Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Am I Excited?

Today I turn 28...and I must be losing my mind. Square just announced they are releasing the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy on PC and Steam, for like $15 a game. If you've read this blog you'll find my personal trilogy of reviews on these three games and how much I hated them. Yet, this announcement fills me with excitement! WHY?

I mostly hated the story of the 13 series, it is dreadful, and makes no sense. The characters are bland and none of them are any fun. Admittedly, I DID have fun playing these games for the most part. Despite my undying hatred for how they did the battle systems, a lot of it was personal preference versus how it played, and they played well, but I would have done it differently. I was still sucked into these games from start to finish regardless eagerly awaiting every new battle I started.

But honestly, what is making me anticipate these games on PC? The novelty maybe? I love that my favorite games are coming on PC and Steam, and though 13 would never make that list of "favorites" it's a sign of things to come. It's a sign that game companies are looking at PC seriously again. After an 8 year drought of developers fearing pirates and lackluster PC sales they are crawling back slowly but surely.

Maybe this is what excites me most. Seeing all of this previously exclusive console games come to my PC is fantastic. I love having all of these AAA games in one lovely place on my Steam folder. It's so convenient. Plus...these prices! My GOD these prices! Investing in PC is by far the best thing I've ever done as a gamer. Not to mention I never trade games in, so it's perfect for me.

Still though...FF13 exciting me? Really? I think I am getting too old...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Game Design

Something that comes up often with gaming and people commenting about what is good and what is bad is the term "game design." People on the internet are full of opinions, and they will throw this term around all willy nilly without really understanding what they are doing. They will cry foul over the choices a developer made with regards to how your character levels up, or discuss bad AI, and then they'll say this was "bad game design." In some of these arguments they could very well be right, but you have to carefully phrase what you are talking about when you toss around this term and many do not understand this.

What is "game design" after all? Can't it be applied to everything about the game? Yes and no. The overall idea of game design asks a simple question, "What is the goal of x?" X can be anything from level layout, characters, weapons, graphics, etc. But the most important thing to understand when discussing game design is we have to look at what the game is trying to accomplish, what is the goal, and does that design choice accompany that goal in a positive way, or hinder it. Judging game design on this merit is far less subjective and much more objective, whereas just saying something is "bad" or "good" is entirely subjective.

A perfect example to use here is Metroid Prime 2 where they attempted to throw in multi-player combat. If you were to look at the game design of Metroid Prime you'll find that the game is entirely designed around player versus enemy AI, or what we call PVE. From the lock on system, to how Samus moves, the game is designed as a PVE experience and without heavy modification to this structure a PVP (player versus player) mode will ultimately not accompany the goal set out by the designers when they developed the game very well at all. To wit, the multi-player of Metroid Prime 2 was indeed, "badly designed."

It can be difficult to separate one's own personal opinion versus the objective view you should have when discussing whether a game was badly designed or not. Another example would be Ninja Gaiden Sigma in any section where platforming around the environment unsuccessfully can lead to a detrimental setback for the player. This is badly designed because platforming in Ninja Gaiden was poorly implemented and does not fit with the game's overall design well, and then to punish the player for attempting to jump around the area skillfully when it doesn't control right is really bad design. The difference here is the subjective statement of the game having bad jumping mechanics, and the objective statement that the game also has bad level design because of this badly done mechanic. Having a jump mechanic is in and of itself not a "bad design" but the implementation of it in levels that don't accent it certainly is. The level design needs to accent the game's strengths, and when it fails to do that, then you can say it was badly designed.

Most gamers will agree that any mission involving having to protect an AI is another good example of bad design and they would be right. In most cases, games have not developed AI well enough to work in the situations they are attempting. And, in most cases the game's central goal is rarely that of "protecting" something but instead of "killing everything." It would be apt to call that segment poorly designed as they are not supporting the game's central goal with this mission type, nor does the game possess the infrastructure to handle it well.

