Archive for May, 2012

Guest Post: Words with Friends – Larry D. Rosen

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Words With Friends: Another Stupid Game — or an Obsession?
We are becoming obsessed with our smartphones and all that they can do.
By Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D,
Author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us

The New York Times Magazine ran a fascinating cover story on April 4, 2012 written with wisdom, humor and insight by Sam Anderson. Anderson’s basic premise is that the concept of gaming has changed. For decades, a special class of teen or young adult gamer would use specialized systems, to play complex multi-player, multi-level games that might last from a few hours to many days or even weeks. Now, however, anyone can play a quick game — what Anderson terms a “stupid game” — any time of the day or night right there on their smartphone that rests somewhere next to their body 24/7. And this, Anderson argues, has changed the world of gaming to ” . . . not just hard-core gamers, but their mothers, their mailmen and their college professors. Consumers who never would have put a quarter into an arcade or even set eyes on an Xbox 360 were now carrying a sophisticated game console with them, all the time, in their pockets or their purses.

For decades I scrupulously avoided video games even when my four children delighted in playing them. I think that I once played Pong and perhaps Donkey Kong in a bar somewhere but that was under duress and the influence of a few beers. I have never played a video game that resides on a console although I have watched, fascinated, as young children seem to understand intuitively what actions to take to make the next level or win the game. Just last night I watched my friend’s 9-year-old son sit down at a game console in a restaurant as we were waiting to be seated and without even glancing at the instructions, he popped in two quarters and played.

I have, however, always enjoyed card games and board games, particularly those that required thought or cunning to win the game. I consider myself a pretty good Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit player and delighted in winning nearly every Monopoly game with my children (I used a unique strategy that I refuse to divulge as I plan to use it with my grandchildren!). My iPhones (I have owned four of them) have always come with a hefty game center in the App Store, which, as you might guess, I have avoided like the plague. Until someone pointed out Words With Friends!

Arghhhh! I shall mark that day on my calendar as the day that my life — and my brain — changed. And I am pretty sure that it changed for the worse.

As soon as I downloaded WWF I was hooked. Now I am playing a dozen games with multiple players (all of my opponents are personal friends, as I think it is a bit bizarre to play with people you don’t know, although it is a good way to meet new people). In his NYT article Sam Anderson relayed a similar situation with his wife: “My wife, who had never been a serious gamer, got one and became addicted, almost immediately, to a form of off-brand digital Scrabble called Words With Friends. Before long she was playing 6 or 10 games at a time, against people all over the world. Sometimes I would lose her in the middle of a conversation: her phone would go brinnng or pwomp or dernalernadern-dern, and she would look away from me, midsentence, to see if her opponent had set her up for a triple word score.”

That is so true! Anderson’s wife sounds like me, and like everyone else that I play with. I am beginning to see patterns in my WWF friends (I call them that even though two are colleagues, one is my partner, one is a student in my lab and two are other people that I know very well). At first I said that I was going to “just play at night” after watching Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper but before The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Pretty soon I found myself pausing the news and jumping in and making a few plays, and then returning to the news. Then, I think I said “to heck with it” and left the news on and played WWF with the news as background. Now, who cares about the news. Who cares about anything. WWF RULES!

I confess that I am now addicted. But is it truly an addiction or is there more to it? I don’t feel like an addict. I am not shirking my responsibilities at home (I still cook every night although one night I had to grab a cooked chicken because I got into a vicious back-and-forth WWF game with someone — and I WON!) nor is my work suffering. I still teach, still write, but something is happening and I think that I know what it is. What I am feeling, I believe, is a compulsion. Somewhat like Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets,” I feel as though if I don’t do a certain behavior — i.e., play WWF — I will meet with some dire consequence. I am not washing my hands constantly or locking and unlocking my doors, nor am I avoiding cracks when I walk in the neighborhood. But I feel anxiety much as Jack did when I spot my smartphone. And the anxiety is “I wonder if so-and-so played a word and I better check and play one, too.”

As I sit and stare at my phone wondering about WWF, I am not feeling the discomfort that someone feels when he or she has a true psychological addiction. I am not even hoping that playing will bring me pleasure. What I am feeling is an intense NEED to play or rather to check in to see who has played. And when I do play I don’t feel that rush of dopamine, which feels like pleasure. What I feel is . . . nothing. But then my phone beckons to me and I slide to the last page of apps (I made myself put the WWF app on the last page to make it more difficult to get to. What a fool! It must take me all of a second to flick a few times and it literally pops out at me when I get to that page) and press my finger on the icon and, voila, my games appear!

