'm just missing something about the appeal of virtual living, and Second Skin will prove to be enlightening. I can't see myself really getting into virtual gaming much -- what with homeschooling four kids, traveling to film fests, writing, book club, choir and the occasional date night sans kids with the hubs, I don't have a lot of real spare time, much less time to spend obsessing about being someone else in a virtual world. How about you? Do you spend lots of time in your own second skin? Or does the whole idea of people living virtual lives creep you out?