I don't know where I'd be had I not got onto Xbox Live back in 2004. Xbox Live is the internet service that allows people to play, and verbally communicate, with other from around the world. Before I got onto it I was able to communicate, but only in short bursts. Conversations, outside of my family, were rare and I had no confidence talking.
The first game I played over Xbox Live was Project Gotham Racing 2 and the first race I was in on that game amazed me. I heard a German, a couple British, and some others that I think were American, but I didn't realize just how real time the talking was.
I was intimidated. What could I say? Who was I to them? It may have been online, but I had the same social fears I had as when I was in person.
My dad tried to motivate me to talk as he would watch me race sometimes and noticed I was racing against the same people. My dad would ask me, "Aaron, why don't you ask that person where they are from?" and this struck terror in me. I did not yet know the proper protocol for what one could and could not ask. It's the internet so who know who is on the other end! Will they be mad at me? Yell at me? I doubt they could punch me, but they could wreck my car in the game.
The fears whirled around and I did not ask. I simply wanted to play the game and communications, well, who needs it?
A couple weeks later a game with the name of ToCa Race Driver 2 came out and I quickly began to dominate at the game. Within a week I was the #1 rated driver in the world and it wasn't that I was communicating with others but others with communicating with me. I hate to be rude so I had to answer all these questions from people. And slowly I began to feel comfortable with the practice I was getting.
Had I not been at the top of the leader boards I don't know if I would ever have willfully communicated. Gaining that practice was vital for who I am now. The practice I got was something that could not have been done in person because when I am in someone's direct view I am close, if not, overwhelmed by all the input from them. My mind will think more on all the small movements of the person and the attempt to figure out if that was a cue or not that I don't concentrate on what I should say. With the years of practice over the Xbox I know can communicate with words without thinking all that much.
From those early games I played I still have people on my friends list. I went through my list last night an realized something; I have actually regressed in my conversations online, in a way. In 2007 Xbox made it where a person can just talk within an Xbox Live party. Think of it as a conference call. It used to be you always had to be within the chat of the game, meaning if I am playing Halo I am only talking to people in that game, but then with the Xbox Live party I am only talking to people I already know so I might be playing Halo, but another person in the party might be on Uno.
I am very comfortable with my small group of people I know, but any time one of their friends come in I clam up and it is much like those first few weeks on Xbox. I haven't added a new friend found via a game since the Xbox Live party system. It's made conversing too comfortable and I don't want to leave that safety net.
Is it a bad thing that I don't venture out into the normal chat? I don't know. I have my friends so why would I want more? I never had had a need for a high number, also, who wants to be screamed at all day by sore losers? On the other hand, I have that same anxiety I used to have with new settings and people.
What I have learned from this current situation is that it is very difficult for me to leave that area of comfort. If there is no motivation I will stay where I am at. Back when I got to the top of the boards so many people talked to me that I had to answer. If I didn't answer, people may have got mad at me and perhaps wreck me for being mean to them by not talking.
Once again I am comfortable and am happy with the people I know. I can't convince myself that I should talk to new people. New is unknown. New is a mystery. I can't judge if it will go well, of if it will hurt. I am happy with where I am at as it is safe and predictable. New people are a mystery, and the unknown is scary.