How Online Gaming Helped Me Deal with Social Anxiety

Hey everyone! I'm super new here but I have been stricken with the urge to write thanks in no small part to the lovely community I just recently discovered here which my aforementioned anxiety has deemed safe. I've been a lurker on Kotaku for about a year now but recent events have found me spending much more time on the site and learning that there are so many interesting people with interesting stories to share.

Today I feel like sharing a story of my own. If this was a few years ago I probably wouldn't be able to write this due to fear of being judged. As long as I can remember I've struggled with social anxiety. Afraid of meeting new people, going to new places, and anything deviating from my normal routine. I managed to get by but I was always the shy and quite kid with few friends (among various other issues which are not the subject of today's story).

Talking to people was always the hardest thing for me, especially when it was face to face. But then something happened when I was 16 that changed everything: I got a 360 and a subscription to Xbox Live. Now you may be thinking "How can Xbox Live help you deal with anxiety? It's a cesspool of trolls, bigots, and jerks." That is not inaccurate so I guess I just got really lucky.

I played a ton of Halo 3 online, headset on, always listening, never speaking. I was still anxious about talking to complete strangers. But then something started happening: people started friending me because I was good at the game. Inevitably I started talking to these people who were friending me and inviting me to games and all that good stuff and I realized that talking to people wasn't so hard after all.

I think the biggest this is that it was just voice communication so I didn't have to deal with those dreaded face-to-face conversations. I didn't have to worry about being judged for anything but my words when talking to people.

Before long I had a large group of friends that I would play Halo and other games with and spend hours upon hours just talking about everything from games to music to life. This is what made me realize how easy it is to talk to people. They are far less likely to judge than I thought.

These interactions started to bleed through into real life and over the years I've become so so so much better at talking to people. I'm still super anxious while doing it but I can do it and that's what matters. I still struggle with anxiety but I am so much better at keeping it in check these days.

Thanks to anyone who reads this. Sorry for being so long-winded and I hope I didn't do too bad on my first foray into TAYClasic. You'll probably be seeing much more of me because lately I've been finding that I have a lot to talk about.