Over the last decade at times, I’ve struggled deeply with an addiction to computer games. It’s negatively affected my life it’s hampered my ability to achieve my life goals and it’s caused relationship problems for me with the people I love.
If that sounds like you or you know someone like this then keep reading because today I’m going to talk about this topic based on my own experiences.
Before we get into it I do want to say this if playing computer games is what you want to do as in it’s something you truly love, you love the culture of gaming and the game itself and you want to prioritize playing games as a key goal of your life then in my mind that isn’t an addiction that’s a choice which I support.
for me like many others gaming is there as a relaxation like watching a TV show or reading a book something I should be able to play relax and then switch off when I can’t switch it off and it materially affects other parts of my life that are an issue.
Understanding Computer Game Addiction
Now to know how to cure an addiction, we need to First understand it. As I said for me, an addiction is when I feel I have to do something no matter how logical or nonsensical it may be. for example, I have to win the game I’m playing before I go to bed.
I literally won’t feel happy until I’ve had a win and in the process of trying to get that win, I lose control and all sense of logic. I’m unable to stop and do things I know I would prefer doing like going to the gym or creating YouTube videos for my Channel. and good Heavens if someone tries to pull me away from that game while I’m losing I feel almost a hatred towards them.
The two games I’ve been most addicted to are League of Legends and team fight tactics also by Riot. During one of my periods of heavy addiction, the way I would describe my mindset before I play them is empty. A void of happiness that can only be filled by playing and getting a win. No matter what I do nothing can distract me from this Longing To Play.
I Need a win to fill the void now once I get to know it I’ll feel good about myself and be able to do something else with my day. but only for a time the longer it’s been since my win the more the void of Happiness starts to grow and the need for a win begins to once again dominate my thoughts. Similar to a gambler or a substance abuser.
What makes this situation worse is how illogical my mind becomes when I feel the need to play. I have this false expectation that I’ll just play a game get that when I need and get on with my day. but modern computer games are hard to win many games like the ones I play are played against other people.
Games try to match you with players of a similar skill level, if the algorithm has done its job matching you correctly you’ll likely win around 50 of the time. If a game takes 30 minutes or more like the ones I play that means you could be playing for a very long time before you win. The more you lose the more likely you are to tilt.
Tilting is when you get into a vicious cycle of playing poorly losing more and playing even worse continuing that losing streak. But many games you play are in a team now in this instance whether you win or lose may be determined by another player. They may deliberately sabotage your team because they are frustrated about something.
Although the situation could happen to either you or your opposing team. It can make the game-playing experience less satisfying and increase your chances of tilting. When we talk about the odds of getting a win sometimes games can be multiplayer free for all. Many independent players like Fortnite. In this case, winning when all players are at a similar skill level is even less likely.
A game A friend of mine said to treat finishing in the top half as a win. Unfortunately, I’m a perfectionist a win is only a win. If I win the more I found myself playing to get that win the more the losses would Stack Up and the angrier I would get. Especially when I considered what life goals I wasn’t achieving while I was doing this. For example one nice sunny Sunday morning I plan for a wonderful day that I’m excited about I’m going to sit down play my one game get the win I need to feel good then hit the gym and spend the day making videos for you.
I feel positive about myself but as I just explained. The likelihood of that happening is Slim. I play that first game and get crushed. I immediately go straight into a second I lose again. I’m enraged how can this be happening to me I’m not a loser So I sacrifice my gym session to play another game. This time when I lose I feel even worse.
One of my most important life goals for me is to get in shape. I sacrifice my gym session something positive in my life to spend an hour losing at a computer game that logically I know is meaningless. But I can’t break away I can’t stop the only thing that matters is getting that win. So I play again frustrated and now I’m tilting playing poorer and poorer as the day wears on.
I may even get a win during this time but it’s no longer enough to compensate for how I’m feeling. All of a sudden it’s 2 am I ruined my nice plans and I’m gonna be exhausted at work tomorrow. In that fragile state, I’m susceptible to this happening again the next day. I’m going, to be honest guys there have been times I went so far as throwing a laptop out of frustration. Seeing the beautiful laptop that I worked so hard for damaged because I couldn’t control my addiction was painful.
I even broke a monitor once out of frustration and as I took it out to the garbage knowing that there are those people who would love to have a monitor like that I just felt horrible. and good Heavens if a loved one tried to interrupt me during one of these sessions. I would verbally lash out at her and look like I hated her. I couldn’t recognize that there was a gorgeous loving girl who just wanted to spend time with me. Something I know I’d enjoy more.
What compounds the misery is when you’re playing games that use a ranking system. Ranked games are ones where you get status when you achieve a certain proficiency. These systems make losing even tougher as sometimes a losing session drops you down a rank. Your misery is Amplified as you feel you wasted the countless hours that it took to achieve that rank.
Strategies for Fighting the Addiction
So now I want to switch gears and share the strategies I found to help me break the addiction and get back to spending my time the way I wanted to. Computer games are like drugs you can get a quick and easy High. You play them get a win and feel good.
Other things in life have much longer payoff periods. Saving to buy a house, and getting promoted at work. or getting fit and in shape, for these, the wins are much harder to achieve but the payoff is higher and you feel better for it. For example, when I finally got into a very high rank (Diamond league) in League of Legends, I was like that’s all this is.
I got an emblem next to my player name and I’m now at the same level as tens of thousands of other people who are also in a diamond. But when I got into one of the top universities on the planet I cried. I was so happy I felt my life which had been pretty tough to that point was massively about to change for the better.
Establishing Life Goals
so I think the first thing is to establish what your life goals are and how much time playing computer games is taking away from achieving them. That perspective can help you ask yourself before you play another game. Do I want to do this or do I want to turn off the game and spend time doing something else?
Try printing the goals out and placing them visibly around the area that you gain. The next thing is to ask yourself what in life is making you unhappy. Computer games can be a form of escapism. Maybe I was unhappy with my job or my partner. So I saw it as a different world to escape to when a game could offer me.
I’d suggest writing down what is making you unhappy, and right next to it what advice you would give to someone else who was having these issues. You will only choose real life over computer games if real life is worth choosing. And real life will only be worth using if you solve the things that make real life miserable.
Controlling Game Time
The next is to look at whether there are ways to control your game time. This will help you catch your breath and think about whether you should play more games or do something else. You could uninstall the game or delete your account. Sometimes all it takes is a speed bump for you to think whether you want to be playing another game or as I said doing something else.
Needing to reinstall the game may give you that moment. Honestly, major game manufacturers need to do more here offering some anti-addiction features that you could opt into such as Force brakes. If you play too long I believe would be a good thing. And ensuring that these anti-addiction features could not be turned off without a cooling-off period would be required too.
Seeing the Big Picture
Lastly, realize that life is short. Any of us could disappear from this life at any time. Do you want to spend your life stuck playing a computer game uncontrollably, getting depressed that you are not doing something else, or do you want to look back and think you made the most of it?
There was a point in time, where I would make myself say at the end of each game, the one thing that makes me most miserable is playing these games. If I stop I’ll be happier, or winning is quitting the game.
Helping Others with a Gaming Addiction
Now if you’re not the actual person addicted but are close to someone who is perhaps your boyfriend, or girlfriend. son or daughter. Here’s my advice, wait for them to naturally finish their current game. Then at the right time, ask them what their goals are. Once you know their goals if they are immediately going to play another game gently remind them would you prefer to do this or spend time on their goals.
Be gentle, give them the choice, and if they choose to play another game that’s okay. You may not be able to help them straight away but like creating a speed bump that I already mentioned reminding them of their goals in life will increase the likelihood that they put their game playing in perspective.