Life 2.0 and Gamer, a comparison

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.

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4 Responses to Life 2.0 and Gamer, a comparison

  1. Steph Roman says:

    I like the comparison to “Life 2.0,” although I haven’t seen it. Do you think the the dangerous implications of “play” here are that we fail to distinguish between the narrative of the game and “real life”? I think that we’re all cyborgs (as Haraway defines it) regardless. Cellphones are a technological phantom limb that we’re tethered to. Not that this is where your argument’s aimed necessarily, but it seems like our “real world” gets filtered through cellphone screens, much like Gorge’s “second life” gets filtered through Angie/ Nika.

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    • devilzadv0k8 says:

      I like your use of the word “filtered.” For me what’s so interesting about the moment pedropalmen is calling our attention to is that it’s the moment where Angie/Nika’s real human life collides with the virtual reality that Gorge controls. When John Tillman enters the picture he pulls us into a bizarre limbo, where Angie is somewhere between free and enslaved. This is where the “filter” stops working.

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  2. larsondanger says:

    You said, “The avatar is an extension of one’s self: a part of them.” I wonder if this is true. I understand what Haraway means by defining us all as cyborgs; technology is so deeply ingrained in our lives that it becomes a part of us. But is an avatar a part of us? Sure, you create your own avatar through a game and you control it, but is it an extension of you? Sometimes, avatars are drastically different from the player. Are those avatars extensions? What qualities and characteristics does an avatar need to have to be an extension? Where is the line between extension and just a pixelated person that you control?

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    • Steph Roman says:

      The avatar will become an important topic of discussion when we get to Ian Bogost’s book “How to Do Things With Videogames.” Paraphrasing slightly, he argues that the avatar represents one of two things: 1) an ideal version of the gamer, 2) a role-play fantasy where we can inhabit any gender/ race/ species construct desired. Even if the avatar doesn’t represent YOU, per se, you still experience the world through that avatar and develop a cyborg-like relationship with it as you take action with it.

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