Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Wednesday evening, Victor PiÃ±eiro ’00 came with his brother, Juan Carlos PiÃ±eiro Escoriaza, and his friend, Peter Schieffelin Brauer, to talk about their new documentary, Second Skin. The film focuses on people who play MMORPGs, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. However, instead of making value judgments about video-games, the film portrays people who both benefit and are harmed by MMORPGs.
For example, the film follows characters that meet and fall in love online, guys who play World of Warcraft together and live together in real life, and a man who contemplates suicide when his real life falls apart while he is on the computer. Academics and industry insiders also comment on the way people engage with the game; some of them question the state of society if people prefer online worlds to the “real world.”
While at Swat, PiÃ±eiro took classes with Professor Patricia White, and through White he got an internship with Killer Films after he graduated. Next, he got a job as a production assistant through another alum, Ian Brick ’98. After that, he became a teacher for a number of years.
Two years ago, PiÃ±eiro got a virtual world game as a birthday present, and although he gave it up, the concept remained with him. He and Braur then had the idea to combine the stories of American gamers with the stories of Chinese “goldfarmers” who are paid to play games like World of Warcraft for money. Over the course of two years, they researched, found subjects to follow and academics to talk to, did the actual filming and spent six months editing and doing publicity.
Second Skin received a lot of help from Swarthmore alums, such as Bricke, who is now the Director of Acquisitions for the Sundance Channel, and Marshall Curry, the director of the Oscar-nominated Street Fight. As PiÃ±eiro says, “Swatties are coming out of the woodwork.”
Second Skin premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, where its screenings sold out. Next, after Swarthmore, the film will have its international premiere at the Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival in Canada.