Our generation has grown up in front of computer screens. It’s been one of the best and worst things that could’ve happened to us. It’s led to people making millions of dollars only by playing video games and people living in basements without any social life.
And if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance video games have played a significant part of your own life. I, for one, know they’ve played a big part in my life.
I used to spend days after days playing video games. As much as I loved it, I hated myself for it.
I struggled and questioned my own behavior so many times it’s not even funny.
This article is written for my 20-years old self that needed to read something that could answer all questions he had.
How do we get addicted
In order to understand how we can spend 14-hours sitting down, starring at a screen, we need to know how most computer games are developed.
All games are designed with one main goal, profit.
What leads to profit?
Making sure all your customers love your product. Making sure everyone that touches your product gets hooked immediately .
Most big companies hire psychologists and neuroscientists to make their games are as addictive as possible. And there’s plenty of ways to do so.
What happens in your brain during a game
Let’s see what’s happening in a simple game with level-based progression from a psychological perspective.
We have to complete challenges in order to progress further. With each challenge we gain a sense of improvement, we put effort into each level, we get better and when we are good enough, we reap the rewards.
With every mission we accomplish, we get more and more involved. The more effort we put into honing our skills, the more we feel like we’ve actually done something productive, that we’ve improved somehow.
Sooner or later we begin to feel as if we’ve built something that’s special. We start to identify with our favorite characters.
It feels like getting to be part of a big community and thus gain a sense of belonging to something meaningful, something bigger than ourselves. And this is one of the deepest human drives.
See, we’ve been hunting and gathering in groups since we’ve been living in caves.
The feeling of improving something and being a part of a tribe is what we all crave. And here we have it all, every day and as much as we want to.
And the bonus?
You don’t even need to get out of your bedroom.
To spice things up even more, most people who spend days after days gaming have problems socializing. They often don’t feel understood or as if the problem is within the society, and not with them.
Oftentimes they associate with individuals who think alike because it makes them feel better about themselves.
How do we let an addiction take over
I used to be a kid with low self-esteem and sitting at home, winning against my friends was my way of feeling special and actually good at something.
Everything that I lacked in the real world, I had in the virtual one.
At 14, I began living on my own and there was no one to stop me from playing as much as I wanted to. It was the best and the worst thing that could happen to a 14 years old boy.
As you might guess, this was the beginning of what I found later to be an addiction.
At 20, I moved to Germany to study at university and at times I felt quite lonely.
I tried to cure myself with countless hours behind my computer and as one might guess, it didn’t make me feel any better.
However, it is also how I let my addiction take over.
You can’t imagine how many times I deleted all games from the PC only to download them again a few days later. I simply didn’t know what to do with my own free time.
And until I stopped listening to my own bullshit and realized that every time I had to go through a difficult situation in life, I didn’t need a video game as a distraction, only then could I change my situation.
Before I became aware that gaming for me was nothing but an escape route from doing the important things and actually facing the real world, I couldn’t even understand that I had a problem.
I was having fun trying to forget that my life actually sucks. Fear is powerful.
How do you know if you’re addicted?
A well-known fact is that all addicts don’t realize they’re actually addicted. That’s why I came up with a few questions to help you understand if you’re one.
- How many hours have you spent playing video games last week?
- How many days in a row have you spent playing video games during the last month?
- How often do you put off your responsibilities in order to play video games?
- How often do you miss the opportunity to go out because of video games
- Do you make money playing video games?
If you’ve spent more than 10 hours or more last week playing games that’s alarming. If you’ve spent more than 2,3 days in a row with the joystick in your hands it’s quite alarming as well.
If you’ve put off your responsibilities and skipped going out more than once that’s a sure sign you need to ask yourself some questions.
And if you don’t make any money out of that, then it’s time for a change.
How to quit video games?
Quit cold turkey.
Delete all your games.
Deactivate your steam account.
Perhaps, learning to enjoy your time without needing to be sucked up in the virtual world would be beneficial.
There’s no trick here.
The only way to get over your addiction is to stop playing for at least a few months. After a while, you won’t even need it.
It’s going to become this one thing that you know it’s fun but don’t want to waste your time with it.
Looking back years later after I quit, I can clearly see how it used to affect my life. What quitting really gave me was a huge awareness of all the ways I could use my free time. I was shocked by the amount of time I had wasted during the years.
I decided to fill the hole up with things that could actually help me improve my quality of life. Learning a new skill, reading, writing, or simply going out more with my friends. As a matter of fact, I see nothing wrong in relaxing after work playing games sometimes.
If I was able to control myself I wouldn’t probably have quit it, but I could never game moderately.
However, it’s important to know why you play games.
Do you only distract yourself?
Do you think about gaming all day long?
The question here is when the distraction is not a distraction anymore but the main goal.
I know my answer already.
Do you know yours?