A gamer who left his home fewer than 10 times in seven years explains how he’s now helping other young people break away from a life of isolation.
“Years and years were just spent sitting at my computer,” says Billy Brown.
“I would only go outside for doctor’s appointments or dentist’s appointments.
“I would never go outside to socialise or interact with other people. My entire existence was online.”
In what was a difficult childhood, Mr Brown was taken into care repeatedly during his mother’s hospital stays for her mental and physical health problems.
His attendance during his GCSEs was 13% but it was the stress of starting A-levels at college, coupled with breaking his ankle, that caused him to withdraw from the outside world completely.
Mr Brown, now 24, dropped out of college and spent the following years at home – gaming, in chat rooms and reading about politics.
He became almost entirely immersed in an online world of “echo chambers” where he felt the pull of extremism and cybercrime.
Mr Brown, from Ashton, Cornwall, says he became increasingly “eccentric” and eventually lost touch with reality.
“I can count the number of times I went out in a seven-year period on both of my hands,” he says.
“I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was only taking care of my mother.
“There were times when I was suicidal. It really took its toll on me.
“I wasn’t sure why I was alive, why I was here… I realised if I didn’t do something I wouldn’t be here in a year or two years.”
He finally decided to seek help and ended up taking part in the Real Ideas Organisation’s (RIO) Game Changer programme, which aims to encourage young people to develop skills and overcome any issues they face before getting them into work, education or training.
Now, just 14 months after stepping outside for the first time in years, Mr Brown has come up with his own way of helping people like him to improve their lives – through tabletop gaming.
His board game, which he also hopes to develop into an app, aims to help young people build on their social skills and overcome any issues they face.