How the Sunk Cost Fallacy Keeps You Playing Games

If you’re reading this you’ve likely invested thousands of hours into gaming and that can make it hard to give it up. What will that mean for all the time and effort you’ve put in? This is the sunk cost fallacy at play.

Here’s how the sunk cost fallacy keeps you playing games, even though you don’t want to:

I first learned about this principle in a book called You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney (highly recommended.)

In the book David talks about the sunk cost fallacy, which states that we think we make rational decisions based on the future values of objects, investments and experiences, when the truth is our decisions are tainted by emotional investments we accumulate, and the more we invest in something the harder it is to move on from it.

This directly applies to each of us as gamers.

Not only have we invested a ton of time and energy playing different games, building characters and developing our skills, in many cases we’ve also bought many different games too, especially now when they are so cheap and come in bundles.

So when we go to quit we worry about what that’s going to mean about our characters, what’s that going to mean about our skills, what about all of these games I haven’t played yet?!

This also has to do with Loss Aversion, which is the tendency to avoid losses instead of acquiring gains – we’d rather continue to play games and avoid losing all of our characters and the skills we’ve developed instead of acquiring this really amazing life, which is what we really want.

It’s so valuable for us to understand things like the sunk cost fallacy and loss aversion is because we need to understand that the reason we do things is for specific reasons, and the way we justify playing isn’t always based on logic, and usually there’s some sort of emotional investment behind it.

As humans we’re designed to avoid feeling pain. To breakthrough, we need to take a step back and recognize that we’re in an emotional state and create the opportunity to look at it from a different perspective.

Simply by being aware of this is powerful. By understanding why you do the things you do you can leverage it to do the things you actually want to do.

One way to get into a more logical state is to write out a pros and cons list. I find writing things down really helps and when you have a pros and cons list you can see more clearly why you’re doing what you’re doing.

If the only reason you want to continue to play the games is to feel better about the money you spent on it, you need to reevaluate your goals and what you’re really trying to accomplish here.

Remember it’s not just about quitting games, it’s about closing a chapter in your life. And in closing that chapter it doesn’t take away from what games meant to you, games meant something to you and the quicker you recognize that the sooner you’ll stop justifying the reason you want to play – just because you have a bunch of games you haven’t finished yet.

Another way to breakthrough the sunk cost fallacy is to delete your games and characters. This is a great way to get rid of the things you’re holding onto, and this goes a really far way so if you haven’t done this already, do it now.

In doing so you’re recognizing that what you want now is different than what you wanted previously, and that’s ok, you’re allowed to make this decision for yourself. Take a step back, get into a logical headspace and acknowledge that continuing to play games isn’t going to make it mean something more, it’s just going to make you look back on this in a few months and wonder what the fuck you’re doing. 😉

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