By Gerald McLean

I use it to unwind, switch off. I go through a sort of ritual, these are my game socks, when I put them on, I’m in the zone”.

This is the first in a set of images depicting the intensity of the dedicated gamer. Here Nathaniel’s concentration is fully focused on the task at hand. Wearing his luck gaming socks he is transported from his social issues into a personal space in which he has a greater measure of control of the end outcome of his efforts. The mobile (phone) device, which is so prevalent in the life of most members of a technological industrial society, is for these moments placed on mute and to one side (on the left-hand arm-rest of the chair. The room dissolves into a state of surrealism in the blue background. Yet he is not cut-off from all. He keeps in close contact with his team players via the real-time headset that incorporates a state of the art background noise-cancelling microphone. It is through the use of this interpersonal communication device that he is able to play against and with anyone he choices to in any part of the world. It is through this device he makes international deeply personal, yet autonomous friendships with others who he may never meet, and with whom he shares the most intimate fact of his life. Thus these gamers become confidants, counselors and keepers of each other’s thoughts and secrets, in their moment of Intensity.

The anxieties we all experience in life are relative to the individual and normally unseen. Game consoles allow users to escape and communicate during online multi-player games. Gamers use this facility to talk on a number of subjects…

Q.   So how many hours do you devote to gaming on an average week?

A.  “Not that much, although I have an understanding girlfriend, I have a dog that needs walking several times a day and a full time job, so I spend about 3 evenings a week on it and about 6 hours at the weekend. About 16 hours in all I think. That is unless a new game has just come out. I’ve taken a week off work before to play ‘Call of Duty’ when it first came out, but that was when I was younger and didn’t have the dog, I don’t think I’d do that now.”

Q.  What’s your job?

A.  “I work for a builder in London, I suppose, I’m kind-a like-a PA, but only for his business. I make sure everyone in the office has what they need to do their work, that he gets to, and is where he’s suppose to be, and sometimes attend meetings for him. So, it’s not purely office based and I have to think on my feet a lot.”

Q.  What do you talk about when you use the headset, do you always play with the same team?

A.  “No; it depends on who’s online at the time. Sometimes a group of us make plans to be online at a set time, but often that changes, or someone drops out. When your in a relationship, your times not always your own. Or, if the dog needs walking, it’s easier, cleaner and quicker to take him for a walk, if he needs to go.”

Q.  What do you talk about online?

A.  “Everything and nothing. Often it’s about the mission we’re on; sometimes, if it’s someone I’ve spoken with before, or there’s just a couple of us, we’ll talk about things that might be bothering us.”

Q.  What; personal things?

A.  “Sometimes.”

Nathaniel seems a bit uneasy, maybe I have touched a nerve, pressed him too hard on the point, so I end the interview. Then, once the recording stops, he tells me. One of his friends who he regularly kept in contact with online went missing for a few days, which was unlike him. Finally, he was found. He had hung himself from a tree; he was there for two days. No one picked up the signs. Sometimes, online friends are not enough.

According to figures released by the organization ‘Samaritans’, “In 2014, 6,122 suicides were registered in the UK. This corresponds to a suicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people (16.8 per 100,000 for men and 5.2 per 100,000 for women).” A study by BMJ (British Medical Journal) concluded that factors associated with an increased risk of suicide in young people were; unemployment, low income, poor schooling, and divorce, as well as mental illness in siblings. The strongest risk factor was mental illness and a family history of suicide.

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