The Introvert’s Guide to Joining a Party

This article was originally published in Area of Effect magazine in February 2018. A collection of those writings from the magazine have been collected in Area of Effect: Wisdom from Geek Culture, which we encourage you to pick up. Meanwhile, we hope you’ll read the article below, about Kirito (Sword Art Online) and introversion, which fits this week’s theme of loneliness we’re focused on heading into the Easter holiday.

Kirito is the ultimate introvert. Trapped in the world of Sword Art Online (SAO), an immersive game in which each player’s consciousness is transferred into an RPG world, Kirito chooses to go it alone. It’s a bold decision to make because in SAO, players are unable to log out and when they die in the game, they die in real life. Most players decide to band together into parties for survival, but the naturally shy Kirito keeps to himself.

He’s also an elite gamer, so any players teaming with him are likely to slow him down. Early on, he helps a new player named Klein learn the basics of the game, but when the newbie explains that he’s part of a larger group, Kirito abandons him. It would be too difficult to survive, much less complete the game, while helping that many players. A short time later, Kirito participates in a group effort in which players pair up to defeat a common enemy. He fights alongside a strong player, Asuna, but leaves her immediately afterward, despite acknowledging her talent. At this point in the game, Kirito is still focused on his individual journey, and doesn’t even consider teaming with Asuna, despite how strong their tandem could be.

Though Kirito is strong, he isn’t arrogant. On the contrary, he’s trying to do the right thing and help as many people as possible. With his skill, defeating the game and releasing all the players from this purgatory is a real possibility, so why not continue to level up on his own, especially when it feels comfortable?

As an introvert, I feel similarly, especially in the workplace. I used to work for a very small government agency. At first, the only employees were a part-time administrative assistant and myself. I managed every project we did with full control: I could shape the process and product how I saw fit.. The control I had was comforting, and that was key for me.

There’s something greater on the horizon if we’re willing to open up, help others, and deny ourselves.

Kirito likes that sense of dominance, too, but he also understands what I later came to realize: there’s something better than having all the power in a situation. There are benefits to becoming part of a team.

I developed my own “party” at work, hiring new employees and taking on a more administrative role, delegating responsibilities to the new staff. It was difficult at first, not only because I still wanted to have my hands in every aspect of the agency, but because there was a learning curve for the new employees. They didn’t do as good a job as I did. They weren’t as efficient. They didn’t use the methods I thought were best.

But long ago I told myself that I would be a manager who prioritized my staff and in doing so, we would achieve our agency’s goals. Now I only had to put my beliefs into practice. It was not easy to let go, but I patiently guided my employees as best I could, and ultimately, they surpassed me as project managers. The staff did a better job than I did, not only because of their talents and commitment, but because we created an environment in which we valued each other’s opinions and understood that together, we could accomplish more than any of us could alone. It started with denying my impulses and really, just deciding to love them.

Kirito learns this same lesson. Although the party he initially joins ends in disaster, falling prey to a trap, Kirito doesn’t stay shell-shocked forever. He reconnects with Asuna later on and although the two are at odds at first, they come to care about one another and eventually “marry” in the context of the game. Kirito remains worried that he can’t save all those around him and especially Asuna, but he still teams with her, Klein, and others as they battle increasingly more complex foes. He has to put aside his worries, pride, and even rationale, and trust in those around him. As he does so, Kirito becomes stronger and stronger, and together his growing party—through Sword Art Online and later MMORPGs the group plays—accomplishes seemingly impossible tasks both within the games and in real life.

Kirito and I discovered that the safety of staying within ourselves and keeping a strong grip on our tasks can only take us so far. There’s something greater on the horizon if we’re willing to open up, help others, and deny ourselves. Loosening our grip on a situation doesn’t mean we’ll lose—instead, it might just lead to a victory we never could have otherwise achieved.

We encourage to pick up a copy of Area of Effect: Wisdom from Geek Culture, which contains similar writings to this about anime and all sorts of other nerdy topics. Also consider checking out The Mythmakers’ Guild, the place to go for aspiring writers!


8 thoughts on “The Introvert’s Guide to Joining a Party

  1. One of the things that I love about Japanese culture is the respect the people have for introversion!! It’s often easier to find strong introverted characters in anime than American cartoons because they don’t have the current Western obsession that “it’s never good to be alone.” Considering that many of the great Biblical characters went through periods of solitude and isolation and came out of it stronger, that obsession bothers me and feels really unfair. :/ I am also an introvert, and I used to be painfully shy!! I can totally relate to your paragraph here about realizing that staying within yourself can only take you so far! I figured that out, too, with God’s help, and feel that I am a much more sociable introvert today!! It’s healthy and important to be willing to expand your comfort zone throughout your life, as it’s really the only way to continue evolving as a Christian and a human being! And, as I’ve discovered, that mindset makes life much more fun!! This was a very interesting article! ^_^

    Going off on a bit of a tangent, this is just something that is meaningful to me, personally, but I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 12, which is a mild form of autism, and I love how I find strong female characters in anime who appear to be somewhere on the autism spectrum! Yes, characters like Tohru Honda of “Fruits Basket,” Sawako Kuronuma of “Kimi Ni Todoke,” Yotsuba of “Yotsuba&!,” Nanako of “Senryu Girl” and Osaka of “Azumanga Daioh” all have mannerisms and quirks that are highly suggestive of Asperger’s or high-functioning autism generally. I know that that was not intentional on the part of the writers, of course, but it’s such a joy to find those “accidentally autistic” fictional characters (Luna Lovegood of the Harry Potter franchise is a popular example), especially females, as girls and women on the spectrum are not portrayed very often in fiction. It’s kind of like the way this website is dedicated to finding Christian symbolism in anime! Such things may not have been intentional by the people who made them, but God was influencing their creation without them even being aware of it. I love that. ^_^

  2. As someone who learned a lot of social skills and how to form parties in World of Warcraft I can definitely relate to this. I was relatively shy as well, but my first guild, the Clan Imperial Guard, really helped me as a teenager develop into a more outwardly focused person. It can take practice on a smaller virtual scale to build up the people interaction skills and translate them into real life. It’s really hard to tell someone to just be more sociable when they don’t know how to relate to other people or strike up conversation or get to know people. In a video game you almost always have a shared goal and shared experiences, and you can be helpful to them because you might know how to help them improve and they can help you improve to both of your betterment. IRL it can seem more like a competition than a cooperative endeavor.

    1. That’s awesome insight. I’m not a gamer, but I have some some cooperative gaming online and I can totally see how it might teach you skills that you can apply IRL.

  3. I can relate to this. I haven’t had opportunity to play a lot of cooperative video games, but I have found that it is easier for me to relate to people at work since we have a shared purpose.

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