Arklore, as he's known on Blizzard's World of Warcraft, had a father who's serious about wanting to communicate with his son. There's just one problem: Arklore is too busy playing WoW, and his father isn't a gamer.
Left with seemingly little choice, Arklore's dad reportedly asked the gamer's younger brother to help him create a character on WoW so that he could send a message to his son.
It's probably stories like these that prompted movie director to Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza to direct the documentary film "Second Skin", which is a story based on the virtual lives of World of Warcraft players and other MMORPGs lead. Far from portraying gamers as socially inept individuals without real lives, Escoriaza decided to paint another picture of the gaming scene. This is the rationale behind it, according to the director himself:
What a lot of these double lives allow is the freedom to be yourself. Whereas in real life, you're tied down by what you look like, who you are, how people perceive you, how you dress. In the game you choose everything. So if you're spending 30 or 40 hours a week inside the game, being this person, what's to say it's not real life?
A Glasgow-based WoW player by the name of Andrew Mitchell would probably agree with Escoriaza. To him, it's all about being in a "safe" environment wherein one may be emboldened to take risks that one wouldn't normally take in the real world:
World Of Warcraft can be a better world, because you don't get people threatening each other and you can resurrect yourself when you die. Where I stay is very lonely, because I don't have any friends. That's one of the reasons I play. You're not allowed to make threats to other people in World of Warcraft.
However, psychologist Cynthia McVey, head of the department of psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, warned addictive endorphine rush that Blizzard's and other companies' MMORPGs can provide for players:
"If you were in an occupation that was unrewarding or of low status or if you feel you're letting down your friends and family by not fulfilling what you're capable of, you could get some sort of high from playing. But if you found you were very successful as part of a team where you developed a status, gaming could be something that would be difficult to live without."
Are these games okay or are they dangerous? That certainly depends on who you ask. Regardless of how you may feel about them, one thing is clear: as long as these MMORPGs meet some kind of need, players will go right on playing them.
Escarioza's docu premiered the past weekend at a festival in Austin, Texas.