Turns Out My Most Hot-Headed Overwatch Teammate Is A Therapist IRL

Photo: GooGag (Shutterstock)

I recently found out that the most hot-headed guy in my Overwatch crew - who throws the biggest fits whenever we lose - is actually a professional therapist.

Hearing him divulge this over Overwatch voice chat after only knowing him through his in-game persona, I couldn't help but laugh. We've shared in some jubilant win streaks, yes, but on our off days, his dark side takes over. "Team" chat becomes a chalkboard for his hate-filled invectives against teammates who don't pull their weight.

"All" chat is where he explains to opponents why their defensive strategy was utter bullshit. After a few losses, the happy, positive guy I bonded with over Overwatch's adorable octopus-turnip mascot becomes someone very, very angry.

For my buddy, whom we'll call TherapyGamer, being a therapist is more of a calling than a career. He's getting his doctorate right now and is always describing his duty to help his patients with an air of soldier-like commitment.

When his patients suffer whiplash mood swings, he recommends what he calls "grounding" exercises and mindfulness techniques. For him, when he plays Overwatch, all that goes out the window.

"Can I write a story about my tilted Overwatch friend who is also a therapist?" I asked TherapyGamer one night over Discord. "I'm game," he said. After starting up the call, I asked him to describe himself after a bad Overwatch game.

He considered for a moment. "If anyone on the opposite team starts to shit talk, I'm the first person to respond in kind," he said. "I'm not trying to harm anyone psychologically, but I have been known to get pretty pissed."

If someone refuses to switch Overwatch heroes, "I've been known to say something along the lines of, 'Stop being a bitch, stop throwing,'" he said, laughing.

From Overwatch.Screenshot: Blizzard Entertainment (YouTube)

The difference between my friend and the typical raging Overwatch player is that he knows the science behind his outbursts. "When your amygdala kicks in, it shuts down your frontal lobe, which censors what you say," he said. "When I start playing the game, if I start to get a little irritated, the filter comes off and the amygdala takes over."

Coincidentally, I recently saw another overlap of Overwatch and therapy. Last week, an Overwatch player wrote a viral Reddit post on the topic: "My wife is a therapist. After I kept complaining about Overwatch losses, she made me fill out this worksheet."

I sent the post to TherapyGamer, who explained that the worksheet is usually used to help treat people with Borderline Personality Disorder. In his words, BPD is marked by "mood instability, rapid shifts in temper - extreme, polar opposites."

Redditer SirBenny's Daily Mood Log.Image: SirBenny (Reddit)

The post went viral because, where someone who suffers from BPD would self-evaluate their negative thoughts inspired by an upsetting event, the OP wrote ones pertaining to "Bad loss in Overwatch."

Examples:"My teammates are hot garbage," "I should be higher than Silver," "Nobody played DPS or countered Pharah" and "I'm just gonna keep losing." Next to each thought, the OP described their rage-o-meter right after the event with the percentages, respectively, 80%, 75%, 70% and 90%.

Last night, TherapyGamer and I reviewed the worksheet point by point as he explained the history of BPD treatment. I asked him whether he thought it also applied to his mood swings in Overwatch.

"For 'My teammates are hot garbage,' that one kicks in from 0 to 100 fast," he said. "That can be as simple as going into team chat and typing, with a smiley face, 'Hey, can you all join voice so we can communicate?' If they don't, or tell me to fuck myself, that [meter] goes up very quickly even before the match starts."

Winston from Overwatch.Screenshot: Blizzard Entertainment (YouTube)

I wanted to understand why, despite knowing what triggered his "angry" trigger and going through years of training on how to handle it, TherapyGamer can get so darn mad while playing Overwatch. "I'm not using the skills I know," he said.

"Mindfulness is good at managing anger and anxiety. I'm not using that when I play this game. I'm not sitting here saying, 'Remember the grounding technique I teach my clients every week.'" My friend simply isn't trying to control his emotions when he plays, he says, because he games while alone and safely in his own home. "In that moment, I don't care that I get so worked up."

"It's not ok in society to start cursing and flipping people off. People will look at you like you're crazy and have problems. Gaming, for me, is private." The only reason to chill out, he said, would be if you were concerned about your teammates' social response.

"In social norms it's frowned upon to express anger IRL ... whereas social norms aren't as strong via a mic anonymously. There is really no 'consequence' for it. Most importantly though, I don't think this is a conscious process."

TherapyGamer's reasoning is that his mood swings are limited to Overwatch and don't hurt people in real life. There's no accountability. The worksheet for patients with BPD doesn't really apply to him, he said, because they don't impact his ability to function on the day-to-day.

That said, over the last few weeks, TherapyGamer has been noticeably chiller when we play. He says it's because he's coming out of a period of depression that made Overwatch's loss streaks feel like hell. From personal observation, it also appeared to happen after I started calling him out on his post-loss rampages.

