Video games as a medium have a lot of potential, the degree of interactivity give it more power when trying to invoke emotions, especially when said emotions are something like guilt. Another use they can have is their relation to people with Disabilities, mental or physical, and today I will be relating my personal experience, of how Dark Souls helped me cope with my social anxiety.
I, of course, have Aspergers, which leads to many things, most importantly to this article being social anxiety. I in general have trouble with people, they absolutely terrify me, I can’t even walk past a person without my heartrate skyrocketing. It is also quite the conundrum as well, for I do like talking to people, at least when they talk about things that interest them, things they have a passion for. However it is so terrifying to even be remotely near anyone that it is hard to even be in such situations.
Dark Souls was an extremely useful tool for getting over, or at least alleviating, my anxiety. The first and perhaps most useful feature in this is the fact that there is no voice chat to speak of, there are people there, but if I screw up or do something wrong I won’t have to hear them complain, they’ll just move on. I don’t have to do what I usually do, and worry and fret and be terrified about what someone will say, because they can’t say anything.
I also couldn’t escape this online mechanic either, well I could’ve turned off the internet but I didn’t want to miss out on the helpful little things like messages, plus playing without the multiplayer felt like missing a part of the game itself. The positive effect of being online along with the invasion mechanic being on until a boss death more or less forced me to get used to the small step of being in the same world as a player. Despite my heart rate skyrocketing every time I heard that telltale sound of someone in my world, it was an extremely helpful tool. It allowed me to take what was the minimum amount of contact I could have socially, while still having at least some. They couldn’t talk, they couldn’t react to me, we can gesture sure, but that is really all. As a person who is constantly worried about everything in a social context when coming up against a new person, wondering to myself, What do I say? Where do I look? how do I move? In what particular way should I word a question? Am I talking too long, I can’t tell….Do they hate me? Should I just leave? Dark souls alleviates this because there are so few things that can go wrong, I can die, sure, but that isn’t much trouble for the host. I don’t have to talk, or look, or do anything, I just have to go through the level as I did before. It appeals because of how minimilistic the contact between two players are.
Plus I could take it at my own pace, apart from the invasions, which did force this mechanic on me I could also just take each little step my own pace,. After the invasions I could decide if I wanna be summoned, or summon someone. I could work my way up slowly, from a friendly summon, then to a pvp duel at a hotspot, then finally to an invasion. The degrees of sociability, in different forms, allowed me to slowly get used to the fact that there were other people on the other side. It allowed me to initiate a social situation, but being friendly with a summon. It allowed me to initiate a social situation but as a hostile force in the game with pvp. It may not seem like a big thing, but as a person who found the idea of summoning another person as much of a tense terrifying experience as facing any boss, it was a useful and simple tool. Sure they weren’t big steps, but they were steps, it was stuff like that which made me be able to get used to talking to others online or in game, or even try to make some friends online.
I personally don’t see video game talked about too often as a way to deal with things such as social anxiety, which is a bit sad, since if you have stuff so crippling that even talking to a cashier is impossible, that even leaving a youtube comment scares you, video games can really help and let your interact in perhaps the most minimalist way possible. They may not be the most common or even the best solution, but at times they can be extremely helpful in taking the first step when it comes to dealing with social anxiety.