About Nadja Streiter

As parents, one of the most challenging aspects of video games is watching your child stagnate in front of their screen.

If your child is not motivated to do anything else but play video games all day, then we understand.

We often get questions from concerned parents who say their child has no motivation for other things than gaming

And it seems as though no matter what you do or say to your son, it’s a never-ending cycle that can never be broken. It’s like a spell has been cast on your child and you simply can’t remove it.

But we want you to know that there is hope. You can do something about this, you just might need to understand a few things first about video games and lack of motivation, and why it happens.

If you have a son or a child at home who doesn’t want to do anything else than play games, then this article is for you.

Why Gamers Lose Motivation in Life

We all want to feel excitement in life, and we all want to be entertained. We also have a primal need for accomplishment and friendships.

Gaming addresses all those needs at the same time.

If we take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we’ll see that to feel fulfilled human beings  seek to address all of those values – especially belonging and esteem, which come right after our most important needs like our safety and physiological needs are satisfied. 

health pyramid

As human beings, we simply need to fulfill  those needs in one way or another. 

For many gamers, video games offer a safe, easy, comfortable, and convenient solution to help them address those needs.

If you think about it, video games can help the gamer solve several challenges and address some of their most important needs, such as:

  • Friendship
  • Achievement
  • Respect of and by others
  • Entertainment
  • Excitement
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
The main problem for your child might be that they get all of those needs addressed by video games, so they don’t seek to fulfill them in real life. In other words their motivation is being hijacked.

Because video games are so easily accessible nowadays, it’s the most comfortable way of addressing the most important needs without risking going out in the world and doing other activities. 

  • They won’t seek new friendships in their life because they have friends when they play games
  • They don’t need a hobby where they can progress because they can do that in the video game
  • They won’t be interested in talking to your or other family members because they get a sense of belonging online
  • They don’t get bored when they play video games, so they won’t try hobbies

The key is thus limiting video game use and encouraging other activities that fulfill the same needs.

How Games Are Designed to Be Addictive

Playing video games has some benefits that have been scientifically proven. Gaming can improve cognitive abilities, problem-solving skills, hand-to-eye coordination, team-work skills,and more.

The downside?

Video games are addictive. 

Game developers create video games so that gamers stay in the game for as long as possible. They encourage gamers to keep playing and even spend their (or their parents’) hard-earned money on in-game purchases.

You might have tried getting your child to quit video games before but failed. If that’s the case, then you know how hard it is to get them to stop playing video games. They’re available everywhere: on their phone, on the console, on the computer, and that Nintendo Switch…

Video games also have several tricks that will keep your child coming back for more, such as:

  • Instant Gratification – video games provide instant satisfaction and gratification. They release large amounts of dopamine, which causes your child to feel satisfied when they consume the in-game content. 
  • Reinforcement Schedule – your child will be actively reinforced to come back to video games by allowing them to receive rewards and direct feedback for their efforts.
  • Punishment for not Playing – if you don’t play video games for some time, you may get punished. You might lose points in competitive games, or you might lose items you had on your account. 
  • Streaks and Seasons – many games today have seasons and streaks. For instance,  in the case of seasons, the content inside the game gets changed or new content gets added, so if you miss it, you’ll feel like you’re getting left behind by other players. 

How To Motivate Your Child to Do Something Else Other than Play Video Games

If you don’t know what to do to motivate your child if they only want to play video games, there are a few things you can try. We have separated these suggestions based on developmental stages and ages so you can better understand the context of your child.

Tweens

Tweens are a common age group we work with here at Game Quitters. The biggest challenge in this age group is that tweens lack self-control. because their brains haven’t developed the ability to control their impulses and actions fully.

This means that you’re going to have to take an active role in motivating your child to do anything other than play video games all day or sit in their room and scroll through  social media.

There are a few things that you can do to motivate your tween. Try these steps and see how it goes.

  1. Take some time to truly understand your child. In this step, you’ll want to get into why your gamer spends so much time playing video games or on social media. Do they have nothing else to do? Or perhaps there’s an even bigger reason – such as being bullied at school, social anxiety, or even depression. Whatever it is, you’ll need to find out if there is something going on in their lives and what it is.
  2. Prepare a plan. Determine what changes you want to see in your child’s behavior. Of course, you would want them to stop playing video games so much and get them to do other things, but there might have other priorities as well such as getting your child to be more physically active, for example.
  3. Implement the plan. The last step is to gain some control over your child’s gaming behaviors.. This means limiting gaming and perhaps social media,  which you can do by setting up house rules and offering and/or finding replacement activities  (our hobby tool has a lot of great ideas).You’ll also need to actively encourage them to participate in  those activities and make sure that you give them enough support when they need it – but don’t forget about your wellbeing in the process!

