Last week I returned from my second trip to E3. It’s an event that I have dreamt of going to for over 20 years, and due to the incredible kindness of someone I had never even met before (you know who you are), I was given the opportunity to make that dream come true. As someone who has closely followed the video game industry for many years, one of the biggest thrills while there has been seeing many game developers, journalists, podcasters, and other industry folks whom I’ve admired and respected. Unfortunately I’ve never actually met most of those people who I saw at the show because I never worked up the courage to walk up and introduce myself.
You see, I have a pretty decent case of social anxiety. It’s not something that rears it’s head all of the time, and it’s not what I would classify as a severe case, but it’s bad enough that when it does happen it prevents me from doing a lot of things. It’s something that I think I’ve struggled with my entire life even though I was really only able to put my finger on what it was over the last couple of years. I’ve always known that I was “shy” and that I usually avoided most social gatherings (weddings, parties) like it was the plague, but I don’t think it was until Mega Dads started growing that I began to connect the dots and pinpoint that it was anxiety that was at the root of it all.
One of the big things about going to E3 is obviously getting to play a bunch of games and writing about them for the website, but the other perk is that the convention can be great for networking. Meeting other people in the industry and making connections could not only be a lot of fun, but also helpful in trying to grow Mega Dads as a platform. Unfortunately, when the mere thought of introducing myself to a Jeff Cannata or Jessica Chobot makes me break into a sweat, I feel like I’m letting one of the greatest aspects of this experience pass me by, and I hate it. It’s not something that I can just chalk up to being star struck either, I saw multiple local podcasters and Twitch streamers on my flights to and from Los Angeles and I couldn’t get up the nerve to approach them either.
To someone who doesn’t struggle with this it probably sounds silly. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve passed in the hallways, or stood in line with and thought to myself “Do it. Go say hi. Introduce yourself.” only to watch them walk away. Even people with whom I’ve communicated with via email for various features on the site, so I know they’d be friendly and happy to meet me, but it doesn’t matter. I just can’t bring myself to do it. What the hell is wrong with me?
Part of it is probably a bit of imposter syndrome. Even though this was our second trip to E3, I’ve always had this feeling in the back of my mind that someone is going to find out that we’re not that big of a deal and that we don’t really belong there. Part of it might also be the fear of rejection. Even though almost everybody whom I’ve met in the industry has been remarkably kind and welcoming, you never know when you’ll come across that one who turns out to be colossal dickbag and tells you to go away. Mostly though I think it’s just something that cannot be explained. There’s no rational behind it, it’s just something that…. is.
Like I said, I think this year I was a little bit better. I managed to introduce myself to Cory Barlog and I requested a high five from Marissa Roberto, but these were baby steps. For every one of those success stories there is an Austin Walker who I let walk by me on the way to the media lounge, or a PR person who I didn’t thank for getting us an appointment with a game because I didn’t want to interrupt her. It’s something that I think I’ll always struggle with, but hopefully each and every year I can push myself to be a little bit more vulnerable and put myself out there.
This isn’t something that I’ve ever really spoken about to anybody, and I wasn’t even sure if there was any point to writing this, but both during and after E3 I’ve spoken to or read posts from several other people who have opened up about the social anxiety that they themselves struggle with during the show. People who are both fresh faces to this world like myself and successful industry veterans who I would never would have suspected struggled with the same issues that I do.
So I guess I’m writing this not so much in the hopes that I myself will get something directly from it, but to add a voice to the many who are dealing with the same type of issue, and to hopefully let some other guy or gal out there who was scared shitless to introduce themselves at E3 know… you’re not the only one feeling this way. It’s okay not to force yourself into a situation you’re not comfortable with, you can do as much or as little as you’re ready for. There are a lot of us in the same boat, and if we know that we’re not alone maybe we can start taking a few tiny steps forward together.