I want to look at a topic that, thankfully due to the nature of our community here in The Secret World, isn’t a taboo subject. Depression. Before I start I want to point out that all the experiences I discuss are mine and that this article will not be able to provide support. If you do feel you need support I recommend you talk to your GP or one of the mental health charities who do amazing work.
Let me start by telling you a little about myself. I have lived with depression now for over sixteen years. I have good days and I have bad days. Finding an even keel is not easy for most people. It is even more difficult when you have depression and anxiety to add to the list of things to manage.
Gaming can be a great way for people to get away from the frustrations of day to day life. I mean let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy coming home after a tough day and letting loose on some zombies? For people with depression gaming can be a way of working through issues and resolving them by facing them in ways that just aren’t possible in real life.
But there are downsides to that too. When I started playing The Secret World back at launch I had no real clue what kind of person my character was. I didn’t even sign up for the role play dimension at first. However as the months passed I found myself connecting more and more with him. He was able to say and do things that I could not and he was stronger than me in every way imaginable.
And that in itself is not a bad thing. Many role players imbue their characters with strengths they have or wish they had in real life. But it got to a point for me where my character was displaying the same flaws that I had in real life too. He was beginning to display signs of depression and anxiety.
A particular incident springs to mind. After a party in-game a group of people were hanging around chatting. I am not the most social of RPers in-game. I may talk big on Twitter but you’ll rarely see me alone. I need someone to hold my hand. Unfortunately there wasn’t anyone this time. There were a few people there that I kind of knew from Twitter, not well enough to talk to but I wanted to get to know them better. But try as I might I couldn’t get the nagging feeling that I wasn’t good enough for this group out of my head. I couldn’t face the idea of being rejected by them. Of course these were unfounded concerns. I’ve spoken with many of the group individually in the past. But the idea of facing a whole group was daunting. So instead Kyle sulked off and left the group to their own devices. Exactly the kind of thing I do in real life.
I know you’re probably thinking wait Kle, the man who strips at Psy’s shows twice a week and who does a podcast? The man who goes on stream and makes a fool of himself regularly. How can he be daunted by the idea of talking to a group? It’s because this was a much more personal setting. These were one to one interactions and I was very worried about making the right impression. The podcast and the silliness at Psywarrior’s show does not really impact how people engage with me one to one. It doesn’t change their views of my character as (for the most part) the shows are not 100% in character. Nor does it change their view of me as a person. For me this felt more like a real life situation, one where I was being judged and where one wrong word, one wrong emote could make or break me.
Sound over dramatic? It probably is. But when you’re dealing with depression the brain doesn’t always see things in a rational way. It doesn’t always separate the game world from the real one and that is especially true when the game is set in a world so similar to our own. Suddenly the world I escaped to held all the same pitfalls and horrors that real life did and it was no longer a safe place to be in.
I was lucky. I was able to take a step back. I was able to find a way of compartmentalising things and this is where we as a community are at our best. When I told everyone what I planned to do I was sent messages of support both on Twitter and in-game. People offered me a space to talk and more importantly they allowed me the space I needed to gather my head together.
And that is what I want to get across. When things are tough don’t be afraid to take a step back. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are struggling. I know that can be tough, from personal experience I know, but the community for the most part will support you. They would rather have a good experience with you in the right frame of mind then force you to continue to play through your depression and anxiety.
We are all here to tell stories. Make sure that yours is told in an environment where you feel safe and secure.
Kle regularly can be found sighing at Auroris on the Podcast and in-game wearing very little clothing at Psywarrior’s shows. You can follow him on Twitter @klethetemplar or you can get in touch by email email@example.com