Do you find yourself playing video games for hours on end? Ever feel like they have taken control over your life? I had the exact same issue, but ended up solving it myself. Below is my story – and a simple method on how to stop being addicted to computer games.
For many years, I was addicted to computer games.
I played games every day, often for hours at a time. I would play first thing in the morning and well into the night. Entire weekends went by without me even leaving the house.
It got so bad that I would do try to do everything else while gaming. Eating, working, finishing projects. Constantly switching between the game and real life, I was not actually giving my full attention to either.
The game that I had been addicted to the most was Counter-Strike. Once the most popular first-person shooter in the world, Counter-Strike (or CS) had me addicted since 2001. I realized I had been playing it on and off for over a decade. My friends had long moved on to other games, but I could not put CS down.
Having sunk well over 5,000 hours into one game, I naturally became quite good at it. I knew the controls inside out, and could navigate around the levels blindfolded. As it was a multiplayer experience, I was always one of the top ranked players on the server. I was winning more rounds, surviving longer and often single-handedly winning the match for my team. To make it more challenging, I would even handicap myself on purpose (e.g. turn off game sounds).
There was just one thing wrong: I was no longer enjoying the game.
What started as a casual game played with friends had, over many years, turned into a full on addiction. I constantly expected more from the game, even though it was a decade old (and free). I also demanded more from the other players and would lose my temper if things did not go my way. To me, CS was now “serious business.”
I tried to quit many times.
Uninstalling the game did not work – it was easy to download and play again. Getting myself banned from all the local servers was not effective either, as new ones would pop up every month.
What worked in the end was changing my environment.
Knowing I could not trust myself to just leave the game alone, I changed my environment so that it was impossible to play. I gave away my powerful desktop computer, and switched to an ultraportable laptop with a poor graphics card. I knew that if it couldn’t run CS, it would not support much else. I had now protected myself from any any modern, multiplayer game.
This worked wonderfully.
After a few weeks, I did not miss the game at all. I lost the desire to play it, and only thought of how many days I had wasted mashing those keyboard buttons. My mind had no choice but to rationalize my new environment.
My life changed. I filled the newly found free time with productive projects and activities. Having let go of games, I found myself getting back into my hobbies (such as photography). I was also spending more time with friends. Most importantly, I started getting more sleep and feeling better every morning.
Are you an entertainment junkie?
Are you addicted to distractions? Aside from video games, there are some powerful ones out there: endless TV series, social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), constant news updates, repetitive blogs, and more. With so much vying for our attention, there’s always something that appeals to our desire for current, up-to-date entertainment.
We are part of a generation that expects to be distracted, every minute of the day.
Think about all the other things in life that you may not have time for anymore. A long dinner with friends, a day spent with family, a neglected weekend project. The addiction to distractions makes it hard to find an uninterrupted chunk of time to do something. No chance to sit, think and focus.
Take control of your life by taking control of your environment.
Make it hard for yourself to be distracted. Some methods that have worked for me and others:
- Give away the TV, or at least cancel your cable subscription
- Switch to a less powerful computer
- Change your browser homepage to a blank page
- Unsubscribe from every blog in your feed, and delete at least 50% of your bookmarked links
- Spend more time (or live) with people who are not addicted to distractions – they will have a positive influence on you
Once you have rid yourself of distractions, make sure it stays that way. Make it a game – count the days since your last “distraction” session. Celebrate by filling the hours with satisfying projects that fulfill you.
Take back your time!
Less addiction, more willpower
Have any other methods worked for you? Please share your stories in the comments section.