Adolescents/Teens

If you have a teenager at home, then you know how difficult it can be to deal with them. This is the time when hormones start popping out, which can result in rebelliousness or even  unusual behaviors, which is sometimes reinforced by peers.

When you want to motivate your teenager, perhaps the key steps are to offer them support and let them know it is safe to open up to you. 

Teenagers can become closed off when it comes to their feelings. There might be an external reason why they resort to playing video games, such as bullying, social anxiety, problems at school or in relationships, or other problems that they keep to themselves.

Instead of working against your teenager by using punishment as a way to keep them from playing video games, a more effective strategy is to build trust and develop a better relationship with your child. You will need to talk to them and ask them about their feelings and dig a little deeper to find the real reason why they resort to video games.

If you don’t know how to do it, we will teach you how to do it in our program called RECLAIM, which is aimed specifically at parents who want to build better relationships with their teens and their family members.

Young Adults

Often when it comes to lack of motivation in young adults, we see a trend: almost all of the young adults we work with have a lack of direction in their lives.

They don’t know what to do with their lives, but they still want to feel a sense of progression. They find that in video games, so they don’t go out to find a job or develop a skill or even start a business of their own.

Young adults should be responsible for their actions, so you can’t intervene as actively as you can with teens or tweens; however, you can still help.

You will need to encourage them to stop playing video games and go out and find replacement activities that will address the same needs as video games:

  • Start a hobby or start developing a skill that allows them to progress, which will give them a purpose in life
  • Do activities that help them create new friendships
  • Get physically active

You might also want to encourage them to talk to a therapist (find one here) if talking to you doesn’t work. Therapy is one of the most effective ways of finding motivation, identifying underlying issues and reducing  video games.

We Can Help

If you struggle to motivate your child to do something else other than play video games all day, we can help you.

Our family program RECLAIM, is aimed specifically at helping parents encourage their children to develop healthier habits and get control over video games. It’s backed by science and years of research, and you’ll get constant support from us and will  be able to implement  your plan no matter what age your child is.

In RECLAIM, you’ll learn the following:

  • How to reduce arguments and conflicts
  • Why your gamer is lacking in motivation
  • How to improve communication with your child
  • How to build and implement a plan for you and your family
  • How to control gaming and screen time

To help families get prepared for the academic year we put together a guide on Back to School: Gaming & Screen Time Tips for Families.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

This is a common chant amongst parents as summer comes to a close and the academic year is near.

Unfortunately, however, Back to School is also a high-stress time for both parents and children. Many families have relaxed gaming and screen time rules during the summer, and parents hope to regain control as their children embark on a new school year.

Before I get into practical steps, I’d like to caution parents not to underestimate the anxiety their children might be feeling about returning to school. COVID restrictions created numerous challenges in both learning and face-to-face socializing. Talk to your child and reassure them what they are feeling is normal and you are there to support them. What’s a parent to do?

Related: Screen Time Guidelines by Age.

Back to School: Gaming & Screen Time Tips for Families

back to school gaming and screen time tips for families

If you haven’t already, begin preparing yourselves and your children now for the academic year. Starting early will help to ease the transition and give your family enough time to get organized.

Find Replacement Activities

Replacement activities are critical for reducing gaming and screen time. Start researching or signing up for replacement alternative activities before after school battles begin. You can use our hobby finding tool.

What if you can’t find anything? Or none of your kid’s friends are available? Create your own.

Many of us learned the concept of “pods” during Covid. That concept can be extended to recreational activities too. Try posting in local FB groups to create interest-oriented pods. Anything can work, from establishing a regular time for kids to meet and toss a ball in a local park, to having jam sessions in the basement, to geocaching, and more; creating a pod also allows parents to share responsibilities for supervision and transportation.

One additional benefit is the opportunity for kids to practice face-to-face social skills with kids they may have never met before. Because engaging in activity provides a “focal point,” social anxiety might feel more manageable.

Related: Join our Free Parent Support Group on Facebook

Extend replacement activities into home life. Dedicate some time each week to teaching your kids practical skills (not just chores) like changing lightbulbs, tightening loose screws around the house, setting timers on outdoor lights and thermostats as the weather changes. They will thank you someday.

Introduce and practice a stress reduction activity that doesn’t involve gaming or screens (except for mindfulness and meditation apps). Learning breathing techniques is a great one because you can do them anywhere and anytime without any additional equipment. If the apps work better, find a few quick go-to’s, so no time is spent scrolling through the options. Yes- that is a thing. Mindfulness and meditation apps offer lots of options, and it is easy to get lost looking for one you like and lose track of time. You can avoid this with some planning.

