Let’s Plays Saved My Life




Thoughts of Suicide.

Religious Apostasy.

By: Joshua Francom (@Frakbox)

In an episode of the Game Grumps, Dan Avidan said something to the effect of, “There are people out there that not only want to help, but are trained to help.” This was in reference to mental illness. That statement planted a seed, and after years of mulling it over, it resulted in my own search for help.

Around the end of 2018, I was in therapy for a short time. This led me to be curious enough to look through my old journals from 2011 to 2015. Largely, the conclusion of that reading was that many of the thoughts I’d preserved weren’t worth preserving. I don’t recommend reading your own triggering autobiography without the aid of professionals to lean on.

In my previous drafts for this article, I’d waxed on for nine paragraphs about my many troubles during that time. I came to realize informing you of these experiences are ultimately not useful to the main point of this article. Suffice it to say, my troubles could be boiled down to: loss of multiple social groups, being the victim of spousal abuse, and a tumultuous apostasy from the Mormon church.

These were times of suffering through beer-showers and thoughts of suicide. I spent countless hours sitting in bars doing nothing on a daily basis. Honestly, one of the main reasons this article wasn’t finished sooner was the mistake of writing so much about it in earlier drafts. It opened up the flood gates and I wasn’t OK for the next few days. Eventually I shelved the project and it took me months to come back.

Arin (left) and Dan (right).

During that time in 2013, I started regularly watching let’s plays from various content creators, most notably: the Game Grumps. Jon Jafari had left during this time, and had been replaced by Dan Avidan. In my opinion, this is when the show went from just being about big laughs, to a more substantive affair. They were comedians, yes, but it was like sitting down and laughing with two hilarious friends. The friendship they had was growing, but also real. The new era of Game Grumps seemed to be a time of growth. There were obviously big laughs as well, It was more about them as people, and not solely about acting as hyperbolic as possible.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t miss Jon Jafari staring on the Game Grumps. I still regularly watched his videos on the JonTron channel he uploaded to (until his affiliation with the alt-right ruined his career). My needs were changing. When the Internet cried at his leaving, I mourned with them too.

That being said, I never felt that Danny needed to prove himself. Dan was the new guy, that’s how shows work. We were lucky they didn’t cancel the whole show and move on to other projects. Frankly, I enjoyed getting to know Dan. He was growing, and his growth was an important part of my own growth.

Slowly, I began coming home after work occasionally to watch let’s plays on YouTube instead of going to the bar. I’d still drink at home, and was still utterly alone, but at least I had a slightly healthier coping mechanism. I had something else to do instead of pay too much money to drink alone at a bar.

Watching genuine interactions between friends gave me the skills I needed to get my life together. I had watched other let’s players do their thing, but I was never that interested in a one-man-show. When in a time of great stress, I could turn on my laptop or Xbox and binge. I needed that relationship emulation. Most learn these skills over years of adolescence, but for others, they need refreshing after traumatic events. After a year of being disrespected and abused, it was instrumental in putting my behavior on the right track. It was possible for friends to rib on each other respectfully, to disagree and not hate each other, and to laugh one moment and be serious the next.

Yes, there were fart jokes, but you have to crawl before you can walk. I was an adult, still capable of reason. Most of my problem was that I was afraid of interacting with people because I was conditioned to be afraid of messing up due to my trauma. I had been conditioned to never mess up or bad things would happen.

It wasn’t as though I was hopeless, but I didn’t know what things were socially acceptable anymore, so I had to watch and learn. I’d been paralyzed in fear of making a faux pax. Someone just needed to hit the reset button on my NES, blow into the cartridge, and stick it back in.

This is why I do let’s plays now. I don’t watch many let’s plays anymore, and I rarely watch the Game Grumps due to shifting interests. I just hope that someday, someone, in a situation similar to my own, can use my videos to improve their lives. If I knew one person were positively affected in the same way the Game Grumps helped me, then I would be overjoyed. “Overjoyed” would be an understatement. However, there would also be a great sadness; I know how painful your life had to be for my experiences to be that helpful to you.

That last sentence was another one which made me leave this project for a few days.

Thank you, Dan. Thank you, Arin. You both helped me just by being yourselves. Don’t be afraid of moving on to new ventures.

Dan, I was a dinosaur kid too. Stegosauruses rock, but my heart belongs to iguanodon.

Arin and Dan on the set of their show: 10 Minute Power Hour