AMBER LOVE 19-SEP-2016 My debut mystery novel, Cardiac Arrest: A Farrah Wethers Mystery, is available. Please go to to sponsor the show, the site, and my work. If you’re already a backer, please make sure you’ve adjusted your pledge for the new Per Month setup.

Download on iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here. Older shows have been archived and are available only on

To support my work you can buy my books and become a monthly sponsor at amberunmasked.

CONTENT WARNING about self harm, depression, suicide, harassment


DAVID WOLINSKY has been an entertainment journalist for 11 years with credits including Rolling Stone and Onion A.V. Club. He’s been a teacher for undergrad and grad students. He doesn’t call himself a geek but refers to how he felt nerdy and dorky back in high school because he loved music, games, and sci-fi. He’s currently working on a new project about the anthropological parts of creating video games to give a humanizing insight into the development process.

A fair part of this episode goes into movies, TV, comics, music and stand up comedy. We explored the broad issues of fan entitlement and how far some goes: piracy, death threats, rape threats, online trolling, and doxing.
When it comes to stand up comedy, David comes across with tons of compassion for the watermelon-smashing Gallagher who he interviewed and the legendary Robin Williams who lost his life because of mental illness. Part of discussion was about how people who dedicate their lives to trying to make others happy don’t have pleasant lives behind-the-scenes.

don't die logo


The SxSW panel that David and his collaborators are hoping to get accepted will be about how the video game industry can improve with the population of end users who have mental health concerns.
In David’s interview with Dr. Kelli Dunlap, he asked:

“What do you think has been the most outlandish thing you’ve heard as far as how videogames are going to save the world?”

And her reply started off with:

“And it’s not even games themselves, it’s gamification. So, this idea that you can just take parts of games, slap them onto something else, and expect people to engage with them the way that they engage with a fully fleshed-out game, I find that incredibly offensive. [Laughs.]

As a psychologist, I find it very — I don’t want to say “offensive.” Behaviorist. Humans are nothing but a string of behaviors and if you reward one thing, then they’ll do it kind of processing. I think it’s too simplistic.

And that’s what really bothers me is — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Oh, we’ll just add points to it and then they’ll like it.’ Nope. Nope. That’s not how any of that works.”

Forcing a division into an industry like gaming with “this isn’t a game because there’s no guns” isn’t going to propel evolution for the business to improve content.

In the press, because of statements released by say investigators to heinous mass murders, if there’s a video game found within the possessions of a murderer, suddenly it’s the game’s fault. David and I weighed in on the constant links between violence and games. David makes a fantastic point that there are so many other forms of human behavior and thought processes to examine other than violence. The only areas of mental health that are researched with a connection to video games are addiction and aggressive/violent behavior.


In the 2015 American Psychological Association report, they concluded that violent video games play a role in aggressive behavior. But that doesn’t mean everyone who plays is out to become a criminal so what’s the clarification? Are there any real foundations about aggression or mental illness symptoms worsening because of a game? It seems like a chicken and egg situation – perhaps people with existing conditions for aggression are attracted to violent entertainment.


One of the signs in the checklist for major depressive disorder is losing interest in hobbies. Even though I didn’t like it, Depression Quest tried to pioneer a way to incorporate the illness with a game so that there was something out there. Depression Quest caused a tremendous amount of negative feedback to the point of death threats against the developers. I’m not sure how much of the criticism was actually about the gameplay because it seemed to exclusively focus on one of the developers breaking up with her boyfriend.

On the Depression Quest website, it says the goals are to make depressed people feel less alone and for non-sufferers to see what depression is like. Professional organizations bestowed it with accolades despite the negative backlash.


Personally, I only waded into a few pages of it and in my opinion, though I respect the devs greatly, it’s not much of a game. It’s a choose your own adventure book online. That’s just a digital book, not a game. So unfortunately, if I were to rate it as a game, it wouldn’t be very good, but that’s because I think it should be judged as a book. I didn’t find it enjoyable in any way. The screen design – maybe it’s my system, I’m on Windows 10 – is ugly and has these white noise static backgrounds behind some text and that text looks like it should be choices, but they don’t do anything. I don’t see what good a selection list is if the choices don’t activate any actions.

It happens to be the only game I’ve heard of that tries to tackle the subject matter. (Devs: Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler). What I hope happens as a result of Depression Quest is that game creators will begin including characters with realistic mental health issues so players have to make choices as that character or interact with a character like that. There are so many types of mental illnesses and conditions that the way a character with schizophrenia interacts with a player will not necessarily be the same as one having a suicidal crisis or one with PTSD or one with dementia.

Do end users/consumers always need a happy ending at the end of the game/show/film? Definitely not, but as a creator if you haven’t resolved issues and delivered what you promised to the fans, then you have failed. Every story makes certain promises to the reader/player. There are expectations. The stories do not need to end the way people wanted, but they have to have answers and resolution.

David discussed the case when actor Anna Gunn was seriously harassed because of her character on Breaking Bad. He’ll have an interview with one of the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul writers posted soon.


Twitter @davidwolinsky @nodontdie
David’s interview with Dese’Rae L’Stage from Live Through This –


Vodka O’Clock with Dese’Rae L’Stage from Live Through This

Amber’s Tattoo from the LTT fundraiser