Sunday, 22 April 2018

Overcoming My Gaming Anxiety - The Challenge

My recent trip to EGX Rezzed reminded me of one thing; I really like video games.

There is something special about following one character and not only feeling invested in the story but also feeling like you have control over what happens to them, even if you don't.
This sense of oneness with the protagonist increases your connection to the story and, ultimately, their fate, in a way that TV or film cannot.

Of course, there are some games that are just fun and that's great too.

Unfortunately for me, I can only experience the majority of games that I like, second hand.

In the last few years, I have been very open about my struggle with anxiety and depression as I believe it is very important to talk about mental health wherever possible. My anxiety hinders my ability to play the games that I love so much. Where most feel excitement and curiosity whilst playing, I feel stress and panic. I cannot hide in the forest with Lara Croft. I can't stealth kill alongside Solid Snake. I cannot explore a frightening new world with Joel and Ellie.

Thinking back, this has always been a problem for me. Back in the mid-nineties, I would always 'visit the bathroom' whenever my parents got to the evil scarecrow scene in Toonstruck.

The fight or flight response is something that everyone will come across and some point in their life, but for anxiety sufferers, there is a third option; freeze. The impulse to cease all movement in a distressing situation can become extremely overwhelming, even during video games. For me, the ranking of actions that I can take when nervous are: 

1. Freeze
2. Run away from the situation (flight) 
3. Fight (rarely!)

Of course, I don't avoid all games. Give me a platformer with no consequences for my actions or a team-based shooter based on paintballing and I'm there. The Nintendo Switch has really helped quench my gaming thirst this year, but I want to experience more.

I realised that the reaction my body was having to these games is the same reaction it has in the real world, the only difference being that in the virtual world I am 100% safe.  This made think; what if I can use video games to help me control my anxiety?

So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Starting with something simple, I will play the games that make me feel scared. That make me feel panicked. That make me feel anxious.
I will use the coping methods I have learnt over the last few years and apply them to these artificial worlds with the hope that this can then be transferred into the real world.

First Stop: The Sexy Brutale.

This is an adventure puzzle game that requires sneaking around rooms to solve mysteries whilst avoiding murderers. It may not seem like a challenge for most, but for me the idea of creeping around in the dark and hoping not to get caught makes me freeze up, despite the fact that you get ample time to make your escape when seen.

I'll let you know how I get on!

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