When you’re coping with anxiety, playing games online might seem like too much to handle. Knowing you might let your team down, knowing that the insults they fling might send you spiraling no matter how strong you plan to be, knowing that your anxiety might just get in the way for no reason at all — it’s a lot to get past.
Over at Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Jynx Boyne discusses that difficulty, and also the other side of that experience. How being accepted, anxiety and all, makes all the difference. In Journey and Dark Souls, Jynx found partners — anonymous strangers — who chose to be supportive instead of dismissing them out of hand.
“Chirp, chirp!” Goes my guide, and they start along a path that will have us avoid the automata. I try to follow closely, feeling something welling inside me. Something not good. My hands started to shake and my breathing spiked. I accidentally veered a little to the right, into the searchlight of a monster.
In the middle of the game, two hours in, I had a panic attack.
I dropped the controller and tried to ride it out, losing vision for a moment and sound cutting out. My friends had come to my side, brought the controller back to me, and made sure I was okay. I came back to a statis, got everything up again and I hear it.
“Chirp.” There was the other Red Cloak. They had guided me back to the wall, circling around me and keeping me away from the monsters. My scarf was shorter, because it’d gotten eaten. Another “Chirp,” they were checking in on me. For some reason, instead of sounding like “Come on! Let’s go!” the chirps sounded like “Are you okay?”
Empathy can be a rare resource in online gaming — it’s more common to experience the other sorts of interaction Jynx describes: cruel dismissals, insults, gendered slurs. The sort of thing that makes a person think they’re not worth teaming up with, because they play “like a girl” and not a proper competitor.
But as this piece shows, a single person can make a staggering difference if they react with empathy instead of cruelty. It works both ways, too. Tearing someone down is easy, and it lets you feel superior for a second — but building someone up is much more rewarding. You both feel better for it, and hey, as we already know, teamwork is OP, right?