Documentary Corner: Life 2.0

In an increasingly online world, don’t we all feel like we’re leading a ‘second life’ in comparison to our pre-lockdown ones?

Katharine Beavers
3rd March 2021
Image: IMDb
Life 2.0 is a 2010 documentary that explores people who’s lives have been dramatically changed through playing Second Life, an early-2000s MMO that was freely available for any adult players.

The game allowed players to create and do whatever they wanted in-game, and the documentary introduces us to four main characters: Aime, Steven, Asri, and a man who remains anonymous for some of the film - who all use the game in different ways.

The director creates a Second Life avatar himself, and a good portion of Life 2.0, including the opening shot, is filmed within the virtual world of the game. The film relies entirely on interviews for the construction of the narrative, meaning you don’t feel that you’re being led down a certain perspective.

Our first subject, Aime Good, was married 11 years and had a happy life, but she was “feeling unfulfilled, looking for something more,” and develops a long-distance relationship though Second Life with Steven, himself having been married for 20 years. When they describe how they met in Second Life, the film re-creates their meeting virtually within the game – and we get to see their real-life meeting in the documentary. It is an interesting presentation of the line between reality and virtual, with both participants openly acknowledging their emotional adultery on their spouses even before the affair became physical.

Image Credit: IMDb

However, my partner said it best: “you know you’ve got a great documentary when the least interesting storyline is the couple who’re cheating on their spouses.” One of the other stories, Asri Falcone’s, explains how the game’s currency: ‘lindens,’ translates to actual US dollars, and how she’s built a legitimate business based on creating a virtual clothing store in the game for players to purchase items with their real money. The documentary explores how this business side of the game impacted her relationship with her family, as well as the uniquely virtual legal issues she faced.  

It offers up a spectrum of positives and negatives that playing as a virtual version of yourself offers up.

Finally, the anonymous man who plays as an 11-year old. I don’t want to spoil anything, but my favourite thing about the documentary is how it subverts your expectations of how you think the stories will pan out. It’s easy to see how the synopsis would make you question how healthy the game is, but the film doesn’t frame the game as dangerous or the people playing it as such. Rather, it offers up a spectrum of positives and negatives that playing as a virtual version of yourself offers up.

I was watching the documentary with my partner over the Netflix Teleparty extension, and I found myself particularly drawn to a statement Amie Good said: “My memories of Steven (…) they haven’t all been in real-life when I go over those in my mind. I realise that I’m pulling many real-life memories, but also several Second Life memories.”

I’m struck by how relevant a 2010 statement about online interactions is to us 11 years later. I know so many couples where the majority of their relationship has taken place during lockdown: turning dates into video calls, watch-parties, and playing video games together...

Our memories of the people we’re dating (or even just friends with) in the last year have been predominantly virtual, and I thought Aime’s recollections of virtual experiences she has of Steven being as much a part of her understanding of him to her real-life interactions with him, was particularly poignant now.

Life 2.0 is currently available to stream on Netflix, and I’d strongly recommend if you have a spare hour and a half!

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