So, what do I think is happening? I had some time to think about this the other day. I was at public radio studio, waiting to go on a noontime radio broadcast followed by a TV taping. Since I always arrive early I had lots of time and only my phone to keep me busy. I knew that I was going to talk about this on the air so I spent some time with my phone in front of me trying to analyze what might be going on in my brain. Wow! After just a few minutes of “thinking” I somehow found myself looking at a WWF screen of 12 ongoing games. How did I get there? Well, partially I think it was a habit and partially I think I was compelled to do so in a way that resided just below the surface of conscious activity. Sure sounds like a compulsion to me.

How do I plan to break this compulsion? I have started giving myself “WWF Time” where I grant myself the option to play for 15 minutes and no more and then put my phone away, out of sight, and do something else for 45 minutes. I set a timer (on my phone, of course) and when it rings I play and when it rings again I stop. Not sure if it will work as I have only been doing this for a week but I am finding that the 45 minutes is going by pretty quickly now compared to the crawling seconds and minutes that appeared to barely move the first few times I waited for my WWF Time.

Do you feel compelled by your technology? Do certain games or activities that you do on the phone beckon to you? This is one of the main points of my new book, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us, where I devote two chapters to obsessions and compulsions surrounding technology. Let me know what you think.

© 2012 Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us

Author Bio

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us, is past Chair and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a research psychologist and computer educator, and is recognized as an international expert in the “Psychology of Technology.” Over the past 25 years, Dr. Rosen and his colleagues have examined reactions to technology among more than 30,000 children, teens, college students, and adults in the United States and in 23 other countries. He has been quoted in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Good Morning America and writes a regular blog for Psychology Today.

For more information please visit

Interview: Joshua Graham – Darkroom

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Today we are pleased to once again have Joshua Graham join us. Joshua is the author of the recently released Darkroom.

About Josh

Joshua Graham is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon and Barnes & Noble legal thriller BEYOND JUSTICE.

His latest book DARKROOM won a First Prize award in the Forward National Literature award and was an award-winner in the USA Book News “Bests Books 2011” awards.


Rhodes Review: What gave you the idea for Darkroom?

Joshua Graham: It started with the title, which I thought would make for a great double entendre, then I remembered how ghostly some of the images in an old fashioned darkroom looked when they were coming up in the developing solution on the contact paper.  They start off looking like a negative, then they turn out normal.  But I thought:  What if someone could see clairvoyant images in the darkroom, the way Johnny Smith did in THE DEAD ZONE by Stephen King, when he touches someone?

Rhodes Review:  It goes heavily into background in Vietnam, what was the research process like?

Joshua Graham:  It was fascinating! I learned a lot from historical records, but I also got a lot of firsthand information from people who were actually there, especially around the fall of Saigon.

Rhodes Review:  Is there any chance of the characters returning in other stories?

Joshua Graham:  Does the name Jodi Bauer sound familiar to you?  If you read BEYOND JUSTICE, you’ll remember that she was nick-named Jodi the Piranha, and was the defense attorney for the serial killer in that novel.  Well, the attorney that defends Xandra Carrick in the last part of the book comes from her law firm.  So, as you can see, my characters sometimes inhabit the same world.  And they might
even cross paths, who knows?

Rhodes Review:  Which character would you most and least like to invite to dinner?

Joshua Graham:  Interesting question.  Of course, I think Xandra would be a real kick to hang out with.   She’s got quite a personality and is not boring.  She’s feisty (as one reviewer put it) and she doesn’t let things go easily, so I bet she’d be fun to get into a debate with.  I’d also love to meet her father Peter Carrick and hear the stories he has to tell from the Vietnam War.  Who would I least like to invite to dinner?  Mark Collinsworth.  Everyone has their story, but his cocky attitude really grates me.  Great for a book character, but for a dinner guest, not so much.

Rhodes Review:  What do you think makes a good story?

Joshua Graham:  That which draws you in, such that you forget your reading a book.  And it should also provide a healthy dose of catharthis.

