Did video games kill Robin Williams?

Robin-Williams-GamerA recent article on Yahoo! about Robin Williams being an avid gamer got me pondering the question:

Did video games contribute to the award-winning actor’s depression and eventual death by suicide?

On this blog I have written extensively about violence in video games and other media. My purpose here is not to get into a discussion about whether playing violent video games causes one to do violence to oneself or others. Or to point the finger at specific games that may be cause for concern.

Rather the question I ask is related to what game designers refer to as “immersion.”

A good game is one that draws the player into its world so much so that he will spend countless hours immersed in that world. This power of video games has been greatly enhanced by new advances in technology such as 3D and HD graphics. Successful games and their franchises rival movies in the cost, staff, and years poured into their development in an attempt to attain this goal of immersion.

A self-described game addict, Robin Williams spent the many hours between filming immersed in these virtual worlds. As a creative soul who struggles with depression I understand the power of fantasy and its blissful escape from the constant buzzing of the low intensity conflict of life. It is not easy to return to reality which can often seem rather dull and gray in comparison.

Sleep deprivation. Poor diet. Confined space. Distance/separation from close relations (ie family). Sound familiar? Such are some of the primary methods used by interrogators to “break down” detainees. These are also the characteristics of avid gamers, who willingly endure such in order to remain immersed. Did such a lifestyle eventually lead to Robin Williams “breakdown?”

There has been some discussion and research regarding how technology is rewiring our brains. More research needs to occur if we are to have a firmer grasp on exactly what is occurring within us as we spend more time within the virtual realm. The impact of such media is not simply on the outward characteristics described above. Something is happening in our brains as well. Did the virtual world become more real than reality for Robin Williams? Did real life lose out to the increasing “otherworldliness” of a good game?

My purpose here is not to judge Robin Williams. I have been profoundly affected by his work and will continue to be indebted to him for his impact on my life. But I found the article that blissfully described his gaming “addiction” as rather naive without any sense of the impact such may have had on the actor/comedian’s depression and eventual death.

World of Warcraft is planning on creating a character based on Robin Williams to commemorate his love of video games after an online petition amassed almost 11,000 signatures. The character will not be controlled by players, aimlessly wandering through the world I assume, interacting with players perhaps, cracking a joke or two.

It’s a nice idea I guess. Some would say even a fitting commemoration. But like most I would prefer having the real Robin Williams still alive, making me laugh out loud or shedding tears so real they fall off my cheeks and bounce on my keyboard while I type.

More info on video game addiction here.

Earth-Torn by kmls

Why I’m Giving Up on Peace

Earth-Torn by kmls

Things don’t look so good right now.

After the hope of the “Arab Spring,” the Middle East has dissolved into a perpetual war zone with no end in site. The torture and murder of youth in Israel-Palestine has opened another round of fresh blood-letting. A Malaysian jetliner is destroyed by a missile over war-torn Ukraine, the gruesome images tweeted for all to see. We are a world at war with itself, with around 50 conflicts globally as of this writing. The majority of deaths are civilian, “collateral damage” as it were, a dehumanizing term if ever there was one.

Here, our borders teem with desperate children. The gap between rich and poor widens. Solutions are short-sighted and generally involve some band-aid fix, like a new gadget, another casino, or more guns on the street. Congress is a bastion of impotence and hubris. We scrabble over issues that mean nothing like dogs after crumbs while the country and the world burns around us.

While we laud our technological advances, it seems the one thing we are most adept at is killing each other.

So last night my wife and I, as we are wont to do each evening, talked about our days and the state of this spinning sphere like some morbid carousel we find ourselves stuck on. We both have been at this so-called peace work for most of our lives. At times we wonder why. We went to bed rather depressed.

I awoke to a text message from her. She was sharing a scripture she read this morning.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10). As she said in her text, pretty apropos.

Some things jumped out at me right away. We do good simply because it is the right thing to do. We do not limit who we do good to – “everyone” is pretty clear. Those closest to us, within the same family of faith, who sometimes are the hardest to do good to, are not to be left out either. Tenacity and obedience can overcome despair. We don’t give up. There is an end, a flowering of planted seed, a reaping of glorious fruit.

Our fight is not against flesh and blood. Nor should our faith and ultimate allegiance be in and to such. Despair arises when we are inundated with bad news and when our trust in human leadership and institutions has been broken yet again.

Rather we wage a war against the principalities and powers, the spiritual forces of evil in high places. Such a battle requires divine help and divine eyes to see the opportunities to do good as well as the Good News (gospel) occurring around us everyday.

So I’ve given up on peace.

But I have not given up on the good – doing it and being a part of it.

The rest I leave in the hands of the One who continues to hold this broken world in loving, gentle hands.

3-Fingers by kmls

SPOKEN WORD – 3 Fingers: Who Is Elliot Rodger?

3-Fingers by kmls

Audio reflection on the shooting that occurred in Isla Vista, California on May 23, 2014. Continue to pray for all of those affected by this tragedy as well as others around the world. And for men especially who continue to live out of the victim mentality.



B.E. – Before Earbuds

Before earbuds, we listened to audio books in the car together. Or the radio, radio dramas, CDs, each other, the wind. There were of course compromises necessary and no one had their way all of the time, but memories of shared listenings were created.

Then these noisy plugs came and the private world became more important then the mess of public sound. I can’t help but notice a correlation between such solo activity and the lack of social graces as well as selfish behavior not to mention a decrease in empathy. But I could be mistaken.

Perhaps an experiment is in order. I could further decrease my coolness in the eyes of my children and make our car a “no earbuds zone.” I would post a sign on the back of the driver’s seat stating the reasoning behind such a rule and encourage earbud-free interactions among the passengers.

Would the atmosphere degenerate into frowns in my rear view mirror? Or would the silence give way to the joyful shared noise I miss so much?

Of course it would mean that the driver would have to be more present to the present and to the passengers.