Soldier 76 from Overwatch.Screenshot: Blizzard Entertainment (YouTube)

Still, what is it about an online game that makes it an ok place to rage when, in real life, a person might not have the same impulse? What is it about interacting over a mic that lowers the interpersonal stakes? TherapyGamer couldn't give me a direct answer.

But when I asked how he'd gotten into gaming, he recalled how his home life growing up was pretty unstable, making gaming "a way to escape and distance myself from reality." Call of Duty, World of Warcraft - these are places to be someone else, behave differently, take control.

Many people call gaming an "escape from reality," and they extend that to online gaming too, even though in that case there are real people on the end of the network connection. This is how even these games are marketed to us. They're not reality. And in online games, gamers play by different rules. What those rules are, though, depends on what kind of person you are.

My last question for TherapyGamer, before we signed off to play a bit more Overwatch, was what he'd tell a client who came into his office complaining about how tilted Overwatch makes them.

What it boils down to is this, he said: Therapy is about defining yourself as a person and living a value-driven life. "If a person is telling me they're ok being like that, then cool. We don't have that much to work on if it aligns with their values. If not, I'd try to figure out ways to mitigate it."


    Your team mate might be a therapist, but I think it's normal for him to lose his shit at a video game.

    Therapists offer incredible advice and can help us to better understand ourselves, our surroundings, people in our lives, how to identify what we truly value etc. Therapists can help us to overcome our problems and live better lives.

    But they're not perfect. They have their own problems too and quite frankly, it seems a lot of therapists can't quite take on their own advice. Seems like a running gag.

    At the end of the day, video games are a "escape" from reality. People play video games to have fun, to enjoy themselves, to unwind after a long day of work. The key word is "fun", it's what people want to have, but if you're playing a game with other human beings and your team keeps losing, or people on your team frequently make bad decisions (potentially leading you to losses), it ends up stressing you out, you're not having "fun" anymore and your time, which most people value, feels wasted because you're not winning and having fun. You don't have to win to have fun, but for some people, that's what it's like.

    I used to play Fortnite: Battle Royale, and I stopped playing that game because it was so stressful. I didn't feel like I was having fun. It made me anxious and it stressed me out. I would easily get annoyed at my team mates because a single wrong move can lead to your death and ultimately losing, and as we all know, that's a game where you've only got one life. My team mates were also similar, as in, they would get annoyed if our games were to go south. Long story short, we were supposed to be having fun, but we weren't, we were just getting angry and stressed out... uninstalled.

    I see online gaming as a 'public' space, so I wouldn't lose my shit verbally online any more than I would if I was physically in the room with the other people.

    Playing with no mic I might be yelling at the screen, but I don't bring it to the other players.

    I don't enjoy playing online when others are being abusive, it spoils the fun for me unfortunately.

    One of the reasons I stopped playing overwatch is that it made me feel like shit. No matter how well I did, golds on 3+ medals or whatever, id still feel like shit if we lost. I'd always feel like I was letting my team mates down even when I could see they were feeding or not playing the objective. I just had to stop playing competitive and I don't really want to play overwatch without the competitive aspect, so I gave up. I dont begrudge the money spent, i got a tonne of hours out of it, but I'm done now.

    I think your house mates problem would just subside if they were thinking of building a computer, they should read this.

    lol that guys couch has a face...

      haha that face when someone does loose their shit in front of you

    All I'm getting from this is "Man who has tertiary-grade education about how abuse can affect other people still freely abuses others, explains away his actions through any means necessary".

    The statement "TherapyGamer's reasoning is that his mood swings are limited to Overwatch and don't hurt people in real life. There's no accountability." is an absolute crock. People in real life are playing Overwatch. This "accountability" should be coming from himself in recognising his on poor behaviour and taking steps to reduce it i.e. trying to do i less often and if it does happen, admitting what he did was wrong and apologising. I can do this without any formal therapy education; he can do the same.

    I was in a similar position regarding cracking the sads whenever I lost - was maining as Dva for 2 seasons and always got so close to silver then slid back down again. The misso had enough of that and asked me if I was ok based on my behaviour after cracking the wobblies - this was where the line in the sand was made and had a good look at my actions.
    Made the switch to support and have never looked back - much more calm after a loss (channelling zen here) but I'm having fun again and still go to DPS/tank for a bit of fun. I also feel more in control on the success of the team based on being the best support as possible - leading to climbing the ranks.
    TL;DR - take control of your actions as much as possible and the enjoyment will come

    My personal experience has been that for many psychologists and therapists, the initial interest in studying for those careers has come from them looking to fix/diagnose their own issues.

    Sadly, this has meant that the people potentially least suited to these professions can sometimes be the ones most likely to be attracted to them.

    Interestingly, for what it's worth, I have found that counsellors and mediators are typically much better balanced, they just happen to have a voyeuristic interest in other people's problems.

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