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Ark; Love Evolved: Addressing Anxiety through Gaming

“I am a spy in the house of me. I report back from the front lines of the battle that is me. I am somewhat nonplussed  by the event that is my life” – Carrie Fisher

I have always struggled with anxiety, and because of that, jumping into new things is often a big no. It is an on and off battle I’ve struggled with my entire life. My roommates, Femmefoxfatal and PopnHand, spent most of the start of 2020 talking me into playing Ark with our friends Breadlyzer and Kitarian. Ultimately, my love for them and my insane love for dinosaurs won over my anxiety of a complex survival game on a platform I didn’t use often. To be honest, I was more afraid of when our private server became open for more people to join. 

One of my biggest struggles with anxiety is actually getting close to people or letting them in because people always leave. We played for about a month, just the five of us, taming our animals, building our homes and being a tribe of close friends. We promoted our server on Potions and Pixels online events every week, and it took awhile for anyone to join. Well after about a month, while I was super busy and couldn’t play for about a week, we got new players who joined our tribe. So I came back online to three new people, IzztheGreat, Gingerzgamingworld, and Glowstix, all thanks to Potions and Pixels.

Little did I realize just how much these strangers would change my life and help me in such a short amount of time through an online platform. We spent our nights helping each other hunt virtual beasts, and they listened to my facts about the animals we hunted in Ark, without blowing me off or picking on me for being weird about dinosaurs. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves staying up till the early hours of the morning to help hatch dragons or even just help each other through that day’s emotional mess. How strange was it, to be venting to basically strangers about life problems at 3 a.m. while killing a T-Rex? My anxiety told me it was insane, but I was strangely comfortable and able to push all my anxieties back with everyone in this tribe. 

After a month or so of hardcore Ark playing, we decided to have a real world tribe meetup. So Pop, Fox and I cleaned, and prepared for our long-term friends and these new friends to come to our home. Fox and Gingerz knew each other from high school so she came over early to help, which actually was a comfort to my overwhelming anxiety that I was trying to hide. 

After Izzthegreat and Glowstix arrived, I was strangely not anxious for them to actually be there. They both, even as basic strangers, made me feel so safe and calm. We drank and talked about life, and  I spent the weekend forgetting what anxiety or depression was.

Unfortunately that feeling of forgetting was short-lived; we went back to our normal lives. If you can call anything about living in a pandemic normal, that is. The heaviness of my day-to-day weighed in, yet these newfound friends, mixed with my long-term ones, helped me find solace in my own dark and twisty thoughts.

Ark Love Evolved cover art - article on gaming and anxiety on The Fantasy Network News

 As a very empathic person, I don’t usually like discussing my emotions. I’d rather focus on helping others, which I often did, but I also have found myself truly opening up to my tribe. A number of nights I’ve spent in Discord till 2 or 3 in the morning with Gingerz or Glow, helping them on Ark while they help me fight demons I didn’t realize I was fighting. I have found myself getting back on track with meditation and healthier sleep, because I have a tribe, a literal tribe, of people reminding me with genuine love and compassion.

I used to find myself so afraid of genuine connection; new people terrify me still. I could get attached and they could leave or hate me, or a million other wild fears that make my mind race, but they could also stay. They could also remind you that you are enough, when you forget to remind yourself, because you are. My main point here is to encourage you to push through your anxieties even when it’s hard, because if I didn’t, I would have lost some amazing friends. This is only a stepping stone in my continued path to battle my mental health, but now thanks to an online game, I’m continuously reminded that I never had to battle alone.

About Alice

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