Through the Looking Glass
Another theme that some players brought up was that their in-game interactions allowed them to work through some shyness issues they've had in face-to-face interactions. What is most striking in this first anecdote is that the MMO space removed barriers to self-growth present in this person's day-to-day life at school.
I used to be very quiet and withdrawn. In school, I was extremely insecure about myself and my abilities. After picking up WoW in ninth grade, I developed the extroverted side of myself and became way more outgoing and secure of myself. My sense of humor, which was typically kept within my own head, found its way out into jokes and a general sense of easy-going-ness. Now I'm the one who's drawing out the quiet ones, because I still know how it felt to be that shy. I am also much more confident in my own intelligence and abilities. Being in an environment where the playing field is completely level and it didn't matter that I was only a young girl allowed me to find out that I really could succeed and that I really am competent. Being accepted by a group of my mental peers (college-aged guys) was a wonderful experience and let me see that I was only a 'social reject' within the confines of my high school, where social barriers and judgment had left me very lonely. It gave me the confidence that a typical teenage girl is in severe need of. [WoW, F, 16]
Of course, shyness is an issue that many people struggle with, and isn't a problem only teenagers have to work through.
in wow my character is very personable and outgoing. i will talk to anyone if they strike up a conversation with me and im not too busy (i have died many times from paying more attention to chat than what i am doing!) in real life i am very shy and its hard for me to get to know people. i guess what this has taught me is that i dont need to be afraid to be more outgoing in real life, i was never able to do that before. i think it has also made me be more daring, doing things i wouldnt normally do in real life, such as striking up conversations with strangers. [WoW, F, 28]
One thing that has changed about me through gaming is my newfound ability to say 'hello' to strangers. When I first started playing MMOs (SWG), I was as painfully shy in game as out. As I got more comfortable talking to people in game, I found that I was able to approach people in the real world. [EQ2, F, 34]
One of the processes that drive these increases in confidence, and hinted at by some of the narratives above, is that trying out more confident and sociable identities in an MMO allows them to experience what they didn't think they were capable of. This in turn encourages them to extend their new behavioral repertoire outside of the virtual setting. The following players make this point more explicitly.
It also gave me a lot of confidence - after all, if you can lead a 60-person complex raid, how hard can it be to organize a team meeting? :) This has led to me to take on more responsibility in the workplace and feel comfortable about handling it, as well as being far better able to deal with criticism or conflict (either as target or arbitrator). [WoW, F, 38]
I had to represent myself in court because I could not afford an attorney in a custody battle with my former spouse. He is quite aware that ordinarily I am a push-over in real life. In this situation I kept my pirate character in mind and imagined that I could stand my ground as I do in the sword fights in the game. I was able to represent myself calmly, clearly and effectively, and the final result was the judge did not award custody to my former spouse and his wife. [WoW, F, 23]
Tags: boundary play (17) , leadership (14) , learning social skills (5) , online identity (3) , personal growth (3) , transfer offline (9)
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