How Do You Overcome Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is a tough opponent to grapple with.

And the last thing we need is advice from people who haven't conquered a challenge like this. I believe the most valuable thing I can do on this blog is write about my own journey and how I overcame video game addiction.

Why Did I Want To Quit Playing Video Games?

The journey starts with "why".

For me, it started as I was in the xbox live party with my friends one night, when I was 18. We were goofing around when I started going over how much I've spent on video games that year. It broke down like this: 
  • Xbox 360 Elite - $400
  • Three controllers - $40-50 each? (forgot how much these were back then)
  • Accessories - $100 easy 
  • Seven 'new' games - $65 each (including tax)
  • Five 'used' games - $20 to $45 each
  • Xbox live gold - $60 per year
  • Headset w/ mic - $75
  • 32" 720p TV - $400 (this was back in 2008-2009)

I was ashamed of myself.

I grew up in a poor, broken family. I had anxiety over money my entire life, so it really got to me how 'spoiled' I was. I just graduated high school and I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. 

I didn't want to disappoint my family. I didn't want to be a loser. I blamed video games for my frustration and couldn't shake off the idea that they were my true enemy. 

After I felt shame for how much money I wasted on video games, I thought about how stupid I was to feel so proud of how many hours I invested into video games, especially Halo 2, Halo 3, and World of Warcraft.

I took immense pride in how much time I played and how good I was at them. I conquered most enemies. And to the low level players, they were convinced I was hacking, the best compliment you can achieve in competitive games. 

I felt like a god. 
But I wasn't.

When I stepped away from the screen, I was still me. Soft and weak and plump. The greatest thing I had achieved was a high school diploma, which is just standard when you don't have obstacles in your way. 

I wanted to be a better person. 

I wanted to be a man girls would actually be attracted to. I wanted so many things in real life and I never chased after them. I invested my time into my K/D (kill to death ratio). I power-leveled in WoW. I chased after the adrenaline in competitive gaming. I chased after the flow state. 

But in video games. 
Silly, stupid, expensive video games. 

What could I achieve if I wasn't addicted to video games?

I could actually achieve my weight loss goals, for one. I wouldn't have to put up with being overweight anymore. In fact, I could actually have a bodybuilding physique.

I could get a black belt in judo. I could learn how to sing and play the piano. I could do so much... and because I didn't, I blamed video games. 

Have you noticed I kept blaming video games? 

As the 27 year old writing this, I understand it wasn't video games that were the problem, but my lack of discipline and not knowing how to keep balance in my life, but the 18 year old version of myself?

I didn't know any better. I wasn't wise enough nor experienced enough nor did I have someone to give me guidance a young adult needs. 

I was shooting blind. 

It's about balance and seeing things for what they are. 
And that's an excellent thing to know.

Pawn crowned as King, chess pieces

What Did My Video Game Addiction Look Like? And Why Was It Harmful?

My addiction was typical.
I would play whenever I got the chance, especially in MMOs. 

As soon as I woke up, I'd roll over and turn my laptop on. As things were loading up, I would rub my eyes, check my texts, then log in. I'd talk to my friends who were already online. We'd talk about everything, even our life goals, I could talk about those for hours.

"Yea I want to be an illustrator and writer. Write the stories in video games, be a concept artist, release my own books, get movie deals, etc." 

The double edge of talking about your goals is it feels good. 

So good, that you get your jollies off just by talking about them. No need to even chase them to get the dopamine kick. This would happen on a daily basis, but nothing productive would come out of it.

My eyes would burn from staring at the screen so much. 

I would take breaks every 3-4 hours and get myself something to eat. I'd tell my mom about what I did in these video games, as a joke. My mom was never the type to control us too much, she always had a sense her sons would find their own ways to succeed, but it was obvious she thought I could do better. 

My days played out like this:
  • Wake up 
  • Log in
  • Play for a few hours 
  • Take a break to eat 
  • Do some kind of chore 
  • Come back to the screen 
  • Repeat

I didn't eat the best food. 

