The specific moment in Gamer that I want to turn our attention to is when Kable enters Society and sees Angie, who is at the time being controlled by a sweaty morbidly obese man. The form at this point in the film is excessive, just as it is in almost every moment. The close up angles of the man’s hand rubbing his sweat-soaked, plump belly make the viewer want to turn away in disgust. In the documentary film Life 2.0, three players of the virtual reality game Second Life are profiled. The reality of virtual reality games like Second Life is not far from their portrayal in Gamer. In the documentary, Second Life becomes very central to the players life: to the point where they call the real world, “first life.” It really becomes a second life for these people, they spend more of their time playing this game than they do engaging in the real world; it destroys their relationships, and in one case it becomes a source of income. Like the character in Gamer who is controlling Angie’s body, one person from Life 2.0 controls an avatar of the opposite gender. The Second Life becomes a reality; the avatar becomes a person who seemingly thinks on their own (even though they are being controlled by a real person).
There are MANY implications of this type of “play.” In a way, when people create an avatar, (especially one that is of the opposite gender, or a child) they create a narrative. In Gamer, when the hacktivists break the link between Angie and Society, the player of her avatar is distraught. This is not at all separate from what happens in Life 2.0 when one player’s life becomes unmanageable and he has to end his avatar’s “life.” He says that in a way he has lost a part of himself, but that he has also lost a friend (even though he was in control the whole time). He saw his characters life as a real life separate from his own. He created the birth and death of another person—a narrative, and it helped him find meaning in his own life.
Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” is perfectly parallel to this type of second life. The avatar is an extension of one’s self: a part of them. People take fantasies and personality traits and project them onto their avatar. In a way, by having an avatar, these people are cyborg. They have a large portion of their life in a completely virtual reality. While it isn’t real life, it is real. Haraway says, “the cyborg has no origin story… …escalating dominations of abstract individuation, and ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space” (9). While the players of Second Life are able to find themselves in this virtual play, they still exist in real life, and they’re still just people sitting at a computer 18 hours a day. “The cyborg is resolutely commited to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence” (9). The way Gamer and Life 2.0 portray play in virtual reality, I cannot help but agree completely with Haraway, that this play is very dangerous.
For me, what seems to make it so dangerous is that the person behind the avatar could be absolutely anyone. I’d like to think that in real life, we can see what someones intentions are to a decent degree. In the virtual world, all of that goes out the window and we see how people can be very dangerous with the guise of an avatar (in a To Catch a Predator type of way).
But the bigger danger, and a danger that was shown to me in Life 2.0 is the danger of losing oneself to a game. That these types of virtual realities become extremely addicting; they consume peoples’ lives. One of the people being profiled in the documentary spends 18 hours a day playing as a little girl online. He gains no satisfaction from doing things in the real world (such as the fulfillment of doing work, having a relationship, etc.) and all of his satisfaction comes from a virtual reality. This is particularly dangerous because it’s as if he is almost forgetting to feed himself, almost forgetting that he is a real person; he is refusing to take care of his human self while nurturing an avatar as if it is him. These types of games can become an escape from reality for people who are struggling with identity. Gorge in Gamer is absolutely distraught when the link between him and Nika is broken. The psychological implications here are immense: how are people getting such satisfaction that they would normally receive by doing good deeds, or in completing a task through a video game?
Life 2.0. Dir. Jason Spingarn-Koff. Perf. Teasa Copprue. Netflix. Jason Spingarn-Koff, n.d. Web.