About Cam Adair

Cam Adair is a speaker, writer and player of chess. A prominent thought leader on gaming addiction, he shares weekly videos on YouTube.

Game Quitters is a community for gamers who want to quit and get their life back on track. You can join the community for free, here.

Visit my website →

I have been gaming since I was 8 years old, and I can’t remember a time in my life where the first thing I did when I got home wasn’t sitting down at my computer and playing a game. It has been 64 days since I deleted steam from my computer and 20 days since I dismantled my PC.

Over 10 years of gaming I played with the same friend every weekend, joined many large communities, and also developed great friendships with other random people I’ve encountered. I’ve spent at least 10,000 hours on a Skype/Discord call, and at least 15,000 hours playing games.

You would think that someone so “addicted” would have such a hard time quitting, but it was probably one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.

So many people classified me as a gaming addict, but I wholeheartedly disagree still to this day. The problem was I didn’t have anything else to replace my time with. People would say “study more, or play a sport” – sure, but if I’m getting home at 4pm, and I study for a few extra hours, I’d still be playing at least 3-4 hours a night if I’m going to bed at midnight.

Over my life I averaged between 40-60 hours gaming per week. Some days I gamed 16 hours a day on the weekend, and particularly during holidays.

Since quitting, I’ve started multiple e-commerce businesses, made huge fitness gains, and been heaps more social. Rarely I might get a small urge to play a game, but honestly it’s rather insignificant.

Should You Quit Gaming?

thailand market

Quitting gaming is a rather extreme approach for any normal person to take, but it really depends on the person. Throughout my time gaming I developed a range of skills that are beneficial and applicable to my real life, and met many extraordinary people that have given me great life advice.

The skills you develop from gaming will depend on what type of games you play. I spent a large amount of time playing MMORPG games, where I was able to build a respectable degree of wealth. I learned the concept of risk vs. reward, and developed negotiation skills. On a holiday in Phuket, Thailand I found myself saving large amounts of money by using negotiation techniques I had learned from games.

Learning how to study a market and all the possible ways to earn wealth, then making a plan utilising them is a skill that can be applied to many forms of business. This has been particularly useful for me in creating an investment plan and budgeting real money. I also learned how gambling is not worth the risk no matter the wager, and that other forms of risk are much more worth taking.

In many of the games I played I found myself connecting with much more experienced players, and I noticed how their wisdom was able to quickly progress my development in the game. This has benefited me in the real world, as I have been going to venues and public events trying to expand my network of people who can assist me and advise me with my business.

I Don’t Regret Gaming

friends in joshua tree

It made me who I am today – it’s just time for me to move on and explore new avenues of living.

I’m not going to tell anyone to quit, but I will say this: If you are considering stopping gaming, do it because you want to, not because other people want you to. If you don’t actually want to quit, then you will simply be another example of a relapsing drug addict. The only drug addicts that successfully quit are the ones who want to do so in the first place.

I’m putting this out there because I just wanted share my experience quitting gaming. I will be returning to gaming for a short period of time when Skyrim 6 is released, but then after completion I’ll remove it. I do believe that you shouldn’t deprive yourself of your passions and joys, but when it begins to negatively impact the quality of your life, that’s when it becomes a problem.

My only advice would be to set real, achievable goals to work towards that consume most of your day. That has been the biggest tool for my success.

Thanks to everyone who read my story. Good luck to anyone on this journey with me!

Join our Movement

SHARE this story to let others to know that life is so much better without gaming.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

Take a Stand

Game Quitters exists to help those who need help with gaming addiction challenges to get the help, and to spread awareness about the negative impact gaming addiction can cause. Want to help? Grab a t-shirt or hoodie and show the world you care about this issue.

cam adair game quitters

Game Quitters 2.0 introduces new interactive features and tools that allow you to take your video game addiction recovery to the next level. Want to see how? Read on.

Game Quitters Logo

Game Quitters exists to provide the best tools, resources, and peer support for people struggling with a video game addiction. Today we are proud to announce a major upgrade to our platform to help us do just that.

When I wrote our first blog post back in 2011 on ‘How to Quit Playing Video Games FOREVER’ I never imagined we would end up as the face of a global movement against video game addiction. I never imagined that one blog post on a personal development blog would launch an international platform serving over 50,000 people each month representing 94 countries. But here we are.

We take this responsibility seriously and as our platform has grown in numbers, so too has the need for it to grow in service. For the past few months I have been working tirelessly with a small team to bring you Game Quitters 2.0, transforming our mostly content-based site into an interactive recovery platform.

Let’s see what’s new in Game Quitters 2.0

A Vision For the Future: New Game Quitters Branding

Game Quitters Logo

When we first launched Game Quitters our focus was on providing gamers with the resources they needed to overcome their video game addiction, and our brand goals were to be relatable, cool, and fun, while representing a community you could be proud of.

Since then we have grown from a few blog posts and YouTube videos serving gamers, to international speaking tours, professional development trainings for therapists and mental health professionals, and advising public policy with government officials. It was time for our brand to reflect it.

So I reached out to the best Art Director I know, Derek Heisler, and asked him if he would help me re-envision the Game Quitters’ identity, expressing both the brand we are today and the vision we have for the future. He nailed it.

Game Quitters Branding

(To see the full new brand identity, click here)

I can’t express how grateful I am to Derek. Not only is he a world class talent, but he’s a world class friend who has had my back in all ways, personally and professionally.

To Derek, thank you for your tireless work on this project, your attention to detail, and going all-in with me. For anyone looking to upgrade their brand, photography, or overall art direction, I can’t recommend Derek enough.