To further assist in understanding the difference, take this hypothetical example. The goal of designing a soccer ball would be to make one that rolls well, bounces, and can go a good distance when hit. In thinking of how do I make such an object, the first thing you should consider is that you should make it round. A poorly designed soccer ball would therefore be square as it is not adhering to the goals of what this object needs to perform in use.

Needless to say that doesn't mean an opinion on "design" is entirely objective either, because it does include some subjectivity. Take for example an upgrade system in a game. Someone may feel that the upgrade system supports the design of the game very well, while someone else may feel otherwise. Both can have their logically reasoned points, but the difficulty in the argument comes in ensuring you are removing your personal preference in which upgrade system you'd like to see versus how well it works with the game.

A great example here would be Final Fantasy 8. Subjectively I can discuss all the many ways FF8's upgrading system is heavily flawed. How it homogenizes all the characters making them blank slates for you to dictate how they'll perform which removes personality to the characters, how the levels don't matter in the slightest, how tedious it is to acquire materials for the upgrading system, etc. While I'd vastly prefer the design used in previous titles, I have to once again ask myself if the design of it is "bad." Though I still think even this is still somewhat bad design, it's much less harsh of a review than my personal opinion of it. Did the developer succeed at what they were trying to accomplish with it? I would say they very much did. This is a game where you can fully customize your characters how you see fit, equip them with spells, dictate their health, strength, resistances, speed, etc, to such a meticulously high degree and it's done fairly well with minimal tedium. Where the bad design might come in to play here, is it was very confusing early on. Otherwise the system does work.

So there you have it, my overly complex understanding of game design and how it should be viewed more objectively than people tend to on the internet. Am I being a little too picky here? Absolutely, but I find it all fascinating none the less.

*Why is my character's sword 8 times his body length? What dumbass designed it this way?*

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Console Wars - The Reverse Buyer's Remorse

I've always been fascinated with human behavior and psychology. Why do people do the things they do? Usually I've applied my untrained yet keen eye on matters of politics, economics, and characters in fiction. One thing I've never really thought to do was take a look at the gaming community...which I really should have given their very strange behaviors about certain things.

The absolute peak of strange behavior in the gaming community is easily "The Console War." What is a console war? It's when two or more companies release a game console and fans of both yell at each other online explaining why they chose the right console to have fun with. To such an extent, they will even attack you personally as a human being for choosing x console over y console. It gets pretty intense, and has so ever since Nintendo fought Sega.

Baffling isn't it? Why would gamers do this? Why would they put themselves under such emotional duress over which game machine someone ELSE purchases? Don't we all just want to have fun and play games? Well, it's not so simple it seems and I want to delve into why.

Prior to the age of the internet, console wars were really simple and made a little more sense. You'd convince your friend to want a Nintendo system so he'd tell his parents to get him one. The reason being is you already had a Nintendo, and you wanted to play together, or share the same gaming experiences. Unconsciously, you were taking sides so you could essentially remain friends. You'd worry that you may no longer have anything in common anymore if you couldn't play the same games together. This is psychologically what was happening but on the surface you were just openly bad mouthing the system you didn't have, because there was no way your parents would buy you both of them and you knew it. Plus, everyone hated "that kid" that did have snobs... ;)

It's way different now though. Now us gamers are a "community." Well...we're several communities split by what console we own and further split by certain games that more or less consume all your time. As a community though, we're mostly strangers. You're no longer trying to keep a friend, but you're trying to ensure that there are people to play with online. With the massive number of gamers now in these communities though, I think what is driving gamers to take part in these console wars though is less about having people to play with, and more about something I'm calling Reverse Buyer's Remorse.

As you know, buyer's remorse is when you buy something and wish you had your money instead or something else, but now you're stuck with the thing you got. What I am dubbing reverse buyer's remorse is when someone makes someone else feel buyer's remorse so that they can feel better about what they bought. For instance, a PS3 owner can make fun of an Xbox owner so they can feel better about having a PS3 and not having an Xbox. Usually they can't afford both, so they create a reason for not wanting both to substitute the bad feeling of wanting to own both systems. Because, in the end, we're all gamers and if we could have it all, we certainly would. But relieving that yearning for both consoles, while improving your feelings for only having one of them, is a powerful relief for those that take part in these console wars.

