How to Keep Shyness from Ruining Your Game
I was recently pointed towards a blog post that could have been written by me a couple years ago: an extremely timid player who struggles with the multiplayer aspect of the game. Her struggles being due to her overwhelming shyness sucking the fun out of just about any in-game social interaction. I’ll spare her the link love as being the center of attention isn’t her forte. I know you guys are awesome and stuff, but easing ones way into the blogosphere has to be done at that person’s own pace.
Edit: I got the ok from Glorwynn to link her original post.
Writing about social phobia (I don’t like the term “social anxiety”, sounds too pop psychology. I prefer the direct translation of the French term since “phobia” is a far more accurate description.) was how I made a name for myself as a blogger. I’m still a pretty shy person in game. I won’t talk on voice chat if there are more than 4-5 people in the channel, I won’t initiate conversations unless I know the player well, I have to be in the right state of mind to join random raid PuG and it takes me weeks to months before I’ll type in a new guild or raid chat.
But you know what? That’s totally fine with me. I’ve reached a point where I’m satisfied with my comfort zone and I don’t care to go beyond it right now. I’m not a particularly social person, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Where social phobia is a problem is when it gets in the way of the things you want to do. When you want to try healing but can’t because you can’t be around other players enough to give it a go. When you’re itching to see content but can’t because guilds (PuG raids are obviously out of the question at this point) are unbearably stressful to you. When loading screens make you nauseous.
If I’ve learned anything from my two years of blogging about WoW (and it has been two years exactly! Today is my second blogoversary!), it’s that people like me, and like the author of the original post, are a lot more common than we’d think. It’s just that quiet people are, well, quiet. You don’t see us, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t there.
So, what’s the advice I’d give new players who aren’t quite comfortable with the social aspects of the game?
1- Take it one step at a time
You’re not going to be leading PuG raids tomorrow. Growing accustomed to the game and gaining confidence is a slow process. You actually don’t realize it’s happening until one day you get the startling realization of “Holy crap, I never expected to be doing this but I am. And it’s easy.”
Start by buffing strangers or helping them kill a mob when you walk by. Run big, impersonal battlegrounds where you’ll get lost in the crowd (Alterac Valley is a great BG for getting started because almost everyone is terrible at it). Queue for 5 man instances that you know like the back of your hand.
Just keep doing first step things until the sweating/shaking/mushy muscles go away. Then find something more challenging. To reach your goals, you need to step outside of your comfort zone. You need to step outside, but just far enough to to feel proud of your successes. Don’t set yourself up for failure either.
2- Become good at what you do
The better you are at something, and the more you know you’re good at it, the more confidence you’ll have. To me, this was the key to getting more out of the game. Being an expert on a (or several) topic(s) has the added bonus that other people will come to you with questions. In other words, you get opportunities for social interactions where you don’t have to lift a finger.
How to you become good at WoW? Look at dungeon maps. Read about boss mechanics (yes, even for lowbie instance bosses!). Read tooltips. Hide on the top floor of an empty house in Stormwind (or Orgrimmar) and experiment with spells, gear, statistics. (You can upgrade to the Training Dummies when they’re not too crowded) If you have a question about anything in game, type it into google. (You wouldn’t believe how many “how do I reforge as a holy paladin” hits my blog gets!)
If you’re new to the game, forget about Elitist Jerks for now. Say you were learning a brand new language. Would you taking a university level philosophy course in that language? Of course not! Learning WoW is just like a learning a new language. Start by familiarizing yourself with the basic vocabulary, practice your pronunciation, read texts with pictures. Once you’ve got that down, then consider tackling advanced literature like Elitist Jerks.
3- Avoid social guilds
Sounds counter-intuitive, but joining a highly social guild is one of the worst things you can do if you’re struggling with severe social phobia. Social guilds are bubbly, active and have high standards when it comes to social interactions. Plus, the levels of social interaction tend to be very complex and frustrating for someone who stresses about being judged and who isn’t confident in their social skills.
Opt for a quieter guild, a guild that doesn’t put much emphasis on personality and socializing. The magic of these guilds is this: no matter how quiet you are, no matter how awkward you are, no matter how stupid your words can be, no one cares. There will always be someone worse than you in a guild like that. By being yourself, you’ll fit right in.
