6+ months

My name is Austin Tuwiner and I’m a 21-year-old digital nomad. I’ve been travelling the world for over 9 months now. Video games have had an enormous impact on my life, so I’d like to share my experiences with them, hopefully resulting in helping someone’s life for the better.

I’m writing this post from a coffee shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina; reflecting on just how far I’ve come. A place I never imagined myself going to (or even knowing it existed) during the period of my life that I was consumed by the video game world.

Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify that I do still enjoy playing the occasional video game. After discussing my story and how gaming addiction has affected my life, I’ll share some tips on how I’ve been able to find balance and reintroduce them to my life.

My First Video Games

I don’t remember what video game was my first love. If I had to guess, it would be Pokemon Crystal or one of the Mario games. To this day I have amazing memories playing on my GameBoy and Nintendo with my siblings and friends. On a snow day (no school due to snow), my brother, sister, and I would sleep in and play games like Super Smash Bros and Mario together.

As time went on, I upgraded consoles to an Xbox 360 and played more and more mature-rated games. I think this is truly where the first issues started to appear. I began playing games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty at 15 years old. Immediately after coming home from middle school, my friends and I would boot up our Xbox’s and spend the entire day online chatting and gaming with each other.

We’d only surface for food. Oh, and homework.

Due tomorrow meant do tomorrow. Without a doubt, video games had an impact on my grades.

After playing Xbox for many years, I upgraded to PC gaming. If I had to pick a video game I spent the most time and money on there would be no comparison. It’s League of Legends by far.

Read: How to Quit Playing League of Legends

I’m a pretty competitive person which is an extremely dangerous combination when paired with player vs player video games. I was addicted to improving my craft and reaching the highest rank possible.

When I wasn’t able to play video games, I’d be watching Youtube and Twitch gameplay of professionals in order to get better.

My mind was ALWAYS on video games. What builds to try, what the coolest new strategy was, or the next game I was going to play. All of this took me out of the present moment. In school, on the bus, or mid-conversation I’d be thinking about video games.

The highest rank I ever achieved in League of Legends was Diamond 3, around the top .3% of all players.

At the time, this was a massive accomplishment.

Looking back?

It’s a trophy showing how much of my life I wasted for a game I’ll never play again. A few years from now, you won’t care about your rank, your special skin collection, or any other virtual accolade. You only have one life, why waste time playing and earning virtual awards?

I couldn’t even tell you how many aspects of my life were neglected due to my PC gaming addiction. I played PC games all throughout high school until I finally quit towards the end of senior year.

Let me tell you how I did it.

xbox 360 addiction

How To Quit Playing Video Games

Whenever I’m trying to quit a habit, I found that nuclear options are the best and maybe the only way. I specifically remember this video that convinced me I had to commit to quitting gaming.

I deleted all my accounts and listed my $1000+ custom built gaming computer on eBay.

What did I do when my computer was sold?

Began playing Xbox again.

My Xbox was the next to go. I removed all possible video games and systems from my life. I had an enormous amount of time now. My days felt so much longer. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Eventually, after doing some research and finding sites like Game Quitters, I decided to take action and find new hobbies.

Find New Hobbies

There’s a saying – “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Quitting video games will be near impossible without finding new hobbies.

With all of this extra time, I picked up activities such as scuba diving, bouldering, and travelling. I even started my own digital marketing businesses that I use to fund my travels and lifestyle.

By delving pretty deep into each of these hobbies’ respective communities, I’ve met more friends and made more high-quality relationships than I ever could have imagined.

It was difficult for me to leave behind all of my gaming friends. Some I knew in real life, and others I never even met. I had a lot of gaming friends. I even thought I had “deep” relationships with them.

Ever since I “quit” gaming, I don’t really hear from them. They’re good people and I hope to see them succeed in life. It just won’t be at my table.

How to Play Video Games in Moderation

After I took some time off from gaming, found new hobbies, and got my priorities straight, I wanted to find a way to introduce video games back into my life. When your life becomes so busy and fun that there’s little time to game, I think it’s possible to play video games responsibly.