New Tool: Find Inspiring Stories of Fellow Video Game Addicts

gaming addiction stories

One of the most powerful ways we can spread awareness about video game addiction is by sharing our collective stories of struggle and redemption. We are the best advocates of the issue, because we have gone through it. We know the devastating impact it can have, not only to ourselves but those around us.

By sharing your story you can inspire others to take action and get the help they need.

I’ve made it a personal mission to collect as many real stories as possible of gaming addiction and today we have over 60 of them published on the website, along with over 30,000 journal entries from members on the forum.

With so many stories already published (and more coming every day), we wanted to make it easier to find ones that would connect with you the most. So we worked with Alex from MD to build a new page layout and interactive tool to filter the stories.

You can now select stories that are written by those who have quit for under 30 days, 90+ Days, or 6+ months. You can also find stories written by those under 18 years of age, 18-30 and over 30. We hope to add more filters in the future.

I am on a mission to compile over 1,000 stories of gaming addicts. Want to help us achieve this goal?

Are You Addicted to Gaming? Screen Your Situation With Our Quizzes

How do you know if you (or a loved one) have a video game addiction? What is the difference between a gaming passion and a gaming addiction? How severe is your situation? Find your answers with our new quizzes!

Both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have provided evidence-based criteria to discern what a video game addiction is (or is not). For the APA they have a proposed set of nine criteria in the DSM-5 called Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD), and the WHO have an official diagnostic criteria of three-items called Gaming Disorder (GD).

We took both of these into consideration, along with a recent published study of recommended improvements by Dr. Daniel King to create our video game addiction quiz for gamers and parents. These are informal screening tools with the intention of supporting you in better understanding the severity of your situation. For a proper assessment we recommend to seek the help of a professional.

One More Thing: New Hobby Tool

Game Quitters Finding New Hobby Tool

Since the beginning of Game Quitters, the number one question we receive from gaming addicts when they want to quit is “what else will I do with my time?” To help them find replacement activities we have traditionally provided a PDF list of 60+ new hobby ideas, categorized by activities that are active, relaxing, social, and achievement-based.

Although gaming addicts have shared that this list has been helpful, we wanted to improve it by turning it into an interactive tool. Now you can find new hobbies that meet your chosen criteria. Want activities that help with being active? Achievement-based? Relaxing? Social? Mentally engaging? Creative? Looking for activities that are free, low cost (under $100), or able to be done at home? Want offline activities? Something easy to start? Or one of my personal favorites?

Now you can! Select the filters you would like and instantly find new activity ideas. Each activity comes with a description and a list of resources to help you get started.

Other Improvements, Bug Fixes, and Design Tweaks in GQ 2.0


  • HTTPS: Improved security for the website.
  • /Open: We are now an Open Startup™, which means “operating with full transparency by sharing its metrics, including revenue, users, and traffic.”
  • /Team: Want to meet the team behind Game Quitters?
  • Emergency Button: On the verge of a relapse? Find our quick resources on this page.

Special thank you: Derek, Kevin Kulik, Alex, Emmanuel, Pieter Levels, WIP, our amazing community, and Board of Advisors for all of your help! Here’s to the next chapter.

Are we losing men to gaming and porn addiction?


At least 50% of men play video games and watch porn frequently.

Gaming and porn addiction are leading to a masculinity crisis in men.

541,000 people in Japan are isolated in their rooms for months of years without relationships.

Men are increasingly anxious, depressed, and struggling with suicide 1 1. CDC: Suicide rates are up 30 percent since 1999 × . They are dropping out of school and opting out of the workforce, instead choosing to live in a virtual world playing video games and watching porn. A masculinity crisis is on our hands.

Growing up as a boy is hard. You experience bullying at school and rejection by girls, leading to hurt and heartbreak. 1 in 3 boys grow up without a father, and for those of us lucky enough to have one, we only spend 30 minutes a week in conversation with them, compared to 44 hours we will spend in front of a screen 2 2. TED: Phillip Zimbardo on The Demise of Guys × . Without the tools and guidance to navigate our painful emotional states, we resort to escape.

Escaping into Gaming and Porn

“When life sucks you might as well stay in your room and live your life there.”

In Japan, a 2016 study found at least 541,000 people suffer from hikkomori 3 3. Hikikomori: The Japanese Cabinet Office’s 2016 Survey of Acute Social Withdrawal × , a phenomenon of social withdrawal in which the individual remains isolated in their room for months or years without social relationships. What are they doing while they are isolated in their rooms? Watching porn and playing video games.

At least 50% of men are playing video games and watching porn frequently. On April 14th when servers for the popular game Fortnite crashed for 24 hours, Pornhub (the most popular website for pornographic content) experienced a 10% surge in traffic from gamers, with searches for videos using the key term “Fortnite” increasing by 60% 4 4. Does “forced abstinence” from gaming lead to pornography use? Insight from the April 2018 crash of Fortnite’s servers × . When gamers were unable to game, they resorted to watching porn instead.

“I was addicted to gaming and porn because I was addicted to escapism.” -Paolo

We play games and watch porn to escape and fulfill our emotional needs. To feel a sense of achievement, we play games. To feel a sense of connection, we watch porn. For all the rest of our time, we mindlessly browse the internet as tech addicted zombies. Gaming, porn, and the internet provide a safe space. There is little-to-no risk of rejection, and we have more control over our experience.

“Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.” -Russell Moore

Gaming and Porn Addiction Change the Brain

Real life is boring, while gaming and porn are exciting. They require a low amount of effort for a consistent stream of different rewards, and this provides us with a rapid release of dopamine — our brain’s pleasure chemical. Research finds the more we are overexposed to this type of artificial digital stimulation, the more our brains rewire to not only expect it, but crave it.

