Matt Hughes, a freelancer who wrote about gaming for outlets like GamesRadar, Joystiq, and Mac|Life, passed away Tuesday in Commerce, Michigan.
On Tuesday, Hughes sent out an e-mail to several of the editors he had worked with at those sites. He said he would no longer be able to contribute or take on more freelance assignments because he would be dead.
Some of those editors thought he might be joking, or that some prankster had hacked his e-mail account. But GamesRadar editor Sophia Tong said in the e-mail thread that she had called up the police station in Hughes's town and heard back that he had killed himself.
(I reached out to the sheriff's department in Oakland County, Michigan this morning and was able to confirm that Hughes passed away on Tuesday.)
By all accounts Hughes was enthusiastic and positive, a talented writer and a pleasant colleague.
"I didn't know him personally-he'd been writing for me for the last four weeks or so, and our emails had only really been about work," said Andrew Hayward, games/apps editor at Mac|Life. "But in my limited interactions with him, I thought him to be very enthusiastic about taking on new opportunities, and he had been building a really impressive freelance career. His writing was great. That's part of why this seems so remarkably sudden. There weren't any red flags at all."
One of Hughes's most recent published pieces was a review of 007 Legends for Joystiq.
"We did a bit of voice chat when he reviewed Orcs Must Die 2 for us," said Joystiq reviews editor Richard Mitchell. "The one thing I do know is that he was a pleasure to work with. He was professional and courteous, which goes a long way. He just did a review for us a week ago, and this was a complete shock. I certainly never felt any bad vibes from him."
Many games writers took to Twitter to eulogize Hughes and offer condolences to his friends and family. "In honor of @MottHoos, if you ever feel like you're totally alone, you're not. Please reach out to ANYONE. Even a weirdo like me. We care," wrote tech writer Ashley Esqueda.
"It's extremely blindsiding," Hayward said.
When word began to spread about Hughes' death, games writer Phil Owen, who has written about his own attempt to take his life, wrote to us to share his thoughts. It's not clear what compelled Hughes to take his life, if that is what happened, but to Owen, the possibility that it could have been due to depression required he say something. So whether this has to do with Matt Hughes or not, we felt compelled to share it. Here's Phil Owen:
"We exist in a culture that, despite all the scientific knowledge we have on the subject, tries to suppress discussions of depression. A lot of people simply do not want to talk about it, even though more than 38,000 people committed suicide in the United States in 2010. As you are reading this right now, someone, somewhere in the US is probably in the process of killing him- or herself.
"Unfortunately, many people who suffer from depression feel as if they cannot speak about it. In my past, there have been instances in which my superiors explicitly told me not to talk about my mental illness at work or even tweet about it. But it goes beyond the workplace, too. A Vietnam veteran once brushed off my depression, telling me that since I've not had to fight in a war, I have never had anything remotely resembling a truly bad day.
"I have, at times, felt like I had no chance to speak out about what was going on in my head, and so it came as little surprise that when I finally admitted to my mother this year that I had been suicidal for a large chunk of my life, she was completely caught off guard. The problem was not that she didn't pay attention. The problem was that I learned to hide my condition from most people very well.
"But hiding doesn't solve anything; rather, it creates more issues. As anyone who has dealt with depression can attest, being alone in your own head when a bad spell hits is the worst feeling in the world. Sufferers have to know they can share their feelings with others, but we do a bad job of letting them do that."