I hate online multiplayer.  There, I said it.  Whether with friends strangers, or anyone in between,  I really don’t care for the experience.

Multiplayer video games give me anxiety.  They constantly make me wonder if I’m playing a game the “right” way.  I worry that I am ruining someone else’s experience by not being good enough.  When playing cooperatively, I get annoyed when people don’t move with the quick pace I tend to keep.  I get nervous when I don’t have anything to say via headset. I worry that the game we’re playing is too boring to have fun.  Maybe I’m too boring to have fun.  Why isn’t this as much fun as they made it look in the trailers?  What’s wrong with me?

It’s not that I like playing alone.  Or being alone.  In fact, I have just as much anxiety when I’m by myself.  When I am alone in my apartment for long stretches of time I leave the TV on just so I have noise to distract me.  I’ll sleep in the living room because my bedroom feels suffocating.  This constant stress of social interaction mixed with a fear of isolation is the hot mess of my life.

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I like silence, simply the presence of another person can be reassuring to me.  Even as I write this article my roommate sits on the couch next to me, reading a book.  We’re connected.  We’re part of each other’s lives and we don’t need anything aside from each other’s company to prove that.

As multiplayer is mostly unavoidable in modern video games, I have tried to overcome this aversion.  I’ve reviewed multiplayer games with an open mind, and I’ve learned that sometimes refusing to put on a headset betters my experience. I have certain friends who I play with that put me at ease, and I have certain games which I like better than others. It’s not exactly that I hate all multiplayer games, I simply hate the social contract that comes with playing multiplayer, a social contract that Journey so flippantly ignores.

It feels like Journey’s multiplayer was made for a person like me.  Someone who wants to be connected but struggles with the online interactions that have become such a large part of video games.

There’s nothing to be said in Journey.  There’s no party chat to tell someone the best way to navigate the golden desert, no reason to kill the ambience with chatter.  Journey is a game that doesn’t need voices to fill its story, doesn’t need dialogue to establish a connection.  There’s something simple and human in the relationships formed.  Something perfectly tailored to the way I interact with people in my life.

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I don’t worry about what the players on the other side of our game is thinking.  I don’t worry about getting more scarves than them or racing them down the mountain.  The petty competitive nature of multiplayer games evaporates; we’re not soldiers of war, we’re not athletes, we’re just people.  The pressure I so often feel to play a game the “right” way vanishes.  There’s no good way to play Journey, it’s incredible no matter what you do.

Without the social aspects that so many games use to define their title as “multiplayer”, Journey builds relationships in an almost effortless fashion.  I care about the people I travel with in Journey.  I care more about their success than I do my own..  I shepherd them through the dark underbelly of the game’s ruins, where shark-like enemies hunt using searchlights.  I show them how to survive the wicked winds of the snowy mountain by hiding behind rocks.  When we’re separated, I wait for them to return and when I they don’t, I feel a sense of loss.  I care about the people I meet in Journey, without ever knowing their name.

I wish there were more games like Journey, more multiplayer experiences that weren’t so aggressive in their interactions.  I wish there were more games where multiplayer focused on emotionally sharing an experience.  I wish there were more games where multiplayer didn’t simply mean letting you talk to friends while you blow things away.  Too often multiplayer means playing the same game, but just with another hero at your side or standing in your way as each game chases being the next Call of Duty or the next Dota.  Journey takes a new look at multiplayer, a fresh look, one so rarely explored.  It taught me that there’s a version of multiplayer I love.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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  • Tamina Larson

    I have been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks since high school, during those years I have also developed social anxiety and even talking to people triggers panic attacks! This is pretty accurate…or used to be. I’ve become better through using natural methods. I picked up the panic away program ( info here: http://doiop.com/gadewa ) and haven’t looked back. Some days are better than other and some days are worse. But I’m glad I turned away from trusting in medicinal crap that wasn’t really effective and was only temporary anyway. The natural ways are tougher…but they are better.