I’ve spent the better part of the last four years gaming in Bungie’s Destiny franchise. Despite all the memories, triumphs, laughs, and friends made, one thing has always held me back from truly enjoying Destiny in its entirety: fear—fear of disappointing others, fear of embarrassment, fear of meeting new people. It’s ironic for such a social game, but I guess that’s part of anxiety’s curse.
It wasn’t until recently that I was able to start overcoming my fear and not only achieve something within the game I never thought possible, but start making strides in my own life toward overcoming anxiety and fear.My individual skill had increased exponentially. A new confidence came over me, and I was renewed.
It started last fall when I decided I wanted to truly commit to improving my skill within the Crucible (Destiny 2’s multiplayer versus mode). This months-long endeavor was fueled partially by the desire to earn some of the best weapons in Destiny 2, but also because I was frustrated that I felt I couldn’t enjoy a massive part of a game that I otherwise loved. I was frustrated that I was personally at fault for holding myself back.
My Crucible play has ranged from modestly skilled to so poor that I’d wonder if my friends and family wouldn’t love me anymore. The Crucible is the ultimate playground for players to test their skill against one another, and I occupied a pretty narrow lower-middle tier of that spectrum. In most shooters with a competitive element, a good player would engage you in a firefight, outplay you and win the engagement. In Destiny 2, however, a skilled player would kill you in the blink of an eye without you ever knowing where they were. That level of skill was something I envied but never imagined achievable, at least not for me and my potato hands.
Even though I tried to mentally prepare for this journey, I was not ready. In the beginning, I lost—a lot. I had my face figuratively smashed into the ground, with the only way forward to get up and try again. I made dumb plays like running straight at players with shotguns, or accidentally blowing myself up with my own rocket launcher. I definitely embarrassed myself. At one point I even received a message from a random teammate during a game in which he politely asked, “Could you please hide somewhere or quit?” It was frustrating early on to say the least, and I often thought of giving up.
Part of what made the quest to earn these coveted, powerful in-game weapons so infuriating was that you gained or lost progress based on winning or losing games. I wallowed in Destiny 2’s Crucible rank purgatory for months. Little progress was gained each week, and often it was lost. In the true spirit of the word “Crucible” I had to be broken down so I could be rebuilt, stronger than before.
During my worst breaking point, when I most wanted to give up, I made a conscious choice to do something different—ignore my own social anxiety and find someone able to help me in the Crucible. I knew it was the only way. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this like I set out to, so I reached out in the unlikeliest of places: Reddit. I found a Crucible Sherpa, a somewhat silly term within the Destiny community for someone who is the ultimate guide to help other players. This particular guy (I’ll refer to him as Noah), seemed nice, welcoming, and enthusiastic about teaching high-level tactics and strategies to those willing to learn. Against my own fears I set up a time for him to take me to Crucible school.
When we first started talking, I was initially put off because he was just a kid. I could tell from his voice, and hear him quietly answering his mother’s questions off-mic. But I was so wrong to judge him, because he proved to be mature, polite, and wise beyond his years. Noah went in depth about map control techniques, when to engage and when to retreat, how to break lines of sight, how to bait your enemy into making mistakes, effective counters for certain weapons or abilities, and not just communication techniques, but what to callout and when. He was calm, relaxed, and never panicked when things got crazy.
I felt like Neo when he gets jacked into the Matrix for the first time and learns Kung Fu. None of this would’ve been possible if I had stayed in my comfort zone playing as a solo player. It was like an elder god had descended from the heavens upon me, a primitive being, and gave me the tool of fire. After that, I was eager to cook.
From there on out, the Crucible felt like easy mode had been turned on. Even though I still mostly played as a solo player instead of with a team, I never turned down an unknown team’s invite to party up and play along if I had a good game. I even made a few friends along the way! My individual skill had increased exponentially. A new confidence came over me—I was renewed.
At the beginning of May, I finally triumphed and reached the Crucible rank I’d been seeking for almost five months. After an intense final game that pushed my quest progress past the threshold I needed to earn the weapons, I sat in my chair, my hands literally shaking from adrenaline. I leapt up for sheer joy and called my wife at work. She didn’t quite share the same enthusiasm as me, but was still proud nonetheless. A few moments later, I received a message from my teammate during the last game. He thanked me profusely for my clutch play at the end, and that the win we just had was the last one he needed to reach the same Crucible rank too. I couldn’t believe it! What were the chances we were in the same boat together? We messaged each other for a few minutes longer, and another new friend was made.
A few days later my wife and I had coffee together at a local shop near downtown Austin. It was kind of a funky place with lots of personality; all the outdoor seating was wood, and had hundreds and hundreds of small engravings or writing from various customers over the years. We chatted about our plans for the day, our thoughts on Avengers: Endgame among other things. I was still riding the high of my Destiny 2 accomplishment a few days prior, but I knew not to bring it up yet again.
As we left, a small piece of graffiti on the wall caught my eye. It was just the words “Fear means go” written in black marker. I stared at it for a while and thought of how randomly appropriate it was. I snapped a picture on my phone so I could take it with me as a reminder of what I can accomplish in the face of fear.