And the food I did eat, I'd eat too much of it, so I kept gaining weight. I didn't drink enough water, so I was dehydrated and my mind was always foggy. I wouldn't shower often, my room was musty, and entire days just... felt like wading through a swamp. 

The thing that scared me the most though?

I would panic if I had to leave my house for too long, very certainly the withdrawals typical of addiction. I couldn't be too far from my games and computer. I couldn't be disconnected from the internet for too long. That was when I realized this was serious.

I was waist deep in something that was swallowing my life whole.

Young man staring at TV, addicted and lost

How Did I Go About Quitting Video Games? 

I did the most powerful thing I could think of -- I quit cold turkey. My life was messed up because of video games? Get rid of them completely and my life will be great! 

I gathered up my xbox 360, the accessories and games, then put the bundle on craiglist for just $300, guaranteed to be an instant sale. Within a few days, I found a buyer and she came to pick it up the day after she texted me.

I had everything ready for her to walk into the living room and give things a test drive, but she didn't care about that. 

She handed me the cash and took my treasure trove with her and I felt great about myself. 

Not only did I get rid of my poison, I made some extra cash (if you don't count the major loss I just took). But it was important to do so because I took matters into my own hands. Taking action, not sitting around, not talking about it, not thinking every detail out. 

I was left with my plans to do what I should do in the absence of video games:
  • Draw for at least 4 hours a day
  • Work out
  • Eat right
  • Learn... whatever

Well, right away you can already see there's a problem. For about a week, I was doing well. I made myself sit down and draw for hours a day while looking at different artists online.

I watched videos of drawing, watched animation, researched different techniques, etc.. I worked out everyday, did my best to eat right, and anything I could to keep me focused on not playing video games.

And I could see results from investing more time into my art. Things were "clicking" in my head.

Design of a chair, precise drawing

What Happened?

My motivation weakened when I hit the two week mark. I was getting overly frustrated with drawing and felt like a failure. 

And the cravings to just... take it easy and play some games were so strong, I caved.

I would play on my older brother's set up and tell myself:
  • "Just 30 minutes to take a break, my head is killing me." 
  • "Just an hour after I do these drawings. I've earned it."
  • "As long as I get my work done, it's okay to play."

I stopped drawing altogether because of the difficulty and frustration. And along with investing hours into video games again, I was also wasting time on the internet and watching silly videos.

Quitting video games cold turkey left a void in me and I felt alienated from who I've always been and the great friends I've made through gaming. I missed hanging out with them and goofing around while we played.
  • I missed the satisfaction
  • I missed being part of the gaming culture
  • I missed meeting random people
  • I missed the competition

Not long after I fell off the wagon, my friend let me borrow his old xbox 360 and a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops. The original console had that common overheating issue that my friend had fixed, though not completely.  While it no longer had the red ring of death, it was as loud as a car engine. But it worked.

Pretty soon, I saved up enough money to buy another setup again.

King being toppled over, chess pieces

Why Did I Fail?

I believe I failed because it's a difficult thing to put yourself together. The challenge was greater than my ability, but to my credit, I did make the effort. And that effort chipped away at my addiction.

Just a tad, just enough to see I had some power in me. You see, overcoming video game addiction isn't a linear path. It's something you wrestle with, possibly for the rest of your life. 

You need to make the attempt, then fail.

Then analyze what can be improved, then make another attempt, then fail again. And these failures don't have to revert you back to square one, it's not like you lost all your progress.

Your progress is autosaved, but it's your choice to bring yourself back to the start of the level instead of reverting to your last checkpoint. Ultimately, why I failed, is because failure is part of the process, but I was so ashamed, I would tumble back to the beginning. 

The other reason I failed is because I didn't develop the skills to keep balance in my life.

I didn't keep myself on a consistent sleep schedule. I didn't eat properly. I didn't hydrate myself enough. I didn't learn how to do my work first, then have leisure time afterwards.

I didn't have a daily to-do list. And most importantly, I didn't work out the reasons why I needed to not only overcome my video game addiction, but to put myself together so I can be a proper man.