Create a Media Plan

Recommended: For a full step-by-step guide on creating a realistic media plan for your family, get a copy of our signature family program RECLAIM.

Engage your kids in creating a media plan and notice and praise as often as possible when they follow it. In addition, you can guide the plan by letting them know what other things need to factor in, such as homework, exercise, family time, hygiene, etc.

Start transitioning current screen time use from less nutritive types to more nutritive. Back to school is a good time to review the types of games your kids are currently playing.

Some questions I like to consider are: How time-consuming is the game itself? Some are short bursts of entertainment and, therefore, may be easier to put down, but many can have long narratives and lots of levels. If they’ve been playing a particular game for a long time, you might ask them to consider if it is still fun? Are the games they play pro-social and age-appropriate? A great place to explore is Gamers for Good. Gamers for good is a nonprofit whose mission is to use games to build awareness of charitable opportunities.

Don’t make reading a book a requirement for screen time. It creates a negative association with reading. Yes, we all want our kids to read or read more but allowing that to be one of several acceptable non-screen activities that need to be done before digital use, such as drawing, building, phone calls, even just daydreaming, are good options.

If you have younger children get them used to the idea that you will be using parental monitoring tools and blocking inappropriate content. Even with older kids, you can establish guidelines for downloading new games and apps and for spending. You can read more about tips to keep your family safe with in-game spending.

Be Kind, Firm, Calm

Be clear about rules and expectations and consequences for infractions. But, please don’t overdo it. Kids make mistakes. A small consequence delivered consistently goes further than a big consequence that ends up not being enforceable because of something you didn’t anticipate; give them lots of chances to make a mistake, feel the pain short term and get a fresh start the following day. Watch our free webinar on Setting Effective Boundaries below:

Establish a “one device” rule during homework to minimize distractions. Turn off notifications on laptops and iPads too.

Turn off phones, tablets, and games one hour before bedtime. Parents can role model desired behaviors (as well as reap the benefits themselves) by making back to school-based use changes of their own. Some families find it less stressful to manage this by having kids turn in devices and controllers at a designated time and for everyone to charge their devices outside of the bedroom.

Need Help for a Gaming Problem?

If you need assistance, it can be helpful to speak with a professional who specializes in gaming and family issues. Our Reclaim Family Program is designed to reduce problematic gaming and conflict within the family. Alternatively, you can speak to a video game addiction therapist or apply for our coaching program.

More Helpful Articles

Today’s modern games include the opportunity to spend money on in-app purchases, microtransactions and loot boxes. Although spending money on or within games can be an excellent way for kids to learn money management skills, it can also be easy to go overboard.

To prevent spending problems in gaming or curb them if they have become excessive, we have put together this article to help you and your family.

Concerned about your child’s gaming? Take the Video Game Addiction Test.

Types of In-Game Spending:

  1. Subscriptions. Like a gym membership or Netflix, there is a monthly or annual fee required to keep playing. Suppose your player is interested in a specific game part of the subscription or multiple games within a game library. In that case, subscriptions can be a way to keep overall expenses down.
  2. Paid Games with Downloadable Content (DLC). Here you pay upfront for a game, but updates, new levels, or content might require additional purchases. It might be hard to know in advance, but we recommend discussing the long-term cost of a particular game and if staying up to date is affordable (or even worth it). It might be a good game, but it might be a good game to pass on if your player can’t afford the full experience.
  3. Free-to-Play with Microtransactions. A microtransaction is a transaction where a player can purchase virtual items for small (and sometimes not so small) amounts of money. They are anything you can buy inside of a game, including items like skins or costumes, upgrades and premium features that might give a player a competitive advantage, loot boxes, and more. Microtransactions often appear in free-to-play games, which have no upfront cost to download the game, making the game more accessible. Then, as the player is playing the game, they will be presented with opportunities to spend money in-game to continue playing or enhance their experience.

The Problem with Microtransactions

Problems with in-game spending and microtransactions can occur easily. Purchases tend to be for small amounts, making it easy to spend impulsively. A few dollars here and there can add up fast!

But not all microtransactions are so micro. Some microtransactions can be more than the cost of a retail game – were you to pay full price. For example, Grand Theft Auto offers a gold-plated private jet that will cost a player almost $130. In Rockstar Remastered, each song is only $2.99, but if you want the whole catalog, it will run you close to $6,500. Other microtransactions can be more expensive.

Often games have their own in-game currency, such as V-bu in Fortnite or Roblox’s Robux. To avoid surprises, it is important always to know when you are spending real money rather than in-game points or in-game currency. If players are using real money to get more in-game currency, always think from the real money perspective. It doesn’t matter if $100 gives you 10 or 10,000 game bucks—it’s still $100 from your wallet.

