I?ll tell you WHY you should and then HOW you can do it!
I am almost a lifelong gamer myself, having started my ?career? as a gamer on a C64. Yep, that?s ancient. I did quit gaming a while back and my life has been envigorated in a way I would never have thought possible before. Gaming in itself doesn?t have to be an addiction, but just like alcohol or cigarettes, it can be. Let me tell you why gaming can be detrimental to your life and why you should quit or at least massively cut back on it.
Gaming won?t turn you into a serial killer overnight, nor will it trigger you into a spasming mess of a human being. Unless of course, you?re already prone to go down that route anyways. Gaming is just a trigger like anything else can be, for people that are easily influenced. Not the games are the problem, the mindset/mental health of each and every individual potentially is.
Some people can eat tons of junk food without gaining weight, others will gain 10 pounds just by noticing the golden arches through the windshield. Some people might get triggered into being aggressive by videogames, some won?t. Same thing. But the people that do get triggered into violent behaviour by videogames, can and will be triggered by other things as well.
I wrote an article about the real dangers of videogames here, you might want to check it out.
The real danger of videogames is the time they steal from you, where you could have been doing something more productive, worthwile or beneficial.
So here the most important downsides to gaming:
- lack of exercise
- lots of time lost with no real gain/benefit that can even lead to social isolation
- it costs a lot money, if you?re properly addicted
- the quality of games is generally declining, as they become more and more like an online-shop to sell you add-ons and DLC
- lost potential
Game Over man, Game Over! Photo by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash
The time you spend on videogames is lost. But not only that time, potential too. Your potential. What could you achieve if you invested your time more conciously?
But, aren?t there some positives about gaming?
Sure there are. If you need to unwind and just have a good time, gaming is a good way to do so. If you spend your time netflixing or playing video games, there isn?t much of a difference. The problem comes when you overdo it, when you?re addicted and don?t do much else.
But, in moderation, gaming can be boosting your creativity, calm you down and relax you. Gaming can also be a good training for your reflexes and hand-eye-coordination. ?Smart games? like strategy and puzzle games are also a good training for your brain. So not all is bad, quite the contrary even.
Playing 6 hours of Fortnite each night won?t do you any good.
The benefits of playing videogames summarized:
- trains your brain
- at least it?s not alcoholism
- trains your reflexes and hand-eye-coordination
- may improve memory
- may improve creativity
- may release aggressions
Gamergirls. The unicorns of nerd culture. Photo by Nicolas Gras on Unsplash
What, if not gaming, should you spend your time on?
See, the thing with gaming is, that you have to invest money, time and possibly health (if you don?t get enough exercise or sleep because of your habits) and you get nothing in return but fleeting entertainment. Not everyone is a big name streamer earning a living by gaming. Most of us aren?t.
The best possible combination would be something that relaxes you, gives you a feeling of accomplishment and helps you develop new skills. Something productive.
For example sports. Yes this is an old hat, but imagine, what you could achieve, with a fitness routine instead of gaming sessions. 3 hours a day doing workout? You?ll be ?The Rock? in a year?s time!
Music is all about expression and passion. Why not finally learn that instrument you always dreamed of being able to play? Imagine those 3 hours a day (only on weekdays) for over a year. That?s ca. 780 hours. 32 days of pure practice can get you from absolute beginner to enthusiastic amateur in a year?s time. That?s a solid foundation for more!
And of course, what about writing? Painting? Crafting? There are so many things you might not even have had the chance to discover your passion for yet. I picked up archery and within 6 months got quite adequate at it. Now I am upgrading my bow to a higher draw weight and keep practicing. Link may be able to fire his bow with deadly accuracy by the push of a button, but now I am on my way too ? for real.
It?s important to understand why most of us play videogames. Sure, to wind down, relax or even to compete. But everything considered, it?s a substitute for all the adventures and accomplishments we lack in our real life.
Why not change that? Why not work on a personal goal, the same way you?d work on that elusive platinum trophy?
We?re starved for adventure. Why wait? Photo by Wojciech Then on Unsplash
Don?t trade playing videogames for watching TV. That?s a bad deal. Trade playing videogames for something you can get better at. So the time spent, will be well invested, instead of lost. After a while, you?ll see several improvements in self confidence, health or even in your financial situation, depending on what you did choose to spend your time on.
If you?re a crackshot in CS:Go, great. If you have the best armor in World of Warcraft, awesome. Congratulations. Only it?s meaningless in the real world. I?ll tip my head to everyone that learned something new within a year though.
Here?s a compact list of worthwile alternatives to playing videogames
- play social table top games instead with real friends within the same room
- learn to play an instrument
- write (poetry, journals, short stories, really anything)
- paint and draw
- sports (fitness, archery, team sports, ?)