The more you game, the more you want to game, the more your brain wants to game, so the more you game, and then you experience structural brain changes. There are three of them: numbed pleasure response — every day activities no longer satisfy you, hyper-reactivity to gaming — gaming is really exciting and everything else is boring, and willpower erosion — even if you wanted to quit you would struggle to have the willpower anyways due to changes to your prefrontal cortex. The same process works with porn addiction.

How to Overcome Gaming and Porn Addiction

To reverse these structural brain changes, research shows it requires a 90 day detox from gaming and porn. This means not playing video games or watching porn for a period of 90 days. Think of it as an experiment to learn more about yourself and your relationships to gaming and porn.

At the end of the detox you might want to try to play in moderation, or you may want to continue to quit forever, but you will be making that choice from an informed place about the impact gaming and porn addiction have in your life.

Block Access

To make the detox easier, block access to problematic apps, games, and websites using an app like Focus.Me. Delete Instagram off your phone, uninstall Steam, and block YouTube. The harder you make it to regain access, the less tempted you will be to relapse.

Beware: Addiction Swapping

Behavioral addictions are compulsive disorders driven by a desire to fulfill emotional needs we have. Often, that need can be to escape from stress, or simply boredom. Compulsive behavior comes from a lack of awareness so in order to combat it, you want to add more awareness and intention into your life.

Why are you doing what you are doing? How are you dealing with stress without gaming or porn? What else can you do to fulfill a desire for competition? Intentionally choose new replacements.

Navigate Withdrawal Symptoms

During your 90 day detox it’s common to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings and urges, mood swings, irritability, feelings of apathy, headaches, and lethargy, amongst others.

It’s crucial that you watch out for potential triggers, and be mindful of cravings and urges to play games or watch porn. It’s normal to experience these symptoms, especially early on, so don’t sweat it. Learn to dance with your emotions.

Join a Support Community

Finally, join a support community. Whether that is Game Quitters, Reddit communities such as StopGaming and NoFap, or a 12-step group like CGAA or Porn Addicts Anonymous, being surrounded by others on a similar journey as you is proven to be helpful for you to succeed in your recovery.

It’s easier than ever to find yourself isolated in your room playing video games and watching porn. But what’s the impact that is having on your life? Is it making you happy, or are you simply entertained for a moment? Are you engaged in pursuing your goals, or avoiding responsibilities through escapism? With all of the temptations that exist in our world today it’s never been more important for men to be leaders, living their lives with passion and purpose.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

48% of gamers say they spend more time watching gaming videos on YouTube than playing games.


Gamers spend just as much watching other gamers play as they do actually playing video games themselves.

Twitch and YouTube Gaming are the two most popular live-streaming platforms.

Professional streamers can earn millions of dollars a year.

Gamers are no longer people who only play video games, and they spend just as much time, if not more, watching other gamers play on websites like Twitch and YouTube.

To many this may come as a surprise, but to gamers it has been a natural evolution, and speaks not only to the underlying reasons why people love video games, but how they are managing to turn their passion into a legitimate career.

Gaming Hits the Mainstream

On March 14th top recording artist, Drake, played Fortnite with one of the gaming world’s top live-streamers, “Ninja”, to a record 600,000 concurrent viewers. Pittsburgh Steeler’s receiver JuJu-Smith Schuster and rapper Travis Scott also made guest appearances, as Ninja reportedly gained more than 90,000 subscribers, worth roughly $250,000 a month in revenue.

Ninja, who’s real name is Tyler Blevins, is one of the best Fortnite players in the world and regularly plays for 12 hours a day while broadcasting live on Twitch, while other gamers watch his every move. Ninja is one of 2.2 million people who broadcast live on the Twitch platform each month, making it the largest website for video game streaming 1 1. Streamlabs Livestreaming Q4 Report: Tipping reaches $100M for the year; YouTube Dominates in Streamer Growth, increasing by 343% as Twitch rises 197% in 2017 × .

The market is so large that Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for $970 million dollars 2 2. Amazon's $970 million purchase of Twitch makes so much sense now: It's all about the cloud × . The website reports 15 million daily active users, with 355 billion minutes watched in 2017 3 3. Twitch: 2017 Year in Review × . Live-streaming has rocketed gaming into the number one topic on YouTube, which hosts its own competitor, YouTube Gaming.

Why Gamers Love to Watch Other Gamers Play

To understand live-streaming you must first understand that gaming is as much a sense of community as it is to play video games. It’s where gamers feel like they belong. Where they feel understood. Streaming takes that to another level providing not only a community to belong to (ex: fans of Ninja, fans of Fortnite), but a live social experience as well.

For many broadcasters, the game they are playing is just the activity happening in the background, but while they play they are engaged in commentary and interaction with their fans. It’s the same psychology that has driven the social media era with apps like Instagram and Twitter, and why millions of viewers tuned in each week to watch ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’, the reality show that propelled the Kardashian’s to superstardom. Fans want to experience the behind-the-scenes, they want to engage, and be a part of the experience. Live-streaming on Twitch and YouTube does all of that… and more.

Watching other gamers play is fun and passive entertainment. We all have a desire to relax and watching streams is no different than watching the NFL, or tuning into The Handmaid’s Tale on Wednesday nights. We each have our preference and for gamers, gaming is that.

Finally, a gamer might also watch to learn and improve, as many streamers are professional eSports players and very skilled. You can discover new strategies and tactics by watching them play, and that in turn can help you succeed as you strive to become a pro gamer yourself.

Watch: Why I Quit Professional Gaming

Can You Make Money As a Streamer?

With millions of broadcasters worldwide, has streaming become a legitimate career choice? That answer is more complex than you think.