Man looking defeated on subway, gloomy

How Did I Gain Control Over My Video Game Addiction? 

So how did I do it? 

I was relentless despite failing repeatedly. For some reason, I couldn't let go of the idea of being a better person. And being a better person meant not letting playing video games stand in my way. I kept at it for years, chipping away at the addiction with each attempt. 

I think that's what it was. 

An obsession over becoming the greatest version of myself. After all, that's what I chase after when I play video games. I no longer wanted my weaknesses to drag me down. I wanted to stop excelling solely at video games, I wanted to excel at the grand game we're all playing. 

But just because we have the desire to quit doesn't mean much, it takes effort and it requires us to develop skills and knowledge to properly manage ourselves.

Here are several things I've learned to do in order to overcome my video game addiction.

Small chalkboard with short checklight

How Good Am I Trying To Be In This Game?

I devalued video games to their appropriate worth, which will be different for everyone.

Like most hardcore gamers, I play in order to not only have a good time, but win. And that usually means playing more than the competition... but this idea gets out of hand quickly and what gets most of us addicted.

So let's say in order to be good at a competitive game, you should play at least an hour a day, maybe two hours a day.

And for most of us, two hours a day on gaming is the perfect balance, especially when you do it as a reward for working hard and taking care of your responsibilities.

Would you get better if you played three hours a day though? How about four hours? How about five? Where does it end? How good are you trying to get in this game? 
  • Are you a twitch streamer? 
  • Are you aiming to become a pro and compete? 
  • Or do you want to have a good time and just try to improve? 

If you're not trying to be a streamer or a pro, the extra hours invested would be a waste. It's not optimal and we're shooting for optimal.

Keyboard with backlight, video games

How Frustrated Should I Allow Myself To Be?

A big problem gamers have is managing their emotions when they're playing video games. 
  • We've all rage quit before
  • We've all gotten into arguments with our friends
  • We've all growled and yelled because something went wrong

And of course, we've all been extremely irritable when we are bothered by someone/something outside of the game. 

Is gaming worth being emotionally compromised? 

Of course not, most things aren't worth it and video games are no exception. Over these years, I've learned to not let myself get too frustrated over gaming simply because it's tiresome and weakens my character.

I'm real quick to let go of the built-up frustration these days. And if I'm already emotionally compromised, I stop playing and do something else. 

Last question in this section:

How pleasant is it to be teamed up with a raging buttwad that calls everyone names and tells them how bad they are at the game? That's a pitiful person. Not only do we not want to be exposed to that guy, we shouldn't allow ourselves to be that guy.

You not only weaken yourself as a person, you're not even enjoying the game.

Young boy crying hard

How Much Money Should I Invest Into Video Games?

"A fool and his money are soon parted" - Proverb

Unless you have generous friends or family members, gaming is an expensive hobby. Getting the most bang for your buck should be a priority for most gamers, even those with deep wallets, since it's better to keep those extra sheckles instead of adding even more games to your steam backlog that you'll never get to. 

In many ways, this point ties in with the "hours invested" section. Just how much is the appropriate amount of money you should invest in your gaming hobby?

My advice is to only buy games that give you the most bang for your buck. 

Competitive games likes Overwatch, Fortnite, and CS:GO will give you an insane amount of hours for how much you're paying. And if you're not a competitive gamer, focus on games like Skyrim, Stardew Valley, Don't Starve, Civilization, and so on -- games that offer insane amounts of hours for your dollar.

Another common piece of advice is to go into pc gaming. Not only will you get better performance for the price, you will be able to take advantage of all the discounts and sales. Of course, there are the steam sales, but you have other sites like:

That's not to say that the xbox one and ps4 don't have great sales/deals, but pc dominates in this regard.

While we're comparing consoles and pc, pc also offers far more flexibility in performance. If you don't have the money to invest in better pc parts, you can always adjust your graphics settings and usually still outperform the consoles.

Last reason to invest into pc gaming: No need to pay for xbox live gold or ps plus.

