How Gaming Saved My Life

 

I’m a gamer. I have loved video games ever since I was a little kid. The Super Nintendo was my first console as a kid and I loved playing on it every minute. I still have it put away, along with a stack of my most favorite games. That is why the above video is one of my favorites. It’s a music video starring the cast of the Web Series, “The Guild”. It’s a great show about a group of players who play the same online game and are part of the same guild. It takes viewers through the enjoyable and hilarious adventures that they experience, both in-game and in the real world. And, even better, the six stars of the show all game in real life, so they really feel these lyrics as they sing them. I love this show, as it is a perfect reflection of myself, a gamer since childhood.

To this day, I still game to my heart’s content, but my gaming avenues have changed quite a bit over the years. It was in 2005 when I was introduced to the world of online gaming, most specifically MMORPGs. For those of you who may not know what that stands for, it’s Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. It’s a universe where people from all over this world come together in a common interest, and game together in a world of fantasy and imagination. It’s a place to become part of a community where you’re surrounded by nerds just like yourself, and enjoy one another’s company.

However, for me, gaming has become more than just a pastime. It’s more than just a way to have fun and become a hero in a world that doesn’t even really exist.

I’ve known that I wanted to write a post on my gaming, but it wasn’t until reading a recent post by one of my fellow bloggers, MANagING maNIA (managingmania.com) that I decided to get to it. His post was about taking time out to treat your life to something pleasurable. It got me to thinking about how gaming has always been a treat for myself, but it’s also changed into something more, in recent years.

When the Change Began

In 2005, a friend of mine and I were leaving class and ran into a fellow college student. This guy was talking about some game that was hugely popular and my friend was all into the conversation. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, though. I had never been much of a PC gamer at that point, as consoles had been my main source of getting my ‘game on’. Well, this friend of mine was someone with whom I loved spending time. I enjoyed his company and I figured since I loved games, then I should check this new one out, and at the same time be able to hang out with my friend even more than we already did. So, off to the store I went to buy the game that would change my life forever.

It’s strange how things happen in life. One moment in your life can affect the future in such profound ways. That day, it was merely a game that I was purchasing; one that I didn’t even think I’d like too much. And yet, here I am. Seven years later, and if not for that game, my life would be different, and not in a good way.

The game started off as just a fun time to relax after classes and before getting to work on my homework and projects. It was a way to laugh and have a great time with my friend. We had a blast, killing monsters and villains, using spells and abilities that can only exist in our imaginations. I’ll be honest; we played way too much in the beginning. But, after a few months or so, my friend started to get a bit burnt out on the game. I was still enjoying the game more and more each day, though. I began to feel lonely when I was online by myself. I was surrounded by thousands of players each day, but I didn’t know a single one. Then, one day, I began to think about joining a guild.

A guild is a community of people with similar interests and goals in mind for their gameplay. It’s a place where friendships are born and allows players to feel like they are a part of a family. It’s a special experience when a player can find that right guild. Some people use guilds merely as a way to see content in the games. And, that’s great, to each his own. But, for me, I wanted a place where I could feel like part of a group, as if I had a home in the large fantasy world in which I spent so much time. I had no idea how to go about finding such a place, though. I’m a shy person when I don’t know the people by whom I’m surrounded. I wanted a home, but I was afraid of going in search of one.

You Just Know When It Feels Right

It’s funny how God uses the world around us to bring people together who are supposed to share in each other’s lives. It was April 2006, and I was standing in one of the main cities in the game. So many people surrounded me, and yet this little character stood out to me. She was a very low level character who wasn’t wearing much gear (equipment and clothing that increases the strength of your abilities). I thought that maybe she could use a wand that I had in my bag. I sent her a personal chat message in the game, and asked if she’d be interested in the wand. She thanked me, but declined the offer, as the character she was on was not one she played much. I was about to move on, when she sent me another message. “Would you be interested in joining our guild?” I was so surprised by that offer. Here I had been wanting a guild for quite some time now, but couldn’t get up the nerve to ask for one, and here was someone asking me. She explained to me that it was for people over 18 years of age, and it was a laid back guild. She said that if I didn’t like it, then I could always leave, no questions asked. I said ok, and before I knew it, I was bombarded with many “Welcome to the Guild” messages in the chat window.

I’m not sure how it is that we can have instances in our lives where we just instantly feel comfort, but that is what happened to me that day. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was so welcomed and everyone was so nice. Six years later, a bunch of us still talk and have moved onto other games together. And, in the case of one of those individuals, she has become a special friend in my life. She’s one of the eight people in my circle of loved ones who know about this blog, and I’m so thankful for her friendship.

It’s Real

Let me explain an aspect of gaming that tends to be ridiculed even more than the “nerd” aspect of gaming itself. Some people think that friends you make online – whether it’s through gaming or some other form of social networking – are not real friends. In the beginning, I used to also think in the same way. I used to refer to my online friends as just that, “online friends”. And, I would call my friends who I knew in person “real life friends”. I stopped using that term (“real life friends”) some time back, though. I eventually realized that there is no division between certain online friends and so-called “real” friends. Sure, there are some online friends who are gaming friends and that’s the only time you communicate with them. But, that’s not the case with all of them. When you begin to share in the personal lives of those friends, through both the good and not-so-good events of their lives, the line between the two types of friends disappears.

