The documentary “Life 2.0” tells the stories of five people who find themselves drawn to the virtual world of Second Life for various reasons. All of their stories are compelling in their own ways, but as a whole piece I found “Life 2.0” to be somewhat formless and at worse lurid in its depictions of la vie virtuelle.
“Life 2.0” portrays Second Life as a place where lovers cheat on their real life spouses, creepy dudes roleplay as children, and middle-aged women who live with their parents pretend there are sexy young divas. While this might be the reality for some part of the population of millions of residents of Second Life, it doesn't represent any of the people that I know there. Perhaps I'm hanging out in the wrong sex clubs and ageplay kindergartens.
On the other hand, “Life 2.0” does get it right that Second Life is a place where people can explore their identities, try on another skin, and re-invent themselves. These can have both righteous and dark manifestations, and perhaps a mixture of both.
At it's best, it can offer people transcendence from their lives, and a way forward. Transgendered people can find a community of support among like-minded folk. A closet folk singer can gig, sell music and gain a following even from their basement office. A wheelchair bound person can literally dance, fly, and transform into another person. These are the people that I know.
I guess the filmmakers were looking to tell the most tittilating stories they could, including depictions of virtual sex and “suicide bombers.” Seriously, suicide bombers.
The biggest problem about the depiction of the virtual world in “Life 2.0” is that it doesn't look that much fun. If people are spending all of their free time in the virtual world, there must be something compelling there that draws them back again and again. “Life 2.0” hardly portrays that at all, except with montages of beautiful scenery without context.
The only time you see people just exploring someplace with their avatars is when the main couple in the film visits the “Utopia” sim. The woman complains that she can't fly there. “I have to walk,” she moans. “I have to fucking WALK. This is supposed to be utopia. But it sucks.” Oh, boo-hoo.
Probably the most compelling case is made by the brother of one of the residents, who says “I have to admit I'm a little jealous. I got to drive to my job where I work for 12 hours.” Meanwhile his sister works from home in her pajamas and makes more money than him.
“Life 2.0” is a sensationalist but at times enlightening portrayal of life in the metaverse. For a more considered and balanced view, I would recommend Wagner James Au's book on The Making of Second Life. Or better yet, go in and explore yourself. Like a lot of travelling to foreign lands, I think you overall find what you are looking for.