Rhodes Review:  What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Joshua Graham:  Wake up, get the kids ready for school, have breakfast, study the Bible and pray, check email, social media, write, write, write…answer phone calls, emails, write, write, write…

Rhodes Review:  What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Joshua Graham:  Once in a while, I interview my characters.  Ask them probing questions, then let them answer in their own voice.  Some of them have gotten pretty mad at me, some of them have broken down, and still others have made me laugh so hard I was grateful I didn’t have a mouthful of coke.

Rhodes Review:  What was your favorite part of Darkroom?

Joshua Graham:  The surprises and twists.  Which ones?  Well, I could tell you…

Rhodes Review:  What was the hardest part to write in Darkroom?

Joshua Graham:  Definitely witnessing the human atrocities where innocents are killed and tortured.  These are things you never want to imagine.  But they have happened, tragically.  And in order to fully bring it to life, I had to put myself in the scene and imagine the details, the emotions, from different points of views.   As a husband and a father, these kinds of images (scenes) are always the most difficult to write (as it was in the opening chapters of BEYOND JUSTICE.)  My readers have had the same reaction to these pages as mine.  We all wanted to go and hug our children after reading them.

Rhodes Review:  What do you wish was different about Darkroom?

Joshua Graham:  Maybe that a major motion picture studio had already optioned it before the book was published?  So many people (early readers) have told me that this book must be made into a movie.   I even have an agent from one of the top Hollywood talent agencies who approached me and said the same thing.   On the other hand, it’s probably better that the book comes out first, because a book and a film adaptation are very different creatures, and must be viewed as such.

Rhodes Review:  Which of your books was the easiest/hardest to write?

Joshua Graham:  None of them are what I would call easy.  I already described
what was difficult about them to write.   But the truth be told, DARKROOM came through divine providence and inspiration.  I never completed a first draft as quickly as I did DARKROOM.  The words and story just flowed and I practically typed non-stop from start to finish.

Rhodes Review:  Does writing a book get easier as you write?  Ie. Is it harder to write your first book, then your 14th?

Joshua Graham:  I’ll let you know when I get to book 14. :)  Each book has its own
challenges and rewards.  On one hand, being more experienced makes it easier.  But then, the challenge is to write with equal and better quality, and remain fresh.  After about 4 novels, I can tell you that the latter concern is becoming more and more of a challenge.  But it’s a challenge ALL writer’s must face, nothing new under the sun.

Rhodes Review:  If the author could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Joshua Graham:  C.S. Lewis, for sure.  He was a remarkably gifted man of deep insight and literary skill.  I love everything he’s written in regards to his literary, philosophical, and theological viewpoints.  And, from what I gather, we share a similar sense of humor—I think.

Rhodes Review:  How did you get interested in writing?

Joshua Graham:  I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember.  Even in the 1st grade, with crayons and construction paper, my pictures had a separate sheet of paper with a story (caption).  Since then, I’ve enjoyed writing scripts for plays, movies, and all kinds of stories.   It was only later in life that I rediscovered this passion for storytelling, and at the urging of some great friends, decided to pursue it
professionally.  Little did I know it would alter my destiny and be there, ready and waiting, when my 12 year career in IT disappeared, making way for my life as a writer.

Rhodes Review:  What are some of your favorite books/authors.

Joshua Graham:  GOD:  The Bible

C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, The Screwtape Letters

Stephen King: The Dead Zone

John Grisham:  The Rainmaker

Rhodes Review:  Do you have any suggestions to help my readers become a better
writer? If so, what are they?

Joshua Graham:  For those interested in becoming a writer professionally, remember, the key characteristic needed more than talent, connections, more than anything else combined, is persistence.  Never give up until you’ve arrived.  Even then, you have to keep honing your skills, learning the business, making connections, learning from others.  You’ll either love the sound of that, or hate it.  Chose this path carefully, because like all things worthwhile, it will come at personal cost and sacrifice.  But it will also come with unspeakable rewards, if you are looking for the right things.

Rhodes Review:  If you were to do your career as an author again, what would you do differently, and why?

Joshua Graham:  I might have spent a lot less time worrying about what others think because ultimately, the books I’ve written that drew the most negative comments from other aspiring writers, have gone on to become #1 bestsellers and have given me a new career (all thanks to God!)

Rhodes Review: Would you like a Snickers bar?

Joshua Graham:  If you even have to ask….

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Connect with Josh at the following:

Twitter: @J0shuaGraham


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