Friends are people with whom you share a common interest. That is often what brings you together at first, but it takes more than that to keep friends together. It takes care, concern and love for one another. I knew when I was entering the realm of true friendship the moment I began to think about my once-online friends when I wasn’t anywhere near a game. They would enter my mind and I’d worry about them when they were having a rough time. Or, when I just wanted to say hello and send a virtual hug their way, I knew that they were just like any friend who I met in person. And, the final telltale sign for me is when I began to miss them. I didn’t miss the gaming aspect (although, that’s always fun), but I missed just being with the person.

I mean isn’t that what friendship is all about? Having the desire to be with the person, no matter what it is you’re doing? Thinking about the person at times during your day, or when something happens and you just have to share it with them. Or, when you hear something negative has happened where that person lives, and you immediately worry about them and try to find out if they’re ok. To me, that is true friendship. That is real.

Gaming Saved My Life

The day that I accepted that guild invitation, I never imagined that my life would be changed as it has been. I believe it was God who made that day come to be. He knew exactly what He was doing that day, when He sent me to that particular location in the game, and made that little character – a complete stranger – stand out to me. I find it interesting that this meeting happened in 2006. That was the year that my life started to become harder to handle. I was losing control of what I had tried so hard to hide, and I didn’t know what was happening to me. Yet, I always knew I could escape into that world of fantasy and be surrounded by friends who did not know how upside down my world was becoming. And, best of all, I could ignore it myself as well.

God knew, I believe. He knew that I was going to need something to keep me grounded in society, as I slipped further and further away from it in the outside world. He gave me a place where I could still live, while the rest of me was dying. And, the way He did that was through the friendships that I made. The games themselves are fun, but if not for the social interaction, they can lose a bit of their enjoyment. God put these friends into my life, just as He put every other loved one in my life.

But, Isn’t It Just a Game?

A game started this. A game that for a few hours would take me away from my struggles that were eating me alive. During my highs, when sleep is at a minimum and I can’t get my mind straight enough to focus on anything else, gaming gives me an outlet for my energy. It has also helped to give me a purpose.

To someone who does not game, that may sound completely foreign. But, what gaming has done for me is it’s given me a place to be someone. It gives me an outlet to express myself in a way that I can’t do in face-to-face contact. My severe social anxiety is physically debilitating at times. I have gotten physically ill to the point of vomiting, and I’ve gotten as far as thinking that I’m dying. I begin to pray to the Lord that I’m ready, and I ask Him to please help ease my fear as it happens. I’m not afraid of death, but I do often wonder what it will feel like while dying. I don’t want it to hurt. I want it to be fast and painless, but I know that’s not always the option. And, so when I’ve gotten to that point with my anxiety where I think I’m slipping away, I can’t tell if it’s really death pulling me, or if it’s just my brain causing a physiological response in my body that is giving me that sensation. A part of my brain will say it’s the latter, while another part will tell me it’s the former. And, no matter how many times it happens, or how many times my psychiatrist and therapist tell me it is indeed a physiological response, it does not matter. A section of my brain will make me think I’m dying, as the other part tries to convince it otherwise.

Gaming allows me to step out of that anxiety and into a world where I have no problem communicating with people. I can chat, joke, dance, show off my abilities, laugh, help others, and feel good while doing it. I don’t get ill, I don’t struggle with my breathing, and I don’t fear the world that exists inside of the games that I play. My moods can be riding the bipolar roller coaster, for which admission is free, but the catch is that you can never get off. It can be making me feel as if I don’t belong in the world around me, but in those games, the world remains the same. It’s stable ground that I can step onto when the ground under my own feet begins to crumble into a dark abyss. Gaming has gifted me with the ability to survive in at least some sort of world, where people live together for a few hours a day. It allows me to be able to still keep hold of contact with society, when the outside world terrifies me.

I don’t game nearly as much as I used to, but it still remains a getaway. As things have gotten to their worse these past couple of years, my gaming has become more minimal. My love for it is still the same, but the gaming itself can be hard to “escape” into when your reality is so upside down. Not to mention when you need to take breaks to take your medication in the middle of killing a three-headed dragon. Seriously… that kind of kills the immersion aspect. But, it’s still a place for me to be that person who I wish to be in reality.

God Has Given Me This

God has given me this interest in gaming. I doubt He’s watching me slay magical beasts and saying, “No! You have to hit them with the frost spells, not the fire spells!” But, He has used gaming in my life as a form of comfort, as well as a way to meet people whom I would have never met otherwise. It’s a small world really. One of my dearest friends is someone who used to live nearby me, yet we had never met. She told me that she used to work in the same city in which I have lived my whole life, yet we had never met. We didn’t have any idea that one another even existed. Then, one random day in a virtual city, in a game amongst so many other players, her little under-geared character stood out to me. And, thus began a friendship, which I had no idea was in store for my life.

What about in your life? Think hard. What has happened in your life that has altered it in a way that you never could have imagined in the beginning? If you’d like to share it below, then please feel free to do so. If you want to keep it private, then that’s good too. But, just do it for yourself.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe everything happens for a reason. So, what was the reason in your life?

 

3 thoughts on “How Gaming Saved My Life

  1. Pingback: Living in a Fantasy World « My Bipolar Bubble

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s