Although streamers like Ninja, Nightblue3, Lirik, summit1g, Imaqtpie, Phantomlord, Markiplier, Jacksepticeye, PewDiePie and others make millions of dollars, the average streamer will make very little as competition for subscribers is fierce, and it takes years of dedication to build up a fanbase. Are you willing to dedicate yourself to this full-time for years for the slight chance you might make it? I won’t be the judge of that, but you have to know the odds.

If you did want to pursue becoming a professional Twitch streamer, there are a variety of ways to earn income, including from subscriptions, Twitch bits, donations, affiliate marketing, partnerships, sponsorships, and personalized merchandise, amongst others. On YouTube you can also earn money from advertising revenue. Although being a professional streamer on Twitch or YouTube is now possible, it should only be pursued with immense caution and focus.

Regardless of the difficulty in becoming a pro streamer, gaming is no longer just about the act of playing video games, it’s about the industry at large. From professional gaming (eSports), to live-streaming, to festivals and cosplays, gaming continues to expand quickly, entering the mainstream, and is on the cusp of taking over the world.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

A mini-guide on how stop playing Fortnite:


125 million people play Fortnite worldwide.

The game combines mechanics of recent popular games.

Thousands of parents report cases of Fortnite addiction.

Fortnite is the hottest game in the world with over 125 million people playing worldwide 1 1. PCGames: Fortnite player numbers: 140 million downloads and counting × . The game is free to download and play, yet through in-game offers for items such as extra costumes for their players, Fortnite has earned more than $1 billion 2 2. CNBC: Video game industry is booming with continued revenue × . With Epic Games recently announcing over $100M in prize money for the Fortnite: World Cup, it’s clear the Fortnite phenomenon is here to stay 3 3. Divorce Online: Is fortnite becoming a relationship wrecker? × .

Why Is Fortnite So Popular?

Fortnite is a combination of popular games such as Pokémon Go, Minecraft and Call of Duty, and appeals to a wide range of different gamers, from those who enjoy fighting, to those who enjoy economics, to those who enjoy being social. Although a fighting game, Fortnite appeals to teenagers with its cartoonish look and pop culture feel.

It also contains a Battle Royale mode, pitting you against 99 other players to see who will be the last gamer standing. This creates a strong hook for you to play more because if you come close to winning, you want to try again! Fortnite also contains daily challenges to keep you coming back each day, and is available on all platforms including on the PC, PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.

Fortnite is not only a viral sensation—with over 40 million people playing in the month of May alone—but it is intentionally designed to be addictive. Here are a number of other game design features in Fortnite:

how to stop playing fortnite

With the game’s popularity sky-high, and epic prize money available to be won by the best, parents are now hiring coaches for their sons and daughters in the hopes of them be coming the next star.

What is Fortnite Addiction?

The game hasn’t been a hit for everyone though, and parents report heartbreaking stories of Fortnite addiction. The horror these parents face range from teenagers refusing to go to school, to wetting themselves in order to keep playing, and even stealing money.

fortnite addiction

Recently an online divorce website shared that Fortnite and other online games are the cause of 5% of divorce cases in the UK. Although the majority of gamers play in healthy ways, the World Health Organization estimates that around 4% struggle with addiction issues, and should seek professional help.

How to Stop Playing Fortnite

There are four steps to follow if you want to stop playing Fortnite:

First, you want to commit to a 90 day Fortnite detox. This means not playing Fortnite or any other video game cold turkey for a period of 90 days. Research shows your brain can be negatively impacted from overexposure to video games, and these structural changes take 90 days to reset.

Treat this as an experiment to learn more about yourself and your relationship to gaming. At the end of the 90 day period, you might want to try to play in moderation, or you may want to continue to quit forever. That choice is yours.

Next, you need to find replacement activities. You play video games like Fortnite because they fulfill certain emotional needs you have. These needs can include the desire to escape from stress, the desire to socially connect, the desire to experience constant measurable progress, and the desire to feel a sense of purpose or certainty. To stop playing Fortnite you need to replace the need Fortnite fulfills for you with new activities.

Third, structure your time. Video games are your go-to activity whenever you have free time and have fulfilled your obligations for the day. They are your habit, especially when you’re bored, or have nothing better to do. After you quit, be intentional with your time. Use a calendar or daily agenda to schedule your day with your new activities.

Finally, join a support community where you can learn from other gamers on the same journey as you. Free communities like Game Quitters, StopGaming on Reddit, or CGAA will make a big difference in not only providing strategies to help you quit successfully, but to also offer you encouragement and emotional support during the process. Quitting gaming is not always easy, but it’s worth it, and you do not have to do it alone.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

‘Gaming Disorder’ is a mental health condition, and it’s time the industry accepts its social responsibilities.


Video game addiction is real. (WHO, 2018)

Big Gaming denies addiction problems for its users, while booming to record revenues.

Regulations and legislative efforts are on their way.

Over the past 40 years the video game industry has boomed into an industry worth an anticipated $138 billion dollars in 2018—larger than both the film and music industries combined 1 1. Video game industry is booming with continued revenue × . Growth is projected to accelerate as engagement with young people is high—over 83% of teenagers play video games regularly 2 2. Pew: Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 × —and infrastructure for organized professional gaming (eSports) continues to develop.

As revenues and engagement have grown, so too has another phenomenon—gaming addiction, with the World Health Organization officially recognizing ‘Gaming Disorder’ as a mental health condition in 2018 3 3. WHO: Gaming disorder × . Yet the gaming industry continues to deny its existence, suggesting that its creation is “misguided”, “premature”, and has the potential to be “deeply harmful.” 4 4. IGDA Exec. Director's Statement on Gaming Disorder ×

Deceptive Denial

Instead the industry argues that gaming is safe for most people, and in fact, beneficial 5 5. Gaming Industry Statement on Who Icd-11 List and the Inclusion of Gaming × . They suggest that a diagnosis for gaming addiction will create a moral panic, even though no empirical evidence has been presented to make their case. They describe games as “fun”, while neglecting to mention that fun is a chemical response of dopamine in your brain, and hide behind the notion that they are simply “making what people want,” with no regard to the fact that “what people want” may not always be what is positive for their overall well-being 6 6. Michal Napora, Game Developer Comments on Industry × .

