Fast forward 25 years and we find ourselves, as (video) gamers in general, and MMORPG players in particular, in a similar situation. Actually, that not totally true. Over the last 2 to 3 years I've noticed a change in mass media's perception of gamers. A change for the positive. The nerds of the past have evolved into today's geeks (well some of us have anyways :p). With the advent of World of Warcraft, the term MMORPG has become much more mainstream recently. MMO players are less and less seen as antisocial-zombies living in virtual worlds as they escape the Real World. Studies are starting to come out which offer a positive image of gaming. MMORPG players are being seen as developping leadership skills due to the multiplayers colaborative nature of MMOs.
But then comes along a documentary like Second Skin. Premiered in March 2008, it follows World of Warcraft and Everquest players as their virtual lives clash with their real life obligations. But there's one big problem with the film. Now, don't get me wrong, the documentary is well made, the flow is just right and you can definitely see that the folks behind it are very talented. That's not where the problems lies. Let me explain.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to see the documentary before its released on the web earlier today. As I started watching I was excited about the prospect of seeing how we, as MMORPG players, would be portrayed. I had my hopes up that it would show how these games have brought millions of people together from all over the world. How they have allowed us to learn new skills (writing, blogging, podcasting, leading, etc.) and discover hidden talents we did not know we had. Or how a 16 year-old could successfully lead a guild or corporation of over 50 people (from all walks of life, social background or professional careers) to accomplish difficult goals. But my hopes quickly came crashing down.
What the folks behind Second Skin did though is focused on the "weird" behaviors of some MMO players. I'm not saying that everyone in the film is a weirdo, but what I am saying is that that's where the filmmakers decided to focus on. As I was watching the film, I couldn't help but tell myself that these were not the kind of folks I played with. These were not the types of people I had come to know over the last 5 years of playing EVE Online. And I don't think it's a "Well-this-is-how-WoW-players-are" kind of thing. I'm totally aware that a lot of MMO players have addictive-like behaviors when it comes to playing these games.
I just don't buy the idea that we're all like that. Never have, never will. It wasn't true for RPGs a quarter of a century ago, and it's still not true today for MMO players. It's as if you did a movie on religion, but only focused on the fundamentalist. Or a movie on wine making, but only focused on alcoholics. I don't feel that the movie does a good job at presenting a fair and realistic view of the MMO Gaming community.
I'd really be curious to know you're thoughts as well, but in my case this wasn't the MMO documentary I was hoping to see. Not by far.
I'm still waiting for that one.