Summer Games Done Quick 2015 – Gamers with Heart

So, yesterday afternoon saw the kick-off of this year’s Summer Games Done Quick event.  What is Summer Games Done Quick, you ask?  It’s a twenty-four hour a day seven day event that sees some of the best speedrun gamers in the world running through video games of all generations across all platforms in the fastest times possible (sometimes breaking world records)–LIVE!

[“Speedrunning” a game means to complete the game in the fastest time possible, often requiring a person to memorize enemy placements and patterns, glitch triggers, environmental hazards, and various other game mechanics.]

Live gaming events (sometimes called “E-Sports”) have been quite the rage lately, and I would equate an event like this to a sort of video game X-Games event.

That’s great, but why should you, dear reader, who do not enjoy video games, care?

I’m glad you asked.  In addition to displaying some of the best gaming skills on the planet, these E-Athletes are performing for a great cause: Doctors Without Borders.  Viewers are encouraged to donate what they can in appreciation of the skills on display, and doing say may change the conditions of the games run (character selection, difficulty mode, glitches used, etc.) or may enter the viewer in raffles for prizes offered during a given game run.  Last year, the event helped raise over $700,000 for Doctors Without Borders.  When’s the last time something you were a part of raised that kind of money for a good cause?  Mom’s basement, indeed!

If you wish to check out some of the events, they are live streaming right now and will continue to do so until Sunday, August 2, 2015 at 2:00 AM (EST).  The link for the event is embedded here.  Take a look, check the schedule, donate, have fun, and, if you dare, be amazed at the skills on display.

The Strange Case of Elisa Lam – Part 3 – Suicide Squad

So, it’s time to get back to some of those threads I’ve been pulling.  Please don’t mind the title.  I’m not trying to be flippant; I’m just using hooks which I feel are clever.

I’d like to mention three things before I begin:

First, a correction.  In my second Elisa Lam post, I indicated that the coroner’s report showed alcohol in Elisa’s heart blood.  This is false–it actually indicated trace amounts of alcohol in her bile.  My apologies for the error, and please note that the original article has been fixed.  With a case as murky as this, misinformation is certainly not necessary, nor welcomed.  One thing I did pick up on the second time around, though, is that the alcohol found was ethanol…or, drinking alcohol.

Second (and somewhat related to the above information), I followed up on the prescriptions Elisa Lam was taking for her illness: Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Seroquel, and Effexor.  I asked a friend of mine who has a degree in psychology and is somewhat of an expert on mental health pharmaceuticals what she thought of these meds.  She indicated that a doctor would rarely prescribe these together, and that if they did, the condition would have to be rather severe–so severe that she has never encountered a scenario where it would be prudent to prescribe these meds together.  Now, Elisa also had in her possession over-the-counter meds such as Sinutab and ibuprofin.  I was told that combining these over-the-counters with these prescription meds would be a horrible idea, and might result in erratic behavior or possibly crippling lethargy.  When I asked my friend about adding alcohol to this mix…well, she indicated that it would likely result in death…or, best case scenario, becoming quite intoxicated after pretty much one shot.  Interesting, yes?

Third, I’m typing this on a tablet right now, so if I say something that doesn’t make sense, let’s blame autocorrect and move on.

As I mentioned (what feels like) aeons ago, there are four possibilities as I see them regarding the fate of Elisa Lam:

  1. Her death was a suicide
  2. Her death was a murder (by isolated individuals)
  3. Her death was part of a gang initiation
  4. Her death truly was accidental

Now, I know what you’re all probably saying.  “Randall,” you’re saying right at this very moment, “you just listed all the possibilities that exist.  So…duh.”  And that’s a great point, actually.  I am taking into account the possibility that all these scenarios can be valid.  However, I’m also taking into account that all of these scenarios may not be valid in kind, as well.

If the last two sentences seemed like nonsense, that’s because they were–or, at least, seem that way without proper elaboration.  So, let’s take a look at each of these scenarios in isolation.

One caveat: I’m feeling long-winded, so these will each likely be separate posts.  Sorry but not sorry.

1. Suicide

Scenario: Elisa Lam, a mentally ill individual traveling alone in a strange country, becomes depressed or suffers a psychotic break.  She climbs to the roof of the hotel, opens the lid to one of the water tanks, and jumps inside, where she drowns.

Elaboration: Elisa Lam, by her own admission, suffered from bipolar disorder.

She took a number of different prescriptions for her condition, and was indeed prone to suffering from crippling depression.  As indicated above, a cocktail of these meds would be reserved for the most extreme (so extreme as to be unrealistic) of cases.

Some folks who view the elevator video feel that her actions in it are indeed indications of an addled state, which may be connected to a psychotic break of some sort.

Though it is likely she came across “friends” she met on the internet whilst traveling through California, she still traveled alone–and anyone who has ever done so will tell you that, while it certainly can be therapeutic, it is at times daunting, especially when visiting a land that is truly not your own.

Prior to her checking into the Cecil Hotel, she lost her phone.  Perhaps the stress of that loss, while seemingly inconsequential to a person possessing “normal” mental faculties, may seem like a life-shattering event to a young girl in a depressive state and a foreign land.