It's further driven by others in the community agreeing with them and having it take on a sort of mob mentality. Being in a room of others that think like you do is very mentally rewarding. Nothing makes someone in a console war feel better than when someone from the other side says they wish they got your console instead. There is a moment of success there. A victory even. You've done it, you have now proven that your gaming machine is superior, you've chosen the right gaming console to play on. It feels great, but there are still dissenters out there, so you continue and maybe even continue just to have another moment like that one where you 'convert' a gamer if you will, to your side.

This kind of behavior isn't limited to gaming though, and isn't even something that only kids do. Adults do it all the time with just about everything. "Oh, you got the 2012 Dodge Avenger," they'll say sarcastically, "We got the 2013 Malibu, it's a much smoother ride." Or they'll say things like "We've had terrible experiences using AT&T, I'm sorry you have to deal with them now, we've switched to Verizon." These statements aren't helpful to the person you are saying them to, it's not "advice" like you think it might be. You're just making yourself feel better for whatever purchase you chose and they didn't.

I think the theory of reverse buyer's remorse is the biggest motivating factor for these types of behaviors. Of course, I have no studies to prove it, I'm not a psychologist, I'm just one gamer with an opinion and I could easily be wrong. There are also plenty of other factors involved as to why console wars start or persist, I just personally believe this to be the biggest reason. If you commentors are out there please feel free to discuss this topic and add your two cents.

*"My mom bought me Sonic!" "Don't you own a Super Nintendo?" "Yes..." "Oh...that sucks..."*

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Destiny - Day 1 Review

For the first time ever on Start Button I will be doing a DAY 1 review of a game. Usually I absorb myself in a new game, let my mind settle on it and then write about it later if I feel I need to. But this is probably the most hyped game since Titanfall (I didn't even write about Titanfall....quick review: it's really fun you should check it out!) so I thought it would be a good idea to have a topical game article on here for a change.

Without further ado let's dive right into it!

The Good:

The gameplay of Destiny is a mix of MMO, and the loot and shoot gameplay pioneered by Borderlands. Destiny does a lot of this setup right, and much of it is left to be desired.

What it gets right is the core gameplay, which is very important to ensuring the game will have legs and be fun. Bungie is the king of rock solid FPS action and this game is no exception. The shooting mechanics feel fantastic, you really feel like you are delivering some impactful mayhem on your enemies with nearly every weapon. None of them feel like pea shooters so it's satisfying to kill something every time you do it...which is good because that's all you're going to do in the game.

Character building in this game is very thoughtful and interesting. On the surface it feels like you just select skills after leveling up, which you mostly do, but your gear levels up too based on your actions. You can add skills to your gear and that's where most of the customization will come into play for everyone. People will choose different builds to focus on, and may likely end up having more variety than say Borderlands where all you do is pick the two of three trees you want to focus on. So in this regard it does much better than Borderlands did.

Since this is a Day 1 review I haven't unlocked all my skills yet so I can't say whether the skills are above average yet or not. I will say that so far they at least feel more noticeable. Like unlocking double jump for instance you immediately notice something new about your character. Unlike in Borderlands where skills would consist of adding 1% critical hit damage. You knew you were stronger, but you couldn't really tell. If this sort of unlocking continues in Destiny, I will be pleased.

The social aspect of Destiny is done VERY well I feel. It seems very easy to jump in with another group and form teams. I joined two in my playing of the game and I didn't even try, they just randomly invited me. People you see roaming around all have the ability to quickly pause and click on your name to say hey, I need some assistance. Seems to work wonderfully, though I haven't tried to form a team yet myself, I didn't need to when people kept inviting me!