The decision whether or not to formalize a mental disorder should not be made based on a fear of potential miscommunication. -Lee Seung-Yup

While true that gaming addiction impacts only around 4% of the total gaming population, with billions of gamers worldwide, even 4% is a substantial number. Regardless of the percentage of people who are affected, the fact remains that people do suffer from severe impairment from problematic gaming, and they should not be blocked from receiving necessary support 7 7. Orsolya, Loránd, 2017: Inclusion of Gaming Disorder in ICD has more advantages than disadvantages × . As the gaming industry has grown, so too has the public health need for gaming addiction 8 8. Rumpf et al., 2018: Including gaming disorder in the ICD-11: The need to do so from a clinical and public health perspective × .

Big Gaming, like Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol before it, has a simple choice to make: become a part of the solution, or be regulated into compliance. Here are four solutions Big Gaming could implement immediately that would help to address addiction problems with their users:

Actionable Changes

1. Warning Labels and Notifications

“Take everything in moderation (even World of Warcraft)”
– Blizzard Entertainment (2007, World of Warcraft loading screen messages)

Adding warning labels to games about the potential harmful effects of overuse is a positive, albeit small, step forward. These are especially important to help parents understand when a game offers the opportunity for their children to spend additional money within the game through in-app purchases, micro-transactions, and/or loot boxes.

Game developers should also implement personalized feedback mechanisms, including time tracking, pop-up notifications and self-restrictions, to support extreme users in breaking their pattern of excessive play.

2. Ethical Responsible Design

Not all game design is problematic, but some features are worse than others. Games that are less predictable by using variable reinforcement ratio schedules, games that have no end (continue on endlessly), and games that include loot boxes are three such addictive features.

Instead of designing games to maximize the amount of time—and the amount of money—users spend in a game, game developers could be considering the potential harmful effects of addiction in the design phase itself, as pointed out by Shumaila Yousafzai, Zaheer Hussain, and Mark Griffiths 9 9. Time for the gaming industry to take addiction seriously × .

3. Leverage Esports for Good

Esports is growing rapidly with millions of players competing for the right to be the best in the world. Colleges are adding varsity teams and scholarships, and 19,500 high schools in the United States will soon have teams as well.

This is a great opportunity for the gaming industry to leverage eSports for good by, i) providing all eSports players with a well-being handbook, ii) showing commercials at all tournaments with warning signs of addiction, and iii) investing a percentage of eSports revenue into healthy gaming campaigns and addiction prevention.

4. Guide Gamers In Need

Gaming companies have massive databases of players and their behavior patterns, equipping them with the information necessary to identify at-risk users, which they can then offer resources and services that can help.

As Shumaila Yousafzai says, “it is not the gaming industry’s responsibility to treat gaming addicts but it should play a part in guiding them towards agencies that know how to treat them.”

Moving Forward

These four changes would play a significant role in combatting the harmful effects of gaming addiction on the lives of millions of people, a public service any company should be proud to provide. Not only will this help people who need help, but it will allow healthy gamers around the world to game in peace, without the risk of developing their own addiction.

However, until Big Gaming decides to be a part of the solution, we should continue legislative pressure to hold these companies accountable for profiting off of addiction.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

Employment rates for young men are dropping sharper than any other group. Is gaming to blame?


Unemployment rates are rising for young men in their early 20s without bachelor degrees.

75% of the time they used to spend working is now spent gaming.

Overexposure to gaming can cause structural brain changes that warp your perception of effort and reward. These changes can hurt your capacity to obtain employment.

In the 1990s technology disruption of the workforce accelerated with the advent of computers and high-speed internet. Increased automation, globalization and digital platforms caused the nature of work to shift forever. But these were not the only technologies that would have an impact on the workforce, and another may surprise you: video games.

Why Work When You Can Game Instead?

Over the last 15 years as video game usage has increased, so too has unemployment for young men in their early 20s 1 1. Aguiar, Bils, Charles, Hurst, 2017: Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men × . Not going to school, and without a bachelor’s degree, these young men have replaced 75% of the time they used to spend working with playing video games.

Most alarming of all, happiness surveys show they aren’t unhappy in life, in fact, they are content. What could be better than playing video games all day? That is until they reach their 30s and that contentment leads to depression as they realize how far behind in life they are, without adequate skills to acquire work and provide for a family.

We see this phenomenon reflected in the Game Quitters community, with 44% of our members unemployed, 21% working part-time or casually, and only 35% in full-time employment. The majority of our community are men aged 18-32, and 60% of them earn less than $500 each month.

Video Game Addiction Hurts the Economy

When you struggle with a video game addiction, merely undertaking necessary and normal every activities is a full-time job. This level of impairment hurts your capacity to obtain employment, or perform if you have managed to get one. A study 2 2. Rumpf et al., 2014 × in Europe found that gaming addicts reported missing 7.5 days of work in the last 12 months, the same amount as those who struggle with social phobia, but higher than those with depression (4.1 days) and cardiovascular conditions (7.2 days) 3 3. Alonso et al., 2011 × .

Steve, a video game addict, regularly finds himself calling in sick to work in order to game: “I downloaded the game and played a lot that night. The next morning, I woke up and said “I’m calling into work.” And I played games all day. Then the next day I said “I’m calling in again.” I spent the morning playing and I was starting to feel irritable and paranoid but the gaming felt so good and I missed it so much and my brain was so happy. But then I was sad, frustrated, and pissy.”

