Warning: This article is personal.
There’s a lot of gaming documentaries out there, and most of them terrible. However, last night I sat down and watched “Life 2.0” on Netflix streaming, which covered Second Life and peoples addiction to it along with how it affects their real life. Being someone who played Second Life back in the day, this documentary definitely was more intriguing to me than others by premise alone, so I loaded it up and discovered that I may in fact have dodged a bullet by making myself stop playing it. It’s not often I discuss older games when I write here, or even computer games, but this is going somewhere, I promise.
The 3 people the film followed were a couple who met over the game and divorced their spouses to be together, a woman who used the game to make money from home by starting her own digital clothing and housing line and then the-to me-most fascinating person in the film, a 30/40 something year old web developer who made his avatar an 11 year old girl, and how his fiance coped with that. I guess I should go into WHY Second Life is important to me first of all, so that a lot of this makes sense, because otherwise, it’s not going to make much sense at all. Be aware, this is going to get personal. Back when I first played Second Life, I didn’t have a whole lot of friends or social life (this was maybe 8th grade/9th grade? So about 2004/2005) and I decided to log in and start my own character. One of the reasons I was fascinated by the web developer was because I myself made my avatar a girl. Not an 11 year old girl mind you, because that’s kind of creepy, but a girl nonetheless. Why did I do this? Looking back after this summer, it makes sense when I realized I am transgender and am currently undergoing therapy to begin treatment to go from male to female. Now obviously, my situation is eons different than that guys and if you watch the film you’ll see what I mean, but still, it was probably why I was drawn to his story the most.
But it made me realize how much gaming can be-to an extent-a sort of therapy. For those of you wondering-SPOILERS (like you’re gonna watch this thing anyway)-the web developer used his avatar as a way to work through his sexual abuse he endured as a child. I think that’s interesting. In fact, I thought all 3 stories were interesting because it showed how much a video game impacted their real lives, to the point where some were making good money and living off it and some were starting actual relationships. It made me realize that games have a certain undeniable social aspect that movies and books and other forms of media don’t have; that connection. While we all go to the movies, we generally don’t hook up after the movie in a chatroom and discuss the movie endlessly for hours. When’s the last time you talked to another person at a bookstore? And really, if you’re a teenager, when was the last time you were IN a bookstore? Gaming-online gaming especially-is such a collective experience that we all take part in that it often times makes us form bonds with people we never would’ve met in real life. Despite my complaining and my annoyance at the industry and the culture, gaming does have its benefits, especially for people with severe social anxiety such as myself, because it allows us to connect with other people who may share similar interests and who we may be able to take that friendship to another level outside the game.
The web developer (I don’t think they ever gave his name, for obvious reasons) used his avatar as a way to work through his therapy, much like I used mine to tap into this undiscovered identity I had that I’ve finally come to terms with. It’s therapy. Online gaming often isn’t just something to pass time in, because in some cases it becomes a real community. For some people, WoW is just as social and important as their job to them. Same thing here. This guy could’ve paid to see a therapist, or he could’ve downloaded this free game and worked through his issues himself, thus saving himself a lot of money-give or take his electric bill I guess-and coming to terms with things in his own time. I believe I have underestimated online gaming up until this point. I think it can be more than just kids screaming horrid obscenities at one another and tea bagging, I think in some cases it can actually help someone psychologically.
This probably doesn’t carry over to things like COD online or TF2, but it could, who knows. Either way, it moved me enough to write this very open article and hopefully get others to see what I mean.
Now my reviewer side comes out. Do I recommend this documentary? Not necessarily. It’s not altogether GOOD, but it was interesting enough to waste some time on last night when I couldn’t sleep. But I do think it’s probably one of the better gaming documentaries out there. Of course, King of Kong is still hands down the best, but that’s a whole other article for a whole other day.