Gaming with anxiety: how I overcame the Leviathan Raid

Arriving at the Embarkment


By the time my fireteam and I had completed Destiny 2’s Leviathan Raid 16 hours after it launched, according to achievement data, only 0.06% of Xbox One players had successfully done so.

We knew going in that we wouldn’t be the very first fireteam to complete the raid, we went in blind, with no tips or guides, to feel that extra sense of satisfaction knowing we did so through our own means. This meant a lot of experimentationand a lot of failed attempts.

We’d spend nearly two hours solving puzzles, and anywhere from an additional two to five hours perfectly executing our strategy and moving on to the next area. Every guardian in our fireteam grinded through the original Destiny, and agreed the Leviathan Raid was an awfully difficult raid. For many of us, this was also the first raid we went into blind.

After the glorious loot drop of several tokens following the final boss’s defeat, we took a moment to check in with one anotherthe first check-in of the 16-hour endeavor:

“I can’t believe we did that!”

“I feel both proud and disgusted. I’m not sure which one more.”

“My legs are numb and I’ve only eaten six pretzels all day.”

Looking back, it absolutely baffles me that we didn’t check in once with the team during the entire raid. Sure, we took restroom breaks and shared our raid gear, but I can’t recall a single moment during our time together when we’d stepped back and asked how everyone was feeling.

As a relatively new gamer (the only one on our team), and definitely one that had never played from noon to 5 a.m. in one sitting, the countless “rinses and repeats” negatively affected me. Anxiety is something I’ve been battling since childhood. It makes me excruciatingly self-aware in the most negative ways, especially in gaming.

Preparing to fight

What draws me to video games is the healthy dose of competition among peers. Leveling up your characters, showing off your progress, bragging to your friends when you beat them in PVPit’s all in good fun.

It’s when the negative voices enter your mind and put you down that the fun turns into exhaustion.

I had the lowest Power level in our team, but was still above the recommended raid level. Even before starting, I was incredibly self-conscious and thought I would bring the team down. I started believing this was true after we kept wiping over and over again. My beliefs felt solidified when another party member asked why I was doing such little damage to Emperor Calus, the final raid boss.

I blamed myself. I blamed my low Power level. I blamed taking time away from the game the previous week; playing so fast and so often had mentally drained me. I blamed not being dedicated enough, strong enough, good enough.

I still believe the raid would’ve been much easier if I had been a higher level. But the anxiety and self-loathing became so extreme I’d mute myself in the party as my voice cracked and a lump formed in my throat while drowning in my unhealthy thoughts of inadequacy. Sometimes, word vomit would regrettably come out and occasionally I’d uncontrollably spit venom at myself to my fireteam: putting myself down and being short with my team.

It took a while for it to sink in that there were many reasons why we had to keep restarting areas. We went in blind, we didn’t have the most efficient gear, we had Internet connectivity issues, among others. It couldn’t possibly have been one person’s doing.

I swear I had CALUS-es on my hands by the time we finished

My fireteam’s unconditional reassurance and focus got me through the raid. Their support silenced my negative voices. Because of their positivity, I was able to overcome my anxiety enough to gear up and contribute to our success in being part of the 0.06% who completed the raid at the time.

Destiny 2 is just a game. A game with stats, yes, but also a game with immersive storytelling, lovable characters, and opportunities to experience all of this, again and for the first time, with friends and strangers alike. Games shouldn’t be fuel for us to ignite fires and drag ourselves into the flames. It’s also never a bad idea to check in with everyone and make sure they’re okay.

If you’re not in a fireteam, and you don’t think you can persevere, it’s always okay to take a break and take care of yourself first. Drink some water, step out into the sunlight, recharge a little. The game will always be there for you to pick up later if you so choose. It can be harmful to set arbitrary deadlines and race to be the first to get something done; everyone’s different, and putting too much pressure on someone (yourself included) too fast can just make the game unenjoyable.

Alternatively: just think of the puppies.

Do it for the puppies.

Just look at that sweet face...

Just look at that sweet face…

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