The enemy AI is pretty bad, but the enemy variety is good enough. There are enemies that chase you, some that hide, and they try to maneuver on you. Bosses are bullet sponges making battles long and nail biting. It's nail biting because if everyone dies, or if you're going solo and you die, you have to start at the last checkpoint. This is both good and bad design, but mostly good in my book. It's bad for people who keep losing and spend hours on one boss, but it's good for people who want a challenge and the game is preventing people from just coasting on by. It's making you work for it and think about your movements deeply rather than going headlong into a fight and dying. It gives you CONSEQUENCES which few games do anymore, and I respect that highly.

There are a variety of other things the game does right too, crafting, upgrading / equipping, customizing your character look, unlocking rewards, interacting with people though limited brings the laughs like kicking soccer balls around or having everyone sit after a mission completion is hilarious to do and watch happen.

Apart from gameplay, the music and sound effects are great, you really feel the kick of your guns. The graphics are phenomenal too. The environments, though lifeless and sterile, are very pretty to look at.

The Bad:

For all that Destiny gets right, it does need quite a few improvements on the gameplay front.

Firstly, for being a loot and shoot type of game the loot you get is pretty limited. You're not inundated with gear like you are in Diablo or Borderlands. One could argue this is a good thing as nearly everything you do get in this game improves your character whereas 99% of gear that drops in other loot games is totally worthless. But part of the fun is collecting that useless crap hoping for something good. Seeing stuff drop is always a "chance" that it'll be good loot and that constant carrot on a stick is what keeps you motivated to play more. That's why they design them that way. But not so for Destiny. Most of your loot is given to you after you complete a mission. They aren't even dropped on the ground for the most part, you're not actively picking it up, it's just given to you. Destiny gets one half of itself right, the MMO part, and doesn't really understand the loot part.

The next bump in the road is how repetitive this game is. From a personal standpoint I honestly don't mind, I am still having a blast actually playing this, but I can see most people getting bored really quickly. There is one mission type the entire game, go here, fend off waves of enemies, repeat. It's even worse that these missions are also set up the same way too. When you get to the destination that you have to encounter waves your little Navi thing called Ghost has to scan some shit while you "defend" him. I put defend in quotes because he has no life bar, but the motive is you're defending him. EVERY mission is this way it seems. It's pretty ridiculous how little variety there is in missions. Borderlands had about 4 or 5 different things it had you do and was fairly creative on how it delivered those setups, Destiny is very straightforward however, very deliberate and if you're not motivated enough to improve your character, or don't find the core gameplay as solid as I do, you'll lose interest quickly.

Another reason to lose interest quickly is just how painfully bad the story is. There are no excuses for how bad the plot is of this game. While I haven't beat it yet to see if it improves, the first 5 hours has been nothing but dribble. The entire plot so far has been just a bunch of vague...vagueness. Your character apparently was resurrected from the dead...though we're not sure how that's done or why. They go on and on about "light" and "dark" just about every other line includes these words in some form or another. The plot basically reads something like this: The light of the light will carry your light through the darkest dark parts of the darkness against the dark forces out to kill the light with their dark powers. May your light be brighter than their darkey dark....nightlights...Ok, I got a bit carried away there, but with no frame of reference to what the hell they are talking about, this is honestly how it came off to me.

They completely missed the very first step of storytelling which is to introduce the characters and let the audience know a bit about them and what problems they are dealing with. All we really know is there is there's some last city of the human race and they are apparently being protected by zombies called Guardians resurrected by flying monotone tiny robots. One guy even says they will not survive their next attack. Ok well, let's run the fuck away then right? No instead he sends you on a mundane task to gather information....kaaay.

The awful plot is compounded by terribly written side characters like one female hunter you meet who, again talks entirely too vague about whatever nonsense. But what I could make out is at one point she tells you of a super important place to go to and then your character smartly asks her if she can show him how to get there. She response with "that's not my path," and I couldn't have facepalmed harder. WTF does that mean? It's not your path? The human race is at stake and you want to pussy-foot around? If this was Mass Effect your character would get the evil choice to choke her to death until she told you where to go. Seriously though, she doesn't say why she won't tell you, there's no "prophecy" they reference, she's just being a total bitch, but that's not even her character! She's just some bland female character that's trying to help you. She's not like a two-faced highly nuanced well written character where you could be like, oh look she's trying to screw with him here, NO she's just so inconceivably poorly written that it boggles my mind. This is like shit I used to write as a kid, but at least I had the decency to write those characters as obvious villains so their vague banter gave you an inkling that they were just fucking with you.