Just a disclaimer: If all your friends play on console or if you just prefer them for any number of reasons, that's completely okay. The point is to have fun. This section is just about being smart with what games you buy.

Dollar bills rolled up, close up shot

Quitting Video Games Does Not Equal Growing Up

This is a common mistake I see lots of people make. 

They blame video games instead of taking on the responsibility of their choice to invest excessive amounts of time and money into them. If you see gaming as poison in your life, you're not owning the situation completely. You're playing the victim. 

"If you want to grow up, you have to stop playing video games"

No, you don't speak for all gamers. 

There are millions of gamers who know how to properly balance gaming in their lives. There are middle-aged fathers who support their families, spend time with their wives and children, and still enjoy gaming.

There are teenagers who know how to get their work done and reward themselves with gaming afterwards. There are the up-and-coming twenty and thirty year olds who are grinding and use gaming to spend time with their friends and relax. 

Don't hate the player... and don't hate the games either! 

This in no way takes away from how serious video game addiction is. This section is about seeing things for what they are. If you allow yourself to play the victim, you're not curing yourself of anything. But if you own the situation and call it yours, you now have the power to do what's best for yourself. 

Playing games is our choice. 

We're not being swindled by the gaming industry, we're not being poisoned by these games, we're not lambs being primed for the slaughter. It makes no sense to blame video games instead of owning the situation. The victim mentality will get us nowhere in life. You set yourself up for failure every time.

Young man feeling sorry for himself,  black and white

How Did Things Change For Me?

How did things change for me after I changed my relationship with gaming?

I'm a healthier and wiser person now.

Of course, as long as you focus on personal development, that comes with age, but just speaking on overcoming video game addiction, my life is better and I still enjoy gaming. The most important thing I've developed is I can feel when my bad gaming habits are returning and I know what to do in those situations. 

Like I said, video game addiction is just something you have to wrestle with. 

It gets a lot easier over time, but it doesn't go away completely. You still have to manage yourself, but that's just what life is. It's not something you cure and it's gone forever. With anything powerful in life, you must learn how to manage it and yourself. It's always about balance.

What else?

I hardly spend any money on video games now. After investing in a powerful computer, I only buy games I absolutely "need" to play. If I kinda sorta want to play a game, I skip it. I haven't even played Grand Theft Auto 5 simply because I wanted to play other games even more, so I prioritized those games. 

I also see gaming in terms of hours played

If I only allow myself 2-3 hours of gaming a day, I'd much rather invest those hours into one, maybe two games at a time. As of writing this article, I'm only playing Fortnite Battle Royale. This game alone fulfills my 2-3 hour daily limit, so why would I buy other games and split those hours instead of getting really good at Fortnite?

And if I don't feel like playing Fortnite, I'll do something else instead of half-heartedly playing another game. I'll go watch a movie or tv show I've been meaning to watch.

Last bit for this section:

I do my work first. 

Gaming should come after I do what needs to get done. And I'm not perfect, this is the "ideal" we should strive for, but we need to let ourselves be imperfect and flexible. Being too strict on myself is what makes me crave letting loose, but if I moderate myself, I have more control. 

I've come to see what gaming truly is and how it fits in my life. I see it as a phenomenal way to spend time with my friends. I see it as a path to mastery, even though I may not receive much benefits outside of these games.

I see it as a reward for a good day's work. I see it for its artform. I see it as a culture we all belong to and care for. When I meet other gamers, I relate to them and know how they think. They are my community.

Gaming is a wonderful thing. 
And the purpose of this blog is to help others balance gaming in their lives so they don't have to quit forever.

Scrabble tiles that say Carpe Diem

Last Words Of Advice

To wrap this article up, here are the takeaways:
  • Don't quit cold turkey (definitely don't sell anything)
  • Focus on personal development (who do you want to become?)
  • Sit down and write about your goals
  • Write down how to achieve these goals
  • Play games that give you the most bang for your buck
  • Allow yourself 1-2 hours of gaming a day (like counting calories)
  • Video games aren't some kind of devil
  • Keep learning about how to put yourself together

Good luck, gamer!
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