It’s difficult to work if you struggle with a gaming addiction. Gaming is all-encompassing. You get lost in it for hours and hours without even noticing. It becomes your world. And this has an impact on our economy. In South Korea, a study estimated the socioeconomic loss due to excessive internet use to be between 1.5 and 4.5 billion dollars in 2009 4 4. Lee, H. K., Kim, H. S., & Lee, T. J. (2011). Cost-effect analysis on the introduction of online game shut down regulation. Seoul, Republic of Korea: Ministry of Gender Equality & Family × . Imagine what the socioeconomic impact is worldwide when young men are too busy gaming to be working and contributing to society.

Pretending to Work

I struggled with this myself. Addicted to video games, I withdrew from the real world. I dropped out of high school, never graduated, and while all of my friends were off to college, I was at home playing video games up to 16 hours a day. As much as I had fun playing games, I also struggled with depression. Since I wasn’t going to school my parents told me I had to get a job, so I ‘got’ one at a restaurant as a prep cook. Except I didn’t actually get the job, and instead, pretended to have it.

Every morning, after gaming all night, my dad would drop me off at the restaurant for work. As soon as he drove off I would walk across the street and catch the bus back home, sneaking in through my window, and going to sleep. This would go on for a few weeks before naturally they would ask me where the paycheck was, which is when I would make up an excuse and say I quit or I got fired or whatever else I could suggest to deceive them with. Then I would pretend to get a new job, rinse and repeat.

Eventually as much as gaming allowed me to escape from my situation it didn’t actually fix it, and my depression got to a point where I wrote a suicide note. It was this night where I realized I needed to make a change, and that change began with quitting gaming. I started to see a counsellor, and this counsellor helped me get—and keep—a job. This was the turning point in my life.

But it wasn’t easy, and for a month every morning before work I would throw up in the shower. My anxiety to quit gaming, leave the house, and work was that intense. I missed the majority of my shifts the first month of work. I should have been fired quickly, but due to reasons I will never know, I was not. You could say it was divine intervention. Through the support of my family, my counsellor, and a deep commitment to make a change in my life, I was able to persevere and maintain my job. I began to rebuild my life without video games.

So why does this happen? How are these bright young men with all the potential in the world getting caught in a web of gaming and unemployment?

Gaming Changes the Brain

Video games are intentionally designed to keep you hooked using state-of-the-art behavioral psychology. Overexposure to this type of game design and hyper-stimulation can cause structural changes to your brain, including numbed pleasure response—every day activities no longer satisfy you, hyper-reactivity to gaming—gaming is really exciting and everything else is boring, and willpower erosion—even if you wanted to quit you would struggle to have the willpower anyways.

Imaging studies show an impact to brain regions involved in decision-making, behavioral inhibition, and emotional regulation 5 5. Weinstein, 2017 × . Gaming addicts also show increased risk-taking choices, and an impaired ability to control their impulses. Further, gaming addiction is association with dopamine deficiency, which studies have found impacts your desire and willingness to work 6 6. Weinstein, Livny, & Weizman, 2017 × .

Gaming Warps Your Perception of Effort/Reward

When you put effort into a video game, you improve. You see measurable progress with a score flashing across the screen, a leaderboard, and/or a mission completed. Games are explicit in their expectations and consistent in their rewards—many of which you receive through instant gratification. Real life doesn’t work the same way, with actions and outcomes often having no linear relationship. To a gamer this inconsistency can be extremely demotivating, especially when it comes to pursuing employment through the job market.

Ariel, a gamer who was struggling to find employment, shared with me that “in games you know you have to complete a task to make progress toward your goal, on the other hand in the job market it’s a gamble. You could send out literally a hundred resumes and only hear back from one employer for an interview, and they still might not even hire you.”

Why pursue work that requires effort, with no guarantee of a reward, when you could simply game all day instead? Gaming provides more control over your experience and the results you achieve, regardless of whether they are respected in the real world or not.

Jane McGonigal, a video game scholar and game designer, has shared with the New York Times that “games provide a sense of waking in the morning with one goal: I’m trying to improve this skill. There is a routine and daily progress that does a good job at replacing traditional work.” Many modern games are also designed to have no end. You can continue to play them indefinitely, one more mission—and day without a job—at a time.

Gaming Is a Safe Place to Fail

If you apply for a job and don’t get it, you experience rejection and that hurts. On the contrary, if you die in a video game you just press restart and try again. There is no risk. This level of comfort that gaming provides helps to explain why men are leaving the workforce to disappear into video games instead.

Ariel was actively trying to get a job, but turned to games as a crutch to escape feelings of rejection. “I was really, really getting frustrated with submitting resumes and applications to companies and never hearing anything back, so the resentment grew and grew, and I would heal that resentment by playing video games.”

Another member reports that “there was a safety in computer games that I could not replicate with anything else: the safety of the new game or reload button, where if things didn’t go exactly how I wanted them to go I could just redo it, and nothing of the previous failures would remain.”

Life Is the Ultimate Video Game

When it comes to unemployment there are multiple factors you can point to for blame: stagnant wages, a poor job market, globalization, automation, and the Great Recession to name a few. These are all important in their own right and we must be aware of them, but the fact remains, employment rates for young men in their early 20s are dropping swiftly, and they are escaping into video games with their newfound freedom.

To combat this as a society we must do more to recognize video game addiction and offer support services for those who struggle with it. We must break the stigma, as it only further isolates those who desperately need help. This isn’t only a public health crisis, but an economic one.

Practical Tips:

For gaming addicts struggling to find employment, treat the job search like a game. Set a goal of how many job applications you will submit each day. And whether you hear back or not, you can always press the restart button and try again tomorrow.