I should quickly discuss how bad the AI is, but in a way I think it's funny and adds to the game, but many would prefer smarter enemies so it goes in the bad section. The AI is INCREDIBLY stupid. There are times you get ambushed by melee only enemies and you can literally jump up on a box and they can't hurt you anymore. Borderlands knew you would do this and so all of their enemies that don't shoot can leap an infinite amount directly at you like a homing missile. But can outsmart them in this pitifully stupid way.

Another way I outsmarted them was standing behind a barred off area. Their bullets are ones that are big and explode, so they don't go through this area, so I stood there and shot through it just fine, and this was a boss fight end sequence mind you. How did they fuck that up?

Lastly, in most cases you can run away and enemies will not follow you past a certain point, they'll just stand there. So you can lure them one at a time to this "checkpoint" type area they are programmed apparently to stop at. This has to do with the reviving system and set spawning points and Bungie wanting to ensure that if you die that there won't be enemies hovering over where you spawn and kill you again immediately. It has this bad side effect though of being able to manipulate the AI like this and abusing the system in many cases to remove the difficulty from the game. Again though, I've always liked finding this kind of stuff in games and it makes me chuckle so I really don't care, but it's clearly poorly made there's no disputing that.

Apart from the repetition, plot, AI, and not understanding what a loot system should be the only remaining faults of the game are minor at best. Bad loading times, god awful voice acting (Ghost (Peter Dinklage) sounds bored the entire time) and that's really about it.

Final Thoughts: 

Destiny is not a game for everyone. I can overlook it's faults as I understand what this game is trying to do and it mostly succeeds at that for me so I find it enjoyable to play. I want to be with this game for the long haul, get all the DLC, and eagerly await all the extra stuff they plan to do with this world. Because in the end this game is a platform for content, and hopefully some of that content will include different missions and unique gameplay. It has a very solid structure so it can only improve from here. Much like how small of a scope World of Warcraft was in its first year, so is Destiny, but that scope will expand as Activision is heavily investing in this game. That is good for fans of Destiny since we know for a fact they aren't giving up on the game. We know they put down $500 million for Bungie to continue to create content for the game and that's very exciting to me. So many of these games come out and die off with no promise of continuing, but here we have the exact opposite. We have the basis for a LOT of potential.

If you're like me and this gets you excited then by all means dive in. For gamers who prefer that 8 hour story with solid linear structure you might want to stay away. I personally am one of those gamers that prefers that 8 hour linear game 90% of the time, but lately I've also been looking for a game like this where I can turn my brain off. I never could get into something like World of Warcraft because the actual gameplay of it was so pitifully bad, but this is a solid FPS game and I'd much rather play this that requires a bit of skill and stamina than WoW that has zero skill to it. No monthly fees here either.

Is Destiny a good game? Well, it's an average game with a lot of potential that I believe will be realized with their investment, unlike most games that come out and they are final and can't be fixed. The story will probably always be bad though, but I believe Bungie will continue to give us reasons to play this game for a long time and I'm very happy about that because in the end, it is really fun to play.

*Haven't tried the PVP yet, but I will soon. I'm sure it's good though based on streams I've seen of it, though I doubt it's as good as Titanfall's PVP*

Monday, September 08, 2014

How the Gaming Media should Respond - Thunderf00t

I'd like this to be the last word on Anita Sarkeesian for this blog. It's not even my words, but it's not discussed better online. As previously mentioned, Thunderf00t is very good, and very descriptive at pointing out Anita's BS. But, in an interesting twist, he focused his latest video on the very topic I tackled, which is the gaming media's stunningly dumb coverage of her, and portrayal of others who were lambasted by the gaming media such as Jack Thompson and how they made a joke of him, but cried foul over Anita. Ironic given they both received death threats, yet the media came to Anita's defense...which Anita should hate because she shouldn't "need to be saved," given her own stance on how all games have women as plot devices to be saved....anyway, as usual  Thunderf00t hits the nail on the head here...and in an awful twist I also get to learn how indescribably stupid Joss Whedon is on this subject.