The Lure to Spend

Game developers are smart. They know how to optimize offers to players to get them spending. Some games even use algorithms designed to track how much your player would spend if given the opportunity and make offerings based on that. Another example includes leveraging a player’s Facebook data to identify their favorite sports team and then offering them in-game items associated with it.

Microtransactions can also include loot box mechanics, which involve purchasing a mystery box that includes random or unspecified items. Due to the randomized chance mechanic, loot boxes resemble gambling.

RESOURCES: Learn more about the link between gaming and gambling.

What Drives Spending on Microtransactions?

If a player doesn’t know if what they purchase will have value to them or retain its value, you might be wondering why they would spend their money. There are several motivations for in-game spending:

  • Social influence and FOMO are big ones – your player may want to keep up with what their friends are doing. Spending on accessories like skins can also compensate for being a less skilled player or social status amongst peers. Emotionally driven spending can occur as an extension of the desire to avoid uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings.
  • Impulsivity, whereby one decides in the moment without considering the consequences, is also common for in-game spending. Tweens and teens are particularly vulnerable to this, as their brain wants what it wants – and the prefrontal cortex isn’t developed enough to plan and manage impulsivity. If ADHD is involved, which we see in many problematic gamers and recreational gamers, it is even more challenging to control.
  • Game design mechanics encourage repeated player spending and often without providing info about whether they will improve a player’s performance. Without critical thinking skills, it is easy to be duped, assume something good will happen, and, therefore, spend in the moment.

PARENT TIP: Younger kids are more vulnerable to thinking they are getting value for their money, meaning they don’t realize buying a skin or accessory is just that. It won’t improve their skills or performance.

What is a Parent to Do?

Knowledge is power! By understanding some of the ins and outs of microtransactions, you can address issues around spending before they arise – especially with younger kids. This type of conversation, using relatable subjects for kids, is a great opportunity to teach lessons about spending, saving, and predatory marketing. If spending problems have already arisen, what you’ve learned here today will help you with where to begin an intelligent and informed conversation. 

  • Set up a weekly or monthly in-game spending budget. Do this collaboratively. Teen and older gamers crave autonomy and will want to have a say regarding the amount they can spend. First, however, they should explain how they arrived at that number and what benefits they will derive. If they can’t, then hold off until they can. With younger players, parents have the opportunity to teach their children to think carefully about the value of what they are spending on and if it is worthwhile. These are the seeds of financial literacy.
  • Track spending. Have your gamer write down every in-game purchase on a piece of paper—even if it’s just a few cents—and keep a running total. Then, ask them to look over that paper every time they think about making another purchase to double-check it falls within their budget. Those who are more apt to do it on their phone can use the notes section or a budget tracking app.
  • Set up parental controls. Beyond agreeing on a spending limit, support your gamer by taking advantage of tools like parental controls. These should be the standard with younger gamers. For example, some platforms allow parents to control both the types of transactions and the amount, and the Google Play Store will enable parents or players to set budgets within its service.
  • Set up payment notifications. If you attach your debit or credit card to a game or service, set up payment notifications to avoid surprises and monitor ongoing spending. If you see the limit reached quickly, you might want to have a conversation about balance. Older gamers should be able to explain their rationale, whereas younger gamers may need a reminder.
  • Link gift cards instead of credit cards. If you’ve agreed on a spending limit but are concerned about if your gamer will be able to stick to it, or they haven’t in the past, then you can link a gift card instead of a credit card. Doing so will protect you if your gamer loses control. 
  • Use passwords for transactions Another way to prevent unwanted purchases is to require a password for transactions to be made. Please do not share the password with your child unless you’ve agreed it requires a gamer to put in a little more effort to make a purchase, therefore providing more time to think about whether they want to make that purchase.
  • Danger Zone: Cash can be used to purchase Steam or other similar gaming gift cards. If you have a problem gamer, you may think you are giving them cash for gas or food money, but they may take that cash and buy gift cards for in-game spending.

Gaming is here to stay, and in-game monetization is increasingly exploitative. In-game spending can lead to greater attachment to gaming, increasing the number of hours spent playing. You need to have a plan, not only for the amount of time a player plays but also the amount of money they spend. These tips, along with clear and open communication, can support your family to stay safe with gaming and avoid potential problems. 

Need Help for a Gaming Problem?

If you need assistance, it can be helpful to speak with a professional who specializes in gaming and family issues. Our Reclaim Family Program is designed to reduce problematic gaming and conflict within the family. Alternatively, you can speak to a video game addiction therapist or apply for our coaching program.

More Helpful Articles