There’s also a lot to be said about honesty in non-social guilds. What you see is what you get. None of that “pretending to be friendly because I want to be liked” bullshit that causes so much tension is big, social guilds. If someone agrees with you, you’ll know, if someone has advice for you, you’ll know, if someone disagrees with you, you’ll know. To a timid person, honesty can be scary at first, but believe me, being around people whom you can trust to tell you what they think is extremely reassuring in the long run. No surprises, no drama, no backstabbing.
As for guild size, that’s personal preference. Big guilds make it easier to blend into the crowd, but small and quiet guilds will also respect your longer-than-normal warming up period while offering more opportunities for close friendships later on.
4- Be honest as to why you’re quiet
There’s no shame in being shy. While most people won’t understand exactly how shy a person with social phobia can be, they’ve still experienced butterflies in the stomach before social situations at some point in their life. As long as they know they’re not being snobbed, they’ll generally give you as much time as you want to open up.
I use a format like this “*insert compliments and appreciation here* *warning that I take a long time to warm up here*”. For example: “Thank you very much for the invite! I really appreciated it. I’m having a great time, I’m just a really quiet person. It takes me awhile to warm up”
See! Easy! And I’ve never had any issues with it. If anything, the more outgoing and genuinely friendly people of the group will regularly whisper me words of encouragement in hopes of making me feel better.
5- Be Nice to Others
Us social phobics, we can be a vicious bunch. We’re perpetually tuned to fight or flight. Looking around the blogosphere, the people who post the most “I had this shitty player/jerk in my LFD/guild/BG/etc” are the shyer people. This is partly because it’s harder for us to tell people things to their face, but also because the nature of social phobia dictates that we feel threatened and disliked by almost everyone, all the time.
So we need to make a conscious effort to accept imperfection in others, to forgive perceived attacks and to hold our tongue when it comes to saying bad things. And by accepting others’ shortcomings, it’s easier to accept our own. What I’ve discovered is that focusing on the positive in others makes me see the positive in myself clearer. And that boosts my confidence something wonderful.
6- Weather the storms
If you put a person who’s afraid of spiders into a room of spiders, they’ll freak out. If you put a person who’s afraid of social situations into a game full of social situations, they’ll freak out.
The sweating, the shaking, the crying, even the panic attacks if you’re unlucky, they’ll happen. But if you grit your teeth and stick with it, they’ll eventually go away. If you find yourself in a situation you can’t handle, take a minute to do some deep breathing or to grab a glass of water or go to the bathroom or to pace in your room. But don’t quit unless you’re really overwhelmed. And if you do quit, get right back on that horse as soon as you’ve calmed down. You can take a step down (for example, if you leave a tough 5 man, you can queue for an easier 5 man), but don’t quit completely. Don’t allow failures to add up and weigh you down. If you want the confidence to do what you want to do in game, you need to experience successes.
And remind yourself, in a 5 man, you don’t have to say anything. In a guild, you can conveniently be AFK or busy whenever you want, no one will know the difference. If your team uses voice chat, you can still use typing instead.
Finally – Celebrate your successes
Pat yourself on the back for your successes. A phobia is a disability like any other. You have to work harder than everybody else to accomplish less. And unlike apparent disabilities, social phobias aren’t usually recognized by those around you. So the only person who’s going to be proud of you and congratulate you on your successes is you.
When the going gets tough, remind yourself of your accomplishments, be they in game or out. You got through a random dungeon? Good job! You’ve made a friend or more in your life? Pat yourself on the back! You showed up at a party a few months ago? Excellent! You can land yourself a job? Fantastic! You can hold it down? Even better! You had a romantic relationship that lasted more than several weeks? That’s awesome! (And by the way, I know a number of people in their 40s or older who’ve never had a significant other due to their shyness. So if you’ve accomplished any sort of romantic relationship, you’ve accomplished a lot.)
Confidence and comfort don’t happen overnight, not in the offline world and not in the online one. But if you love the game, love your characters and love what you’re doing, you’ll be surprised by what can happen.
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