This weekend I watched Life 2.0 (2010), the August film for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s (OWN’s) documentary club. Life 2.0 follows players of Second Life. If you’re new to the name, Second Life is “the Internet’s largest user-created, 3D virtual world community.” Every user creates an avatar, an in-world character whose physical characteristics the user controls. Once enveloped in Second Life, an avatar might DJ at dance parties, sell custom-built homes, or even develop an in-game romantic relationship that will destroy a real-life marriage–all scenarios that occur in Life 2.0.
Given some mild pillow talk and other PG content, parents might find this film most appropriate for middle and high school students. And while the film doesn’t openly endorse use of Second Life, do consider whether knowing about Second Life might inspire your child to want to check it out and how you feel about that possibility. (Users of Second Life must be at least age 13, though their avatars can be younger.)
Here are a few questions that can get you talking before/during/after the film:
1. An adult male whose avatar is an 11-year-old girl says, “I call Second Life the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.” Before you watch the film, consider what this might mean. In what ways could a virtual world both help and hurt its users? After watching, can you identify the pros and cons of Second Life for each of the people you saw?
2. What makes Amy and Steven’s relationship different in real life than in Second Life? What struggles might a couple face when trying to continue a virtual relationship in the real world?
3. Asri makes a living designing homes and clothing for Second Life clientele. The film introduces the idea that there’s no lesser significance to a job based in Second Life. In fact, Asri’s brother says that he’s jealous of Asri’s ability to work from home. What do you think? Does it matter that Asri designs virtual homes rather than “real” homes? Does it matter if someone’s job is based in Second Life rather than in his or her “first life”?
4. One of Second Life’s developers sees it as a perk that interacting in a virtual world means a person is safe from physical harm. While this may be true, what are the trade-offs that the individual must make? Are they worth it, and, if so, in what cases?
5. How much computer time is too much? Does it depend on who you are? Consider the screen time that’s appropriate for a teenager. What about an adult? Does it matter whether the adult is in a relationship? Replace “computer time” with “screen time,” “Second Life time,” or “electronics time” and think about how your answers change.
The film doesn’t address whether Second Life can be used for educational purposes. Can it? If you know of any, I’d be interested in hearing about them.
Previous OWN documentaries:
June — Sons of Perdition, about Mormon young men who have run away from or been kicked out of their polygamist communities
July — Serving Life, about inmates in the Louisiana State Penitentiary who volunteer in the prison hospice
Upcoming OWN documentaries listed here.