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Anxiety in World of Warcraft

I love Blizzard’s behemoth of a game, World of Warcraft. I have played it since the original beta in 2004 and never looked back. It is my evergreen game, a game that I always end up playing even while other games come and go from my life. However, I also am an introvert with social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I have learned to stay away from games that cause me the anxiety of whether or not people are going to yell at me (I’m looking at you League of Legends). So how do I manage to have such a love for a game that is literally “massively multiplayer”?

I play for me and my gaming style. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

4 Rules For Myself

I learned early on that if I were to enjoy World of Warcraft, I would have to establish some rules for myself. These aren’t rules that will work for everyone, in fact they probably won’t. Everyone is unique and will need to figure out what type of gaming style works for them. These are what has allowed me to make World of Warcraft into my favorite game. Maybe they will help you or inspire you to come up with your own personal set of rules.

  • Don’t worry about how others are playing the game
  • Experiment with different things to focus on
  • Be careful not to become too lost in the world of Azeroth that you forget about Earth
  • Find a guild that supports you

Let's look at these a bit closer.

Don't Worry About How Others are Playing the Game

If you talk to people on the internet and ask them what the correct way to play any game is… you will always end up feeling that you are doing it wrong. Video games are a source of entertainment. They can assist you in stress relief, depression, anxiety, and even grief. They are a way to zone out to let your brain have a break, or a way to learn how to cope with your emotional fatigue from daily hassles. In fact, a great resource I would recommend for learning more about how video games can help us is the book by Jane McGonigal SuperBetter. But I digress.

When you sit down to play a video game, unless you are specifically playing because someone else asked you to join them, you are playing for YOU. So first you need to learn what you are feeling when you play and what you are looking to get from it. Make the game work for you. If you are lonely, then by all means start chatting with people. If you, like me, are generally wanting to get away from people, then don’t worry about what others will think if you do just that. You should be able to walk away from your gaming experience feeling happier and recharged and not full of negativity and anxiety.

Experiment with Different Things to Focus On

With that said, find what aspects of the game help you feel better for different situations. World of Warcraft is a fantastic resource because it offers an innumerable variety of ways to play the game at any given moment. As silly as it sounds, I learned a long time ago what in game activities work when I am stressed. I have even used these while recovering from a panic attack. My therapist even recommended them.

These two secret weapons? Achievement hunting, and fishing. Yes, fishing. I have fished many times in my real life and found it very unenjoyable and smelly (although I love to eat fish). Fishing in World of Warcraft however is extremely relaxing. In fact, achievement hunting is what led me to fishing. So let me explain that one first.

When recovering from a panic attack, I needed something to focus my brain on. Something that was low cost for high reward. At the time of my writing this, there are currently 3,648 different achievements available. Now, before you have anxiety about that too, remember you do NOT have to get all the achievements. In fact, it is highly unlikely you will. So put that out of your mind. There is no reason why you can’t shoot for all the achievements under a specific heading though.

Look around at what is available. See if something catches your eye. For me, I found that my favorite achievements to work on were anything to do with reputation, Archaeology, and Fishing. Fishing became my number one go-to. I make fun of it a lot, but fishing in World of Warcraft has given me a lot of joy. Also I’ve earned some fun mounts and items for doing it. So, if you are feeling stressed, I would absolutely recommend putting on a podcast or music you enjoy and try out some of the less common achievements that you maybe haven’t given much thought. Especially if it’s fishing.

Be Careful Not to Become Too Lost in the World of Azeroth that Your Forget About Earth

Remember that wise therapist that encouraged me to use World of Warcraft as a tool whenever I was having anxiety issues? He did put one particularly important caveat on it. Set a timer. No matter what you choose to work on in a game, try setting a timer for 20 minutes. After the timer goes off: step away for a moment, stretch, and evaluate. How do you feel? Are you enjoying yourself? Maybe you're getting angry (especially important if you are doing raids or dungeons)? Are you struggling to focus? Depending on how you answer yourself, see if you need to make a change. Maybe just make a change in your in-game focus (don’t enjoy the fishing? Try exploration!). Perhaps you need to change games entirely. Or, maybe change your entire activity to something different (you could fish in real life!). Stay aware of your body and surroundings. Drink some water. Again, let the game work for you.

Find a Guild That Supports You

Find a guild or friends who understand you. This can be much easier said than done. You may have to leave many guilds before you find the right one. You may not find the right one. In that case, try to find some of your real life friends who play and join their guild or server.

It’s okay to not be a social butterfly, but it is important to have friends around. Sometimes you may need help if that fishing achievement needs you to run a dungeon! From time to time, you may need a listening ear. You may find it helpful to get out of your own head and problems by being a listening ear to others. World of Warcraft is an MMORPG after all. Use it to your advantage. While there is a lot to do in the game by yourself, don’t ignore the best resource you have. People.

I love World of Warcraft. So much so that I have decorated my bathroom in a World of Warcraft theme and even made myself a DIY shower curtain that has my original character from the game on it. I probably don’t play the way you do. That’s okay. You may not play the way John Doe down the street plays.

The fact is, Blizzard has created a game so massive that you really can have fifty different people who love the game all playing in a completely different way. Which is probably one of my favorite things about it.

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