Life 2.0

When I saw this documentary at the 2010 San Francisco Film Festival, I was informed that it would likely receive a theatrical run. It never did–at least in the San Francisco Bay Area (I understand that it had brief runs in LA and NY). Since it’s available on DVD and download through various outlets, I am now posting my review, written more than two years ago.

B+ Documentary

  • Directed by Jason Spingarn-Koff

I came into Life 2.0 knowing nothing about Second Life, the online virtual world that’s the subject of Jason Spingarn-Koff’s documentary. I came out knowing a little bit about how it works, and a good deal about how it affects its more fanatical (one’s tempted to  say “more addicted”) citizens.

The movie looks at five people who have spent a considerable amount of time in Second Life, and have had life-changing experiences there. Not all of those changes have been good, but they haven’t all been bad, either. Spingarn-Koff wisely avoids passing judgment.life20

The two who come off the worse are the most seemingly normal—a man and woman who met and fell in love online. Their avatars look reasonably like their real-world selves, and if they spend too much time online, it wasn’t mentioned in the movie. After plenty of virtual sex, they hook up in the real world and decide to live together. This would all be very sweet and romantic if they weren’t both already married, and in the woman’s case, with children. The new romance, for which they give up so much and hurt so many others, doesn’t look promising.

Theirs aren’t the only relationships that get destroyed. A young man becomes so obsessed with the virtual world, where his avatar is an 11-year-old girl (actual children are not allowed in Second Life, but adults are welcome to play them), that his fiancé leaves him. His career, it’s suggested, is also suffering. But he eventually realizes that his fantasy world is helping him work out some very serious issues.

Finally, there’s a woman who spends up to 14 hours a day in Second Life, playing a much thinner and more attractive version of herself. But she’s also found a lucrative career in Second Life, and the virtual money she makes can be converted into the real thing.

All of these people seem divorced from reality, and confused about it. And while it could be argued that Second Life is ruining their real world, it’s also clear that these individuals are getting something real and important out of it.

I’m not a stranger to the idea of living part of your life in fantasy. I used to work as an entertainer at the Renaissance and Dickens Faires, which basically involved pretending you were somebody else and interacting with others. But Second Life holds no appeal to me; I spend far too much time on my computer, already.

Life 2.0, on the other hand, appealed to me quite a bit as a view into a world I only slightly knew existed.