Anxiety can sometimes be considered a dirty word. For some it can be a crippling complaint that plagues them all their lives for others it can be a mild annoyance and for some it is seen as a sign of weakness. But how does it affect us as gamers? Is it something we should consider personally and collectively?
I think it might.
Given the inherent nature of psychology I wouldnít want to make wild speculations, but given my limited reading on the subject here are a few areas that that I feel anxiety does have an impact on us as a community and individually.†
Games by their very nature are escapist. From Pac-man to Master Chief we are embodying anotherís thoughts, fears and priorities. This can have a very positive aspect for those who suffer from anxiety issues.
By role playing as another person we can empathise with their concerns, by empathising with another albeit fictitious character, we can put our own concerns into perspective. On a subconscious level stepping out with of oneís self can be therapeutic for the Id, the part of the psychie that deals with the more instinctive aspects of human nature (according to Freud) I take this to mean that by encouraging empathy through games, we are widening our horizons without even meaning to, and with the basis of most games being a form of struggle, this will in turn be relatable to our own fears and insecurities. Meaning that through our hobby we are self-medicating in the best possible way- without even knowing it. Anxiety and the pain it can cause can be diminished through this escapism, providing us with experiences and feelings to draw upon and relate to both on a conscious and sub conscious level.
However, itís not all good news. A study has shown that those who play over 30 hours of games a week can become increasingly anxious about other aspects of their life. The fear and the concern is that as we escape into our world of games, we become more and more distant from society as a whole. Preferring to grind on Dark Souls than finish that job application, choosing to play GTA V with strangers than have pizza with mates and then there are those who prefer to have a partner in their DS rather than meet people IRL ( in real life)
Now while I understand a game will not reject you, cheat on you or fuck your friends, there is a danger of detachment when it is used to replace real life communications. On a strictly biological level, the release of endorphins can alter the way we receive pleasure- like a smoker who is addicted because his brain has rerouted itself to crave nicotine, if you receive all your pleasure from virtual stimulation (no laughing at the back) then your desire for real life contact will diminish gradually. And fundamentally we are functioning societal mammals, not the loners that we can run the risk of becoming.
The vicious cycle of anxiety is very understandable. Life sucks, games rock, so we play more games. More games means less life, so we hide in a game to avoid the life weíve missed. The game becomes better than our own lives and we begin to introvert into a world WE can control and importantly WE are good at.
And the Community.
Ah social anxiety you fickle beast, how many lives have you soiled over the centuries?
But gamers are different! We are like the ancient Greeks supporting discourse and discussion! Who the fuck are we kidding.
As the internet grows and we all have a larger and larger internet foot print, Iím convinced that Iím not the only one who feels anxious, genuinely anxious, about putting my own opinions out onto the internet.
Its why I blog on Dtoid, a safe haven compaired to other sites, a fear that my opinions and my views will be torn to pieces in seconds. Itís why Iíve liked the IDEA of a youtube channel about gaming for years, but am far too scared of being bad at it to try.† This is not yet another ďGEEKS- BE BETTER HUMANS!Ē rant, but pointing out that the environment we have made around gaming can alienate or at the very least, cause upset to other gamers.
For example, Dead Space 3 has sat un played on my shelf for at least 3 months. I lie to friends that ďIíve too many gamesĒ to play first, but the honest answer is, Iím anxious to play it because I might love it. Or I might hate it, or I might like it a bit but not enough, or I might dislike aspects of itÖ blah blah blah. †I am confident in my opinions, but as a community Iím terrified of putting them out for others to see, itís far easier for me to avoid the games that have caused division and stick with the ones Iíve been told are ďgoodĒ so that Iím safe in the knowledge that I will still fit in with my favourite clique.
I know how strange that sounds, but to some it will ring with familiarity. †I love videogames, but there is a inherent anxiety due to having the ďrightĒ opinions. I still feel like I have to get out the full soap box when defending Danteís Inferno or the latest Prince of Persia, and they are both pretty old now.
In conclusion, I know gamer anxiety well- Iíve been riding that dragon for years now. Thankfully Iíve had parents and friends to pull me up when itís got bad, pretending to be ill from work to play 140 hours of Skyrim comes to mind. But also Iíve been empowered through escapism and learnt SO much over my 20 years of gaming. As a community, we fight every battle without realising that they arenít even battles, and by doing so we alienate others without even knowing it.†Gamer anxiety cannot be avoided, but I encourage everyone to be aware of the positive and the negative effects of our beloved games can have on our psyches.