Film review: Gamer – the underside of virtual worlds

November 5, 2009

It’s not the first movie to play around with the dangers of  virtual worlds, and probably not the last. But some serious questions will have to be considered in the coming years concerning social networks and virtual worlds. Gamer portrays a world, 25 years in the future, where a social network is created in which you play another person. A virtual world, but it’s not virtual and not virtual people. The poor in society can sell themselves, their brains get wired up, and then someone can pay to play their bodies. The user sits behind his computer and play someone else.

This “society”, is portrayed by the film as a place where users guide the “bodies” to create a place of sexual experimentation. Maybe taken to an extreme, but it does show something of what happens when an anonymous world is taken where no responsibility needs to be taken.

A game is then created, where you can control a death-row inmate in a first person shooter game… to death (for the inmate). A literal game, a virtual game. People really die, but this while being played by kids.

The film opens up questions on virtuality and reality, and although not doing it very good, it does point to some of the dangers of what may happen to morals when actions are viewed as just virtual. Death and sex become mere virtual experiences.

Although I don’t agree with the general rating from RVA Magazine, it’s critique needs to be taken seriously:

It is a film that demonstrably hates its primary audience. It is a film that tries to criticize the commercialization of violence, even though it itself is commercialized violence.

I wonder about a film that criticizes virtualized violence, and then create a film of 95 minutes, of which a large part goes into just another violent scene: virtual violence.

I’ll give it 2/5 at best, but would consider it worthwhile to stimulate a few conversations.


One Response to “Film review: Gamer – the underside of virtual worlds”

  1. Hugo Says:

    The thought-experiment I like to contemplate, is a virtual world become so real that it is indistinguishable from reality. First-person shooter wired to the brainstem…

    Problem is the libertarian in me says people should be free to play the games they want to play. I’m not a big fan of the anti-gaming lobby, another of them silly US political issues. However, once we get to the point of indistinguishable difference, I’ll be there with them shouting “no way! this is dangerous! what is this doing to our youth?!”

    And where do I draw the line, in this great big grey area?

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