- renovate your house or learn how to craft
- repair your car
- play with your children
- reading is never wrong (also read nonfiction)
Also, don?t forget, if you spend your time on improving your health or learning a new skill, that might be relevant for your work, in the long run it may improve your overall quality of life and job options.
Videogames usually can?t do that for you.
Ever tried what you?ve done a million times in Skyrim in real life? It?s a blast! Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash
OK, I made my mind up, I want to quit ? but how?
Go cold turkey
Bland and simple, hard to do, but effective once you stick to it. I am one of those ?threshold-guys?. I need to reach that threshold and then suddenly I change my mind. Happens to me in relationships (for better or worse), in life and also in gaming. For this method to work, you have to realize on your own terms, that you maybe playing too many hours, that it is all too much and most games are all the same cashgrabs anyways. Focus on these aspects and then just stop playing videogames.
Sell your consoles. Sell the graphics card of your PC so you can?t play anything else than minecraft anymore. Just stop. Stick with it. Go through withdrawal. Once you?re not allowing yourself to play videogames, your brain will think of other things to do. Follow your instincts and you might just discover a more productive and healthy pastime.
Shift your interests
You can also try to go about this starting from the other side. Try to find something that?s more captivating than gaming. Get lost in some good books or just start with a workout routine and let the first results motivate you further. Pick something that you might like and focus your whole attention on it, it eventually will become more important than gaming automatically. This effect is very common when people finish their time at college and get a job, a girlfriend or kids ? the priorities in life just shift, so does the attention and interest in playing videogames is lost. Try to artificially get into this position. It can work, but might take a while. Take your time, just don?t get back to your old habits again.
Keep yourself busy
Focus on your work, your girlfriend, your family. Repair things around the house or your car. Try to actively not think about videogames, by thinking about everything else. Avoid videogame websites. Don?t binge on Youtube. This is very similar to the ?shift your interests method? but the difference is, that you don?t actively seek new and interesting things to do, but keep yourself busy with what you already have in your life. The goal is to not get so bored as to think about playing videogames. If you get bored, be creative! Boredom can be a great source for creativity.
I got an article on that subject right over here.
The simple 1:2 rule
If you can?t stop and nothing else helps, this will. It?s all about balance really and everything done in excess, can and will be harmful. It actually is a rule, that my parents made up, to regulate the time I spend on my Super Nintendo.
For every hour I played videogames, I had to spend 2 hours doing something else, preferably play outside. In addition, playing videogames never was first. So I knew, if I wanted to play 1 hour before bed, I had to be outside at least 2 hours. The clever side-effect was, that most of the time I kept playing outside for several hours and when I came back in, I simply was too tired to play on my Super Nintendo anymore. Smart parents ? remember those?
There?s nothing wrong with applying this ?kids-rule? (or something similar) to your own life. If you can?t, or don?t want to quit playing videogames, this simple rule will at least prevent you from spending all of your time in front of the screen. Moderation is key.
Play your life instead (but please not like GTA)
So if you?re a hardcore, competivie gamer, what about a little challenge? I challenge you, to get the platinum trophy in your life.
Think about the things you?d want to have or change in your life. Now make a list. Break the bigger goals down in achievable milestones. Write everything down and distribute pictures of Playstation?s trophies according to the difficulty of your set goals and milestones.
Losing 5 pounds might be a bronze trophy. Getting back into contact with your estranged father could be silver. Getting into that college course a gold one and your ultimate goal, maybe having a family or writing that book, could be the platinum trophy.
Now go and grind yourself to success, check your trophy list each and every day. Play your life, hard. Like you would play a videogame. This might sound unorthodox, but hey, you?re a geek, a gamer and a nerd.
You need no ones permission to get through life your way.
Trust me, from personal experience, this is way funnier than it sounds and will fill you with satisfying confidence, once you achieve the harder trophies that you set for yourself.
The videogame industry is as big as never before and dwarves even Hollywood. Videogames are made to be addictive and will consume your time in excess, if you?re not careful. While it is possible, to see some benefits in playing videogames, these benefits can be gained by chasing other activities too. There are plenty of ?productive? alternatives to playing videogames.
The time we spend (on anything) is gone forever. Time and health are the two most important and valuable commodities we have in our lives, because they?re limited.
Money can always be earned. But time and health are gone, once they?re spent, so choose wisely, what you spend your time on.
Achieving a set goal in your life is so much more satisfying than getting the even most elusive platinum trophy.
Don?t consume, create!
Thank you so much for reading! This article is based on 30 years of personal experience and contains no affiliate links.
Addiction, is it you? Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash