A new documentary is exploring the hidden real lives of players of the virtual world online game Second Life, and finding some bizarre cases. What are we to make of an adult man who leads an online life in which his avatar is an 11-year-old girl? Filmmaker Jason Spingarn-Koff, who has a background in television science documentaries, either worked hard to track down the right subjects or got very lucky. Their stories are engrossing and, in one case, remarkable. The result is a calm and tender account of Second Life and its impact on three American families.
Aside from the adult who plays at being a child, Spingarn-Koff follows a working-class Detroit woman who makes her living selling clothes and buildings in Second Life. She was earning a six-figure income until another Second Life resident began cloning her products, prompting one of the first lawsuits aimed at protecting “property” in a virtual world.
The film’s third strand is a portrait of a man and woman who meet in Second Life and eventually separate from their partners and move in together in the real world.
Second Life is genuinely strange, so it is easy to think that the extremophiles – such as the folks who take on animal avatars and seek out virtual sex with other virtual “furries” – define the place.
But Spingarn-Koff’s film succeeds because it ignores the oddness and focuses on the people behind the avatars, and what Second Life means to them. Somehow it makes Second Life seem both bizarre and rather ordinary.
As for why an adult man would want a school-aged girl for an alter-ego – I’m still not sure. But the man that actually created one? Well, he suddenly doesn’t seem quite so odd.
Source: New Scientist.