Competitive gaming is a high-pressure industry. The stakes are high, prize money and sponsorships are on the line, and your team is relying on you to succeed. So how do you navigate all of that when you’re also dealing with mental health issues?
In this strikingly forthright video, Robert Wright talks about how depression has impacted his play — and how his play has impacted his depression. Wright is better known as Wobbles, a top-tier Ice Climbers player in Super Smash Bros. Melee whose career has taken a few volatile turns. He made waves back in April of this year when he threw his controller and punched a hole in the wall after a match turned against him. That was a defining moment — a moment when Wright recognized that he was falling into a bad place that was painfully familiar, but also a moment when he realized how much support he had from his Panda Global crew.
Wright has been dealing with mental health issues since he was eleven. As he explains, he found video games to be a great outlet. A distraction, but also a way to build confidence and self-worth. Those benefits helped carry him forward into the professional esports world, where the rewards could be even greater.
“When you’re competing it lights you up – it makes you present,” he says. “Being able to be present is the antidote for depression. It says, ‘Be awake, be here, right now. Play.'”
But while winning gave him the boost he needed, losing was another matter. He became known for his anger after losing matches, and it was only after he began to work through his issues that his anger became more manageable. April’s match was a wake-up call because by then, he expected better of himself. Being the best couldn’t be enough — there had to be more.
“The perfectionist who wants to be the best pushes themselves up to the boundary, but it’s an electric fence. Instead of being satisfied, you go, “Because I could do it, it wasn’t hard. It didn’t matter,” he explains. “The downside is that you never feel like you did anything.”
Rather than focus on improving his skills in the game, Wright focused on the bigger picture: himself.
“If you get good at the game, you’re good at the game. You might transfer that a bit; it might back-propagate into you; you might bring it with you. But if you work on yourself, then that improvement goes everywhere with you.”