Addiction is never a good thing, but misinformation and counterproductive preconceptions surround debate on video game addiction. Even some of the most dedicated sites, such as Video Game Addiction.org, get caught up in misleading gender stereotypes. Balancing information from the alarmist watchdog organizations with information promoted by the gaming industry itself, like the Entertainment Software Association, remains the best strategy to get a handle on how to deal with vide game addiction, its consequences, and best practices.
“People of all ages play video games. There is no longer a ‘stereotype game player,’ but instead a game player could be your grandparent, your boss, or even your professor.”—Jason Allaire, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University
Here are six suggestions on how to kick the habit!
1. No sudden moves.
Taking away the object of addiction in the blink of an eye doesn’t work in today’s environment of information overflow. Video game addiction is psychological rather than chemical, so you can’t just stop and try to get over the withdrawal symptoms as with alcohol or nicotine, or some prescription drugs. It’s something that you need to gradually manage into a more reasonable level of consumption. Smokers trying to quit wean themselves off gradually with nicotine patches to avoid disastrous consequences at work, in relationships, and with their mental health. Physical substances can be taken away, but video games saturate our culture more than that. Even if afflicted people aren’t playing a game at the moment, they can still read about them online, watch videos, comment on video game websites, or just bring a portable gaming system with them when nobody is watching.
That’s why sudden and total withdrawal from this addiction simply won’t work. The severe separation will overwhelm the person and send him or her back into relapse. There are many strategies to use, but the best ones are the simplest ones.
2. Exercise often.
This is not a stereotypical joke about gamers—studies show that daily exercise improves our mental state by boosting endorphins (some people even exercise for that “runner’s high”). You don’t need to sign up for Goodlife Fitness, buy a Bowflex workout station, or invest yourself in an intensive ‘Spartan workout’ program. You just need to force yourself to exercise for 30-60 minutes a day. You can double-up on productivity too! Ride a stationary cycle while you read a book or watch TV; practice vocabulary in a new language while you walk around the neighbourhood or listen to an audio book, or try to catch the attention of the opposite sex while you walk your dog. It doesn’t have to be a big time drain. You can even do stretches, yoga, push-ups, or sit-ups while you watch TV or a film. If you own a Wii, play Wii Sports, or one of the numerous exercise games that Nintendo has marketed toward women who feel insecure about their body image.
3. Avoid temptation.
Don’t fight temptation—avoid it altogether! Recent research has shown that avoiding opportunities to give into temptation proves to be for more effective than resisting temptation while exposed to the opportunity to cave in. Make video games difficult to access. Unhook your console, put the cables in different rooms, task a friend with hiding the controller, and so on. Make sure that turning on a game is more trouble than it’s worth.
This gets tricky with computer games because most are bought digitally through Steam. If they’re right on the computer, how can you make video games inaccessible? Delete the data from your internal hard drive (just the installed files, not the files that contain saved progress!!) and reinstall the games on an external hard drive that can be hooked up to the computer and taken away at the drop of a hat. Giving over Steam account information to someone else is not a good solution; it contains delicate information related to credit cards, and you wouldn’t want the information getting misplaced, stolen, or somehow having your account deleted or purchases made without your consent.
4. Set appropriate rewards.
You need to set goals to curb any addiction. Effective plans break down goals into daily or weekly tasks, and meeting these goals implement modest rewards that scale with the size of the goals. Do not reward yourself with more gaming time for cutting back or eliminating exposure to video games! Self-rewards for exercise sessions and sticking to a diet in the form of food intake are known to cause relapse. With that in mind, you can absolutely not reward yourself with gaming time for cutting down on gaming time (or any other unrelated goal, for that matter).
Give yourself alternate rewards: buy yourself a book, go on a day trip with friends (theme parks are always good bets!), or go see a movie. On the other hand, you need to set appropriate punishments for yourself as well. Deny yourself dessert after dinner if you violate your restrictions.
5. Picture your future self.
Remind yourself why you’re fixing a video game addiction every day. Do it when you wake up, and maybe before going to bed if you’re feeling particularly weak-willed that evening. Feeling good about yourself helps to keep addictions in check, so you don’t want to feel down on your luck. You want to be successful, healthy, and happy.
6. Tap into the right motivation.
Getting rid of video game addiction requires a combination of rigid scheduling, avoiding temptation, and alternative avenues of fulfillment. Invest yourself more in your work environment to earn a raise or promotion. Exercise more frequently to meet modest, measurable, and timed goals for self-improvement. The motivation to succeed comes from the satisfaction of fulfillment and control. Make sure that you are in fact managing an addiction for the right reasons and conducting it in the right way. It isn’t easy, but it will be worth it. If all else fails, you could always try selling your games or gaming system for some quick cash! Nothing kicks the habit like lack of access to what is causing the problem.