Please watch from beginning to end. If you've sat through a full video from Anita you can sit through this. If you are new to Thunderf00t he is an actual scientist who doesn't stand for made up garbage as he works really hard to actually test his hypothesis without having a biased conclusion prior to those know...real science.

NEXT blog will be about gaming I promise!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Open Letter - Anita Sarkeesian - Gaming Media

I never really wanted to formally address Anita Sarkeesian on this blog, I find her to be unworthy click-bait for outraged gamers. But IGN posted an article recently that caught my eye.

Developers are asking the gaming community to stop being dicks basically. And, of course, I agree. It doesn't mention Anita specifically, but IGN does mention her as she is a lightning rod of hate in the gaming community.

Sure, no one deserves death threats like she's apparently getting (read my earlier blog about internet bullying), but websites like IGN and Joystiq and any gaming site out there does whatever they can it seems to post her picture or name on their gaming site for the sole purpose of attracting angry gamers to whine and complain about her. She's click-bait for them and they know it. What I'm tired of is not seeing any insightful op-eds on her from respected gaming sites. No one is critiquing her in the slightest, just posting her videos up and calling it a day.

My issue here is gaming websites like this are FUELING this hate by posting this stuff while not taking a stance one way or another on her opinions to open a respectful dialogue. It also doesn't help matters that Anita's stance on any issue is male = bad female = good but only if she's not acting very male. Her videos are filled with inaccuracies and outright lying too, which people rightfully call her on it. She closes her videos for comments which basically puts the ban-hammer on everyone too. It automatically gives the entire discussion a hateful atmosphere. Like someone claiming they are right and you are wrong AND a male chauvinist pig and then walking away. Of course, death threats go way too far as I mentioned, but when you're wrong about something on the internet, they let you know it and often go too far to let you know it.

I feel like the reason this boils over as much as it does for Anita is we don't have a face for the gamers countering her horribly contrived points. Thunderf00t on Youtube does a great job of breaking it down for us, but he's not really a gamer. In fact, in a follow up video he made after people in his comments made points about how she's flagrantly misrepresenting games like Hitman, he did some research looking up 12 let's plays of the game pointing out that the game doesn't "invite" gamers to kill helpless strippers like Anita says they do, but instead costs you points, and could ruin your mission entirely for doing such actions. You are encouraged to sneak by and avoid confrontation, but if you watch her video you'll think that boys will grow up thinking it's ok to choke out a stripper and put her in a box, despite the game only rewarding you for putting men in boxes, and punishing you for doing that to the strippers... But you won't see IGN defending developers on this or any other lie that Anita tells and instead they promote her.

This DOES enrage gamers. Sites like IGN and Gamespot have long tried to make gamers feel like they are "one of us" that we are all part of a larger community who love games and how much fun they are. Then someone like Anita comes in with what could have been an innocent and valid point that women aren't represented enough in gaming, and instead openly attacked the entire industry like it were run by sexist pigs, and we don't see a logical counter-point from our "fellow" gamers at IGN and Gamespot? But instead they fuel the fires further by shoving it in all our faces with their arms crossed? It's clearly just click-bait for them, and it has worked EVERY time they post something about her.

Then they closed the comments section on this article they posted due to the harsh negativity of it. I read through many of them, and as usual the majority seem to be well thought out, logical responses with a few hate filled messages peppered in. Frankly, it's MUCH less than what you'd see in a console war debate. The few ruin it for the many as usual. Honestly though, that action once again fuels these fires, closes off gamers for an open discussion and puts it further underground with Anita coming out on top and assisted by the likes of IGN whether they've intended that or not, that's how it comes off.

In the real world, people like this would get interviewed, and pressed about their stances. Gamers don't really have that either. When will IGN interview her, press her really hard on her points, call her out on her bullshit? Have a REAL talk about women in gaming and how we can address it rather than simply demonize the entire industry, fanbase, and anyone who ever stomped a goomba or saved a princess? No, that's not happening, they want to keep their click-bait happy for as long as possible because it's great revenue.

*For the sake of my soul I hope this too doesn't become click-bait*

EDIT: So, thankfully there is an outlet with sanity that I'd never heard of until someone on the Joystiq comments in an article of this very topic, brought it to our attention. I encourage anyone reading this to stop and read this instead, it makes the points I was going for but in a much less angry way and far more well put:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Off Topic Gaming - Robin Williams

I've never mourned a celebrity before. I've been sad before over Heath Ledger and Phil Hoffman, but the news of Robin Williams hit me really hard. I used to watch celebrities pass and see videos of fans crying and I couldn't understand why they felt this way. Especially over Michael Jackson who I perceived as a child molester, I watched thousands gather and mourn him. Yesterday, I understood them, it suddenly became all too real. I actually cried a great deal.

Perhaps it just takes that special person that you've watched as you've grown up. That someone who's been there in your life to make you smile. Robin was that for me many times over. Sure he was a celebrity, I didn't actually know him, he wasn't family, and a version of me on 08/10/2014 would scoff at the idea of getting so emotionally involved with someone so removed from my own life. But the news came, and I was overcome with sadness.

He meant so much to so many people. Robin could make you laugh, make you cry, and make you laugh until you cried. More importantly for me though, in his movies so many times over he would play a character that would tell everyone that things will be ok, no matter what, and that life is worth living. Cliche' perhaps, but Robin had a way about him that you just believed him and it would sink in. He always knew how to warm my cold black heart and make me believe in life again.

Of all the messages Robin gave, my personal favorite was in Mrs Doubtfire. Sure the movie was really silly, but ultimately it was about something so simple and profound, that a father would do anything for his kids just to see them one more day. I am lucky enough to have a father and a mother who feel that way about me too, and that movie really reminds me of how much they care for me.

Life, of course, is a cruel bitch. Ironically, Robin left this world no longer believing in the messages he used to give. Many will point to his role in Dead Poets Society where a troubled young student took his own life after not seeing any way out of his father's hold over his life. In many ways, Dead Poets Society was about depression, trying to show people that these warning signs are so mild and hard to see. With Robin, and his depression, few if anyone really saw it. He hid it very well as most people with depression do because they feel embarrassed by it.

The news of Robin's death hit especially hard for me as my wife has depression too. I constantly worry that I might someday be the cause of her leaving this world like this and I'd never forgive myself. I often feel ill equipped to handle it, that I lack the patience needed or control over my own emotions and then remember just how delicate I have to be after going off the deep end on something stupid and then hating myself over it.

But maybe we should try to let Robin teach us one more time. In his passing we can learn that depression is a very serious problem. It can take even the most zany and hilarious individual and make him think there is no hope left and that no one cares about him anymore. People with depression see life black and white with few gray areas, polar extremes of joy and sorrow constantly flinging back and forth with no stable middle to take refuge. In severe episodes someone with depression will stay in extreme sorrow state for an extended period of time, which is exhausting and unrelenting. The best way to describe it for those of us without depression as I understand it is, you know that feeling you get when you make a grave mistake, something that you really messed up and you beat yourself up over it telling yourself you aren't good enough and just getting really down about it coupled with the feeling of insecurity? Well that's what someone with depression feels like all the time in one of those extreme states, and where most of us will get over it in a day, someone with depression will feel that for months or years at a time without it easing up, especially if its untreated.

If you have depression, please do not hide it. You will still be loved, and supported by those around you. Let them help you, let them in. Don't fight it alone, because life is worth living.