Arguing with Myself: This scenario is lacking for a few reasons, IMO.  First, the body language experts have indicated that her behavior in the elevator video was not to be viewed as particularly strange, but indeed she seemed to be mostly at ease and even excited/happy.  The family has stated she was never suicidal, and the coroner had no reason to believe she was, either.

But let’s presume they are wrong, and let’s examine the possibility of her having a psychotic break.  There are, literally, over a billion ways to commit suicide, with all of them easier and more pleasant than drowning oneself in a hotel’s rooftop water tank.  For one, the lid to said tank is commonly considered quite heavy.  Could a grown woman lift it?  Sure, but it would take some effort, and if she swung it open all the way, it couldn’t then be closed easily from the inside.

Getting to the top of the tank would be difficult…did she use a ladder that was propped up against a tank?  If not, she would have needed to gain access to the building behind and climb up.  At this point, why not just use a bath tub, or take a bus/taxi to the ocean?  For that matter, why not do what every other suicide at the hotel has done and just jump?

But let’s presume further that she wanted to be a trend-setter and do something different–that even in her broken mental state, she wanted to be…theatrical.

How did she get to the roof?  She didn’t use the main exit, because that would have set off an alarm.  She had to have used the window.  But access to the roof via the window isn’t easy to figure out on one’s own, and you either have to really be looking for it or someone who knows how to access it (like a tenant) would have to show you.  But, let’s presume she figured it out or was shown by a friend a night or two before.

When did she take off her clothes?  Was it while in the tank?  If that’s the case, why was there still sand (presumed to be from the roofing material) in her clothes?

Okay, so she took off her clothes while out of the tank.

Sure, but she would have either needed to take them in with her (to keep the sand on the clothing) or would have needed to throw them in after she entered the tank, which is impossible.

Okay, so she took them in with her.

But if the lid is that heavy, would she really have been able to one-arm the lid?  Maybe if she opened the lid all the way and then took a dip…but then we arrive again at the problem of a lid that’s nearly impossible to close from within the tank.  It just doesn’t add up.

Maybe it was suicide, but my gut is telling me that’s an improbable scenario.  She might have had mental issues, but killing herself like that would have at least required the help of a second person.

And this is a good place to leave off for the moment.

Adventures in Real Life

So, I’ve been dealing with some real world issues lately–family, friends, circumstances.  I haven’t had a lot of time or energy to update or complete some of the threads I’ve lain, but will get to those soon enough.

For today’s post–my first in about a week or two–I think I’m going to pull back the mask a little and talk a bit about what’s been on my mind.

Last night, I read a book entitled Bible Adventures by Gabe Durham.  It’s a part of a series called Boss Fight Books, and the titles associated seem to be a sort of video game memoir–part review, part history, part personal experience.  I bought it as part of this video game history bundle of e-books type of deal, and I couldn’t be happier.

The book itself is endlessly fascinating.  It chronicles the work and struggles of the men and women of Color Dreams, an unlicensed video game company from the late 1980s/early 1990s that produced at first more edgy fair (cops shooting drug dealers) and then morphed into a company called Wisdom Tree, which produced games with a Christian bent.  The tale of how Color Dreams became Wisdom Tree, and how the atheist/agnostic programmers who made games for both companies found themselves working within the world of video game entertainment is placed against the author’s own story of his spiritual journey up to this point.

A former fundamentalist Christian, Gabe Durham is now closer to a non-practicing Christian with agnostic tendencies.  He gives some intense and personal glimpses of his upbringing within the faith, his struggles with doubt as a human being, and his personal experiences with the games made by Wisdom Tree as a young Christian (the aforementioned review aspect of the book).

That’s great.  Why does this matter?

It’s all about finding one’s place in the world, my friends–and the fact that I feel like I haven’t yet done that.

Every so often, I go through what would probably best be characterized as existential crises…plural, as I feel like I’ve gone through more than one by this point.  The book I read last night re-opened my own journey into yet another round of soul-searching.

Often, it is said that writers wear masks when they write.  They allow the book, the essay, the work to be their filters through which they may tell the unabashed truth without fear of reprisal (at least, that’s the feeling one gets).

Now, I haven’t written a whole lot for the last several years.  The last time I wrote a work of fiction from the ground up (not just a revision) was 2010, I believe.  Though I write for this blog, and though I have a day job, I really don’t see myself as someone who contributes a lot to society. When I write, I don’t really write about anything.  I don’t tell stories.  I regurgitate them.  I’m well-informed on a great many subjects, but in virtually all of those arenas, there are experts more eminent than I.

What role do I then play in the world?

If all writers wear masks, that implies that there’s something beneath.  What if there’s nothing beneath my mask, except smoke and empty fabric?  If there is nothing inside, how can I contribute anything of worth?  Why should my opinions matter anymore than those of anyone else?

It’s a bit like a crisis of faith.

If there is no God, then we are truly alone.  All we truly have is each other.  We are without purpose, save that which we give ourselves.  We’re a captain-less ship.  Star stuff questioning its own existence and finding no answer because none exists.

How does one cope with the idea that one is merely an empty shell?

How does one cope with change when one is truly alone?

Deep thoughts, my friends.  Deep thoughts.

At any rate, if you get a chance and have an interest in retro-gaming, gaming history, and armchair philosophy/theology, give Bible Adventures by Gabe Durham a read.  It’s short, interesting, and intimate–and it may just force some self-reflection.

Click here to check it out.