GTA 5 Helped Me Get Over My Fear Of Driving

Grand Theft Auto 5 changed gears in a huge way for the series – it offered a first-person perspective that you could switch to on the fly. Rather than hovering about behind characters as though you’re piloting a drone, you can see the world through their eyes. It’s not a 1:1 in terms of accuracy, but it’s far more fluid and realistic than third person, and it’s more than just a neat option to have. It’s also used to practice driving, giving it a real-world application. But for me, it was helpful for overcoming my fear of driving, not for learning how.

I’ve not always been terrified of getting into a car. It’s something that came about when I was 14. We were on a typical school run, taking a left out of our drive onto the countryside road as we always did. But it was a chilly winter morning with black ice coating the narrow, one-way road. We quickly lost control of the car, swerving around before hitting a tree head-on. I was knocked out and woke up to my brothers screaming in the back while my mam’s head was practically through the window. It was a scarring experience, and made getting into cars terrifying.

Then I found a release in GTA 5. The first-person perspective felt realistic enough that it would make me uneasy. Driving cars in-game gave me the same emotional response as getting into an actual car, and that clicked something for me. Often, I’d drive around normally, obeying traffic laws, doing the usual ‘bored while playing GTA’ shtick. It helped me come to terms with simply being in a car doing everyday things. I’d practice with the mundane so that I could get used to it again.

At any moment, I could flick to another camera perspective or turn it off. I wasn’t stuck in that scenario until it was over – I was completely in charge. It was exposure therapy in its own way. I was confronting a phobia by dealing with it directly on my own terms. For some, that’s sitting in a room with a spider, standing on a balcony, or just going underwater for a few seconds. For me, it was booting up GTA 5 and going for a spin.

I took it to a slightly morbid level, though. After getting comfortable with being in a car, driving around, doing the monotonous, I’d start to drive frantically, speeding, going into the wrong lane, or hurling myself off cliffs. I’d begin to crash purposefully to try and desensitize myself from that fear. It was far more extreme than what I’d been doing and it made me unbelievably uneasy at first. But after a while, those panic attacks got less and less intense until they stopped entirely.

Getting used to the crashing in GTA 5 meant that any typical driving was a cakewalk. You can't exactly confront a phobia like that in real life, so the game was a virtual vehicle for confronting an impossible-to-replicate fear. Sure, crashing would still be a horrendous thing to go through, but the fear of it happening again has lessened.

Gaming is the perfect outlet for exposure therapy. Immersive titles can let you confront your phobias and defeat them head-on. It’s a little less daunting than actually going out and doing what you’re scared of in the real world where control is stripped from you, and now with VR’s growing realism, there’s a whole new level of depth to play with. Video games are far more than fun pastimes – they can offer a whole host of tangible, real-world benefits, and I’m just glad they let me get over my anxiety of something that’s almost a necessity.

Source: Read Full Article