Reflect on the types of games you play and what you like about them. Do you play competitive games? Or role-playing games? What do the types of games you play help you learn about the types of jobs you could pursue? What skills can you develop to improve your employment prospects? You are the character you are building in this game of life. Be patient and take it one day at a time.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

What Is Video Game Addiction?

Video game addiction is a real mental health condition affecting millions of people around the world.

The World Health Organization recognizes it as “Gaming Disorder” in their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Although billions of people play video games, the majority of them do not have an addiction, and the World Health Organization estimates the number of those who do struggle with an addiction is 3-4%. The difference between a healthy fun gaming hobby and an addiction is the negative impact the activity is having in your life.

Typically an addict will have a level of severity resulting in “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” and the pattern of gaming behavior is “normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.”

What Causes Video Game Addiction?

Video games are intentionally designed using state-of-the-art behavior psychology to keep you hooked. Games are immersive experiences that provide you with a high amount of dopamine, and overexposure to this level of stimulation can cause structural changes to your brain.

You begin to live in a world where you expect instant gratification. Games are so immersive that it’s easy to play for hours and hours without even noticing that a minute has gone by. They allow you to escape and see measurable progress. They are social, and create an environment where you feel safe and in control.

Game developers also deploy manipulative game design features such as in-app purchases, micro-transactions, and loot boxes that some governments have declared illegal – because they are a form of gambling. Video game addiction exists because game companies are billion dollar industries and the more people they have hooked on games, the more money they make.

What Are the Signs of Video Game Addiction?

The American Psychiatric Association has identified nine warning signs to watch for when it comes to video game addiction. Although these can be helpful to better understand the severity of your own situation, it’s important to always seek the advice of a professional.

  1. Preoccupation with video games. The individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game; Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away. These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings, or sadness.
  3. Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in video games. This may be motivated by a need for completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out.
  4. Unsuccessful attempts to control the participation in video games.
  5. Loss of interests in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, video games.
  6. Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems. The individual continues to play despite negative impact.
  7. Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding their gaming.
  8. Use of video games to escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety).
  9. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of participation in video games.

If you meet five (or more) of the following warning signs in a 12-month period, you may have an addiction and should seek the help of a professional immediately.

Effects of Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction is a compulsive mental health disorder that can cause severe damage in one’s life. It’s common for a video game addict to spend over 10 hours a day gaming, usually well into the night, and many suffer from sleep deprivation. Immersed in their experience, gamers are known to have poor diets consisting mainly of energy drinks full of caffeine and sugar. Many are dehydrated and malnourished.

In more severe cases, gaming addicts report agoraphobia – a type of anxiety disorder in which they fear leaving the house – and others identify with hikikomori — a term popularized in Japan as reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from social life.

Gaming addicts tend to be moody and irritable, depressed, physically aggressive, and refuse to go to school or work due to gaming. To be a gaming addict is to experience functional impairment in multiple areas of your life, and the long-term effects can be devastating. Gaming addicts fail out of college. They get divorced. And they struggle with unemployment.

Video Game Addiction Self-Assessment

If you would like to screen yourself for a video game addiction, read the nine warning signs and symptoms above, or take our short quiz here.

If you are concerned about your gaming use, we recommend to seek help immediately, and you can also begin by starting a 90 day detox.

Video Game Addiction or Underlying Mental Health Problem?

In the debate around video game addiction you often here the objection that gaming is better understood as a coping mechanism for underlying mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and not a disorder in its own right. Is this true?

No. It is widely established in the addiction field that comorbidity – the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient — is common, and gaming disorder is no exception. For some, gaming excessively will be a form of coping with another condition and may progress to a gaming disorder, comparable to the behavior of substance-related disorders, and for others gaming excessively will be a function of impairment.

Whether problematic gaming came first, or as a result of underlying mental health problems, therapeutic goals should include treatment of the gaming disorder itself because this disorder can be the underlying agent of functional impairment, and its treatment might be a prerequisite for effective treatment of comorbid conditions.

Video Game Addiction Treatment Options

The good news is that help is available for someone struggling with a video game addiction. Game Quitters is an online peer support community with hundreds of free videos, a community forum, and a very affordable program for both gamers and for parents.

For more severe cases you may want to seek the help of a treatment facility who specializes in video game addiction. There are also professionals around the world available to provide therapy and counseling. If you are struggling with a video game addiction, seek help immediately. It can change your life.

With record profits and new business models available to game developers, danger is on the horizon.


Games are intentionally designed to keep you hooked using the best practices of behavioral psychology.

Gambling-like game design features include loot boxes, microtransactions, and in-app purchases.

Companies are earning record profits by targeting these unregulated features to kids.

Games are no longer what they used to be—fun, simple, and innocent. As technology has evolved, so too have games and the way in which they are designed. Armed with teams of behavioral psychologists, game companies deploy state of the art features to draw you in, and keep you hooked.

With each new game release, evidence builds that games are “specifically designed to exploit and manipulate the addictive nature of human psychology” as Representative Chris Lee of Hawaii has stated 1 1. New York Times: A Video Game ‘Loot Box’ Offers Coveted Rewards, but Is It Gambling? × . Worst of all, they are targeted towards the most vulnerable—kids.

How Did We Get Here?

The iPhone changed the way we communicate. The App Store changed the way we game. Starting in 2008, mobile and social gaming began taking the world by storm, and so too would a new business model with the introduction of in-app purchases.

No longer tied to a one-time purchase of the game itself, a game company could now offer their game for free (or for a small amount, usually under five dollars), and instead offer you opportunities to make small payments within the game through microtransactions. These were usually offers for upgrades, such as better weapons, faster advancement, cosmic improvements, and special or additional levels. What was once a fair playing field for all gamers, quickly devolved into pay-to-win.

