I’ve played video games since I was a kid, but I’ve played MMORPGs since 2007. Through them I met lots of friends and (ta da!) even my Husband. The wonderful thing about online gaming for someone with my issues is that it allows a serious sense of community and activity without actually having to go out and socialize, which is often too difficult for me to manage. For a long time after my suicide attempt I didn’t really know how to interact with people. How do you walk around in a back brace unable to explain honestly how you hurt yourself? I told a few people but not many. Mostly, even with my physical therapist, I made up a story about falling off a ledge by freak accident, or getting jostled and falling, all total bullshit and who knows if they believed me. I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to say, “Yeah, I jumped off of a dresser trying to break my neck so I would die.” The more I had to lie, the worse I ended up feeling about it. It’s nobody’s business what my health issues are but people are naturally curious and it is kind of draining to make stories up all the time. I think this is part of why I started avoided people again. First, I was in pain so I retreated from the world since it hurt less to be at home. Second, I didn’t want to have to deal with people face to face. Third, I was feeling downtrodden and sorry for myself and didn’t want to do anything. Once this stuff kicks in, my agoraphobia takes over. I get bouts like this every once in a while. It’s a phase, it eventually goes away, but the only way to fix it is to get so bored that I have to do something.
In the meantime, first I turned to TV and movies and became the ultimate consumer. Then I switched to Final Fantasy XIV, then I picked up WoW again, connected with some friends, and then I started playing Overwatch, where I gathered old and new friends and have made a small community that makes me very happy. I’m going to nerd out for a second, but I happen to think that the online gaming community has made a tremendous inroad in helping to create social life for people who can’t or don’t get out much. For those of us dealing with depression related issues and things like agoraphobia, it is a godsend to have a community without having to leave home. These people have become my friends, as much as anyone I met in person. I’m used to long distance relationships. Some of my best friends live hours and states away or across the country entirely. It’s not ideal but because of technology it’s so much easier than it used to be to feel in touch with someone. And sometimes when I’m lonely this type of contact is more comforting than being with people in person.
Video games are less stigmatized than they used to be but there are definitely still gender stereotypes. As a girl in a predominantly male game, it can be hilarious to hear the reactions. “Girls don’t play video games.” “Girls aren’t real.” “What, do you play Mercy?” “Ugh just play something easy.” Honestly, other than my friends I haven’t run into a lot of cool gamer chicks and mostly they annoy me. They give us a bad rap by trying to be cutesie, or they whine, or something. By the same token, we also get harassed, badly, in ways that so few people would actually do in person because, well, it’s the Internet and that’s just what happens here. I have been called pretty much every misogynist, offensive name for a woman ranging from “see you next Tuesday” to whore to bitch, and many more creative things. Some people just like to troll me because I’m a girl and I haven’t done anything but speak in our voice chat. They ask if I can join their teamspeak, if I’ll add them, if I have a boyfriend, etc, but they don’t mean it. They’re just saying these things to feed into an annoying stereotype and annoy me because they think it’s funny. I don’t happen to find it funny because I don’t find those insults 1) insulting or 2) creative. I mean, if you’re going to do that at least try and be original but these jokes are so played out. “Go make a sandwich,” is so dead it doesn’t even mean anything anymore. I just shrug and say, OK, you weren’t clever enough to come up with something.
For as many trolls as I run into on the Internet, I have managed to find a large group of people who are kind and smart. Some of them have similar issues and that may be why we bonded in the first place. While I have so many agoraphobic issues, I am so glad to have my gaming buddies to hang out with. They have definitely given me courage.