Ask LH: How Can I Beat My Video Game Addiction?

Ask LH: How Can I Beat My Video Game Addiction?

Dear Lifehacker, Like many people I’ve found it hard to put down an addictive game on occasion, but recently it has become more of a problem. Gaming obsessively until late at night and on weekends has negatively impacted my work and social life, to the point where I feel I need to do something about it. How can I battle my gaming addiction? Thanks, Clementtee

Gamer image via Shutterstock

Dear Clementtee,

Video game addiction is an increasingly well-documented problem, often compared to compulsive gambling in its nature. Detox centers are popping up around the world to help the most dependent video game addicts — who are largely young men and boys. A man in Russia even sued Bethesda late last year, claiming that the addictive nature of Fallout 4 caused him to lose both his wife and his job.

The Center for On-Line Addiction lists the following warning signs for video game addiction, among others.

• Playing for increasing amounts of time • Thinking about gaming during other activities • Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression • Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming • Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming

Treatment for video game addiction tends to mirror that of more well-known cases of addiction, although with game-ready technology as prevalent as it is today, it can be far more difficult to go cold-turkey. This means that gaming addicts need to learn to use computers responsibly — which includes not booting up any games, at least until you break your dependence on them.

For those looking merely to cut down on their gaming hours instead of cutting it out completely, there are a few simple steps you can take. If a particular game is proving problematic for you, try deleting it off your computer or device. If it’s a console game, lend the disk to a friend. You can always re-install it, but this means that next time you go to open the game file, you’ll have to go through the long process of downloading before you get your instant gratification.

When setting limits on yourself for the night, make them time rather than goal-based. So instead of saying you’ll turn the game off once you complete this next quest, promise to turn the game off after half an hour. You never know how long a quest could stretch out to be, after all, and if you’re getting drawn into the story you could very well end up playing for another few hours. If you need help with this, try automating your computer to shut down or log you out at a certain time in the evening.

If you still want to experience the fun of gaming but don’t want to let it consume your life, try making gaming into a social activity. Only break the game out when you’ve got friends over to play with you — that way you can enjoy it together, and you’re limited in your play time by another person’s schedule.

For more on video game addiction, watch this video in which Addictions Specialist Paul Hokemeyer outlines what it is, and what you can do to combat it.

If you feel like you have a serious problem that is negatively impacting your life, the best thing to do is to seek professional advice.

Cheers, Lifehacker

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  • also, evaluate what is going on in your life and your emotional health.
    if its becuase you are stressed, anxious, depressed or trying to escape awkward situations. then its better to focus on fixing those issues and the gaming will probably sort itself out.

    even calling a hotline or seeing a counselor might be a good way to address the gaming addiction. there may be something underlying that you arent even aware of.

    personally, i spent years escaping from emotions that i didnt even realise i was feeling, i had gotten so good at surpressing and escaping i was numb to my emotional health. once you go to a counselor for a good amount of times and see why it is you do the things you do or react the way you do, your self awareness improves 10 fold making it easier to manage yourself in the future.

  • I knocked my coffee on to my computer by accident, couldnt afford to replace it for a while.
    That put a stop to my gaming pretty quick, I only had a laptop after that which could only handle web browsing at best.
    Now im trying to do the opposite of this article and increase my gaming, I get super bored of most games after about 20min now

    • I usually have the same problem, I play a game for a little while and then get bored of it, and never finish any games at all. And now that I have a child, I think I might have played video games once in the last 6 months, so I guess having a child might help beat video game addiction ? no, if you are addicted to video games don’t have a child.

  • If you need to use a computer to work, then game addiction becomes similar to an eating disorder: quitting outright is not a solution.

    Removing games from your home environment is similar to removing “comfort foods” that trigger a binge. Setting time limits is like counting calories (or whatever) when you diet.

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