Further, microtransactions take advantage of our psychology through impulse buying and loss aversion, and the problems with this type of predatory game design have only been intensified with the introduction of loot boxes.

Is It Gaming, or Is It Gambling?

Playing video games and gambling have a lot in common. Both operate on game mechanics that include “variable reinforcement schedules in order to reward and prolong play, and use exciting and stimulating sound and light effects.” They also include repeated cycles of uncertainty, anticipation, and feedback, and the rewards are just enough to keep you going 2 2. The Guardian: Social Media Copies Gambling Tricks To Make Users Crave It × .

The clearest example of these game mechanics are loot boxes. A type of ‘mystery box’, a player can pay anywhere from a few dollars to $50 or more of real-life money for the random chance of obtaining a desired virtual item. This item may be unattainable within the game outside of winning it in a loot box, and tend to vary in rarity (common, rare, epic and legendary), so they also come with a sense of prestige. We know from gambling research that the anticipation of a potential win activates our brain’s chemical reward system 3 3. Kim, 1998: Opioid antagonists in the treatment of impulse-control disorders. × , and loot boxes prey on this psychology. Worse, they are in games everywhere.

A study found “the loot boxes in almost half (45%) of the 22 games analyzed met the criteria to be considered psychologically similar to gambling, even though they are rated as appropriate for adolescent players under the age of consent for gambling.” 4 4. Drummond & Sauer, 2018: Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling × Further, a poll by Parent Zone found 10% of 13-18 year olds admitted to gambling on unregulated casino, esports betting or mystery box games, equivalent to almost 450,000 teenagers in the UK, and this was despite age-verification procedures 5 5. Telegraph: 400,000 British teens lured into under-aged gambling through video games, investigation reveals × . Research is clear: the earlier you start gambling, the more likely you are to continue gambling into your adulthood 6 6. ResearchGate: Griffiths × .

The potential damage is significant. Gambling physically alters the brain’s structure and makes people more susceptible to depression and anxiety 7 7. Telegraph: Gambling physically alters the brain, making people more prone to anxiety and depression, study finds × , and is associated with both debt and family difficulties. Reports come out regularly of the nightmare parents have when they receive their credit card bill and discover their son or daughter had been buying loot boxes and other in-app purchases without their consent. Today’s video games are a gateway to gambling.

Why Take Advantage of Youth? It’s Profitable!

If science is definitive that youth are vulnerable to gambling 8 8. Wilber & Potenza, 2006: Adolescent Gambling × , and games are now clearly designed with these features, why do game developers continue to pursue this path with reckless abandon?

The answer is unfortunately simple: It is extremely profitable. In 2017, Activision, which owns Blizzard—one of the most popular game companies—reported earnings of over $4 billion dollars from in-game purchases alone, equivalent to more than half of their total earnings! 9 9. PCGames: Over half of Activision Blizzard’s revenue in 2017 came from in-game purchases ×

Predatory as they are, there is a legitimate debate about whether loot boxes are a true form of gambling. Current law in most countries doesn’t view paying real money to win virtual goods as a form of monetary exchange—a necessary component of gambling law 10 10. US Federal Gambling Laws × , which has left the market unregulated (and thus exposed and used by vulnerable populations such as teenagers). However, what if you were able to sell your virtual goods for real-life money? This is exactly what happened in the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

Counter-Strike is a series of first-person shooter games that has been one of the most popular in history, but when game maker Valve released their latest edition CS:GO in 2012, things did not go according to plan. That is until they introduced a new game feature: skins. Skins were a unique way to decorate your virtual weapons. Acquire one in the game and you could sell it for real money. The game’s popularity exploded and grew in players by 1,500% within two years.

It also created a thriving gambling market. It worked like this: You buy a skin for cash, and then use the skin to place a bet on professional CS:GO matches using third-party websites like CSLounge. You could then sell your skin for real money, thus, placing a bet with a skin is essentially no different than placing a bet with real money.

Worse, this was an intentional strategy by the game developers, as employee Kyle Davis explained that the best way to get players “deeply engaged” in games (the terms companies use instead of “psychologically hooked”), was to “give away virtual items of random value and encourage a robust market to trade them.”

Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming found more than 3 million people wagered $2.3 billion worth of skins in 2015, and of course, Valve received a kickback on 15% of the money 11 11. Bloomberg: Virtual Weapons Are Turning Teen Gamers into Serious Gamblers × . The CS:GO gambling industry was valued at $7.4 billion in July 2016, and has helped make CS:GO one of the biggest games in the world.

A Sign of Things to Come

However, it came with a cost: lawsuits 12 12. Holden, Rodenberg & Kaburakis, 2017: Esports Corruption: Gambling, Doping, and Global Governance × . The first came on June 23, 2016 alleging that Valve “knowingly allowed, supported, and/or sponsored illegal gambling.” A second, third, and fourth lawsuit came within weeks, causing Valve to take action and shut down this illegal gambling market, but not before they had earned hundreds of millions of dollars by taking advantage of the users they claim to care for.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the romance between the gaming and gambling industries. With the Supreme Court legalizing sports betting 13 13. VentureBeat: Supreme Court decision means esports betting can step out of the shadows × — paving the way for legal esports betting—this budding romance has just begun. With record profits and new business models available to game developers around the world, danger is on the horizon.

Need help?

Reading this and struggling with a compulsion or addiction to gaming? You are not alone. Check out Respawn, a program specifically designed to help you quit gaming and take control of your life back. Backed by scientific research, join thousands of others like you who have quit gaming. Start your journey today.

If you think you might be gambling too much, or if you are worried about a friend or relative, help is available 24/7 and 100% confidential. Call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-522-4700 or send a message on chat.