"Login 2 Life" is a new documentary directed by Daniel Moshel that examines the life virtual, wherein he shows that it isn't as much about escaping your "real" life as much as extending and expanding what it means to be human. It's an impressive feat that the trailer above doesn't do justice to.
A meandering series of vignettes, "Login 2 Life" follows the life paths of six people who spend a good part of their days and nights in virtual online spaces, notably Second Life and World of Warcraft. His subjects include a disabled woman who connects with other people with disabilities in Second Life, a singer in Germany who gigs to an online bevy of fans, and an entrepreneur who creates and markets virtual sex devices. He also profiles a number of dedicated World of Warcraft players, one severely disabled, another who plays as his profession, and a family who "gold farm" for their livelihood in China.
The most affecting story for me centered around Gentle Heron, a woman who I have known for years because of her efforts to assist and connect people with disabilities in Second Life. Gentle demonstrates that despite her physical limitations her indomitable spirit and will shines through, even over the medium of Second Life. She is a force to be reckoned with and a perfect example of what virtual tools like Second Life can afford people who might have no other means to connect with, influence and help others.
I have seen a few different interviews and stories about Stroker Serpentine, the celebrated virtual sex entrepreneur of Second Life. But "Login2Life" does the best job of showing different aspects of his personality, from the public-facing avatar to the dedicated family man. The unsexy process of motion capture that he uses to create his sex animations is really interesting to watch.
And seeing Gentle and Stroker discuss how they might collaborate is one of my favorite moments in the film.
I also very much enjoyed the World of Warcraft segments. Not being a gamer, getting a glimpse of the different things that players get out of being in that game for hundreds of hours of their lives is intriguing to me. The blend of machinima footage of the gameplay with the real life experiences of the players I thought was really well done.
There are several beautiful shots in the film that will stick with me. There is a small moment I love where the filmmaker cuts between a French WoW player and a Chinese WoW player, both in their kitchens making dinner for their families. The dishes might be different, but the desire to eat with our loved ones is the same.
Most importantly, the director Daniel Moshel refrained from portraying his subjects as freaks or clowns for the audience to laugh at. Instead, he unpacks their motivations and desires in a way that pulls you into their story. Watching a disabled man fighting in World of Warcraft with just his mouth, you can't help but be thrilled when he bests his opponent and then taunts the other player about how he was "pwned by a cripple." Clearly Moshel has an affection for his subjects that comes through as he lets them tell their stories.
If there is a criticism I have about the film, it is that is has no strong narrative arc. While you might be moved by some of the individual stories, there isn't much that changes from the beginning of the film to the end in the lives of his subjects. Instead, it is more of a "day in the virtual life" type documentary that nevertheless managed to keep my interest.
For someone interested in getting a deeper insight into what motivates people to spend so much time in front of their computers, "Login2Life" is a great place to start. And even for those of us who already get it, the film introduces us to some very special people.
"Login 2 Life" has premiered in Germany and is making the festival circuit currently. No word on US showings yet. See the officlal website for more information. Full disclosure: I am friends with a few people involved with the film and received a reviewer's copy.