While it has long been suspected that video games can cause problems in a person’s life if they play them for too long, too often, more recent research confirms that video games do have an impact. There are things, however, that a person can do to reduce the impact of video game playing and reduce the likelihood of video game addiction seriously impacting a person’s life.
What to Do to Better Cope with Video Game Addiction
If you feel like you can’t part from your favorite video game or have run up huge gaming WoW bills unexpectedly, don’t worry, there are some steps you can take to bring your relationship with video games back down to earth.
1. Track your video game use. Yes, it’s a pain to do, but the more you keep track of the time you spend playing video games, the better you’ll be able to control it. Jot down in a notepad when you start and stop game play. Keep the journal for a week’s time, then review the amounts of time you’re spending on each game, or if it’s just one game, the activities that keep you in-game for so long.
2. Start the weaning. Now that you know you’re spending 20 hours a week on game play, it’s time to start cutting back. Take it slow and start with the least important game or activity in a game. Commit to reducing the time spent on that game or activity just 10% the first week. So if you’re spending 10 hours a week on planning for battles, aim for 9 hours the next week. That means being more conscious each time you’re in-game doing that activity, and trying to cut things short sooner rather than later.
3. Commit to being in the moment. One of the reasons people enjoy playing video games as much as they do is because it is very rewarding and often, fun. Most modern video games also offer a level of social interactivity with other players in the game, which is also rewarding. The key here is to prioritize what’s important in your life. If it’s more important for you to spend time with your online friends that your IRL friends or significant other, that’s your choice. But don’t expect your significant other to still be there when you decide you have time for him or her. It is a choice you make every time you pick up the control or sit at the keyboard, and it is one you have to become more conscious of in order to change that choice to one that can accommodate both in your life. Living life in the moment means, first of all, to live life outside of a screen.
4. You don’t need that kind of connection. So many people spend so much time online or in playing video games because they believe it is a necessary part of their connections with others, or with their ability to move forward in the game. For what purpose? If you need such hyperactive connectivity, that suggests something isn’t entirely healthy with some of those relationships to begin with. Or that the game was designed to only reward spending massive amounts of time playing it. Great for the game developers or publishers, who are enjoying your money. Not so great for you. While it’s fun for a time, it’s not going to lead to a higher-quality relationship or a better, more enjoyable life (especially if it’s creating anxiety and problems in your existing life).
5. Turn it off. Yes, that’s right. Turn it off. There’s no easier way to deal with video game addiction than to simply turn off the console or the computer and go out and do something different. By turning it off, you’re taking back conscious control of your life and this little piece of technology. Instead of it calling to you, you’re telling it, “Hey, I’ve had enough for one day. Seeya in the morning.” Set a deadline every evening for a time to retire game playing, and then don’t check or play it again until the next morning.
6. Technology works for us, not the other way around. If technology is taking control of your life — creating stress, anxiety, arguments with other people in your life, or financial hardships — then you have a backwards relationship with technology. Technology — including video games — works for us. If it’s not working for you, you’re chosen to be on the losing side of the relationship, and it’s time to put a stake in the ground and take responsibility and control for your use of the technology. Set aside specific times of the day or evening you will play your favorite video game, for instance, rather than doing so every spare moment you get. Instead of playing video games being the default thing you do, change the default to “living my life.”
Video game addiction doesn’t have to ruin your life, your work, or your relationships with others. If these tips still don’t help, it might be a sign that your video game addiction is more of an issue in your life than you realized. A psychotherapist who has experience in treating addictions can often help in such a case, and it is a treatment you should explore if you can’t reduce video game playing on your own.