Here’s how I’ve done it.

Avoid ‘Time Suck’ Games

One way I’ve found to limit video games is by avoiding the endless time-suck grind games. I don’t go anywhere near the endless grind video games I used to love like Call of Duty, League of Legends, and Path of Exile.

If I decide to play a video game, it’s for the story. Story video games are almost like movies for me. Games like Fallout, Far Cry, Witcher 3, and Skyrim all have a clear ending where video gaming stops. These are the only games I play or keep up with anymore.

Cloud Streaming

I’ve been travelling for 9 months now out of one backpack, so there’s no way for me to bring a console along for the ride (not that I’d even want to).

The last video game I played was Witcher 3, and I don’t see myself playing any others until Cyberpunk 2077 is released. Cloud streaming has allowed me to play video games once in a while without dedicating myself to the newest console.

The great thing about cloud streaming is you can delete and cancel your membership whenever you want, and it’s not amazing for playing the fast-paced time suck video games we mentioned above. There’s a slight delay but is unnoticeable for any slow-paced story/adventure game.

I don’t really think gaming is very different from watching Netflix, sports games, or any other hobbies. The main distinction between it and these hobbies is that you are battling a multi-billion dollar industry doing everything it can to addict you and extract every last dollar.

Understand what you’re up against, and set your life up in a way where it’s near impossible to become addicted.

Only this way was it possible for me to find balance gaming.

Thank you for taking the time to read my experience with video games, and hope there’s something you can take away from this.

Story submitted by Austin Tuwiner.

“What started as a harmless hobby, transformed into a life-destroying addiction. One that ultimately led to me getting discharged from the military and having a marriage ending in divorce.”

I’m from a small town in Virginia. There wasn’t much for us to do apart from the annual get together at the local park.

I remember my dad bringing home a PlayStation one day when I was four years old. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

Best of all, I was allowed to play pretty much anything.

What started as a harmless hobby, transformed into a life-destroying addiction. One that ultimately led to me getting discharged from the military and having a marriage ending in divorce.

I don’t blame my parents one bit, though. They didn’t know. How could they?

Gaming Was Always A Part of My Life

playstation controller

Since the original PlayStation, I always had a gaming console. I went from that to the original Xbox after I was introduced to Halo. That’s when it really took a hold of me.

I played non-stop some days – even during the school year. It really affected my grades.

This was before parents could go online and see a detailed report of their child’s schoolwork so when I told them my homework was done, they had to believe me. I never failed a grade, but I certainly didn’t live up to my potential. I always passed with C’s or D’s.

In 2004, Xbox Live was introduced, and I could finally compare my skills to other people around the world. I loved it, and I thought about it constantly.

I craved it.

It even took precedence over football, which was my main focus at the time. I was offered scholarships from major Division-1 schools.

But I couldn’t escape video games. I couldn’t leave my house for more than a day. When I went on family vacations the Xbox came with me.

Related: How to Deal with Cravings

Gaming Addiction Caused My Divorce

gaming addiction divorce

It took a divorce to make me stop gaming. I didn’t really take notice until I enlisted in the military, and my thinking was “if I’m forced to do something, then the issue will take care of itself.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

After two months, I was deemed “unfit for service” in the Army. My addiction ruined any chance of a successful military career.

After getting home, a short time after, I met my now current ex-wife. If you couldn’t already tell, we ended up in divorce.

We had a child, a house, and everything seemed to be looking up. I did this all while gaming in my spare time. However, gaming was always my number one priority. Over my wife, my child, and the countless jobs I had squandered away.

The divorce was mainly due to my video game addiction. I was neglectful. To her and my son. This is when I finally said, “enough is enough.”

Breaking Away from Video Games

outdoors

After the separation, I decided to do three months of “no gaming detox”.

With help from friends and family I sold about $20k worth of video games and separated myself from technology completely. I didn’t even use my smartphone during this time. Friends had to fill out my job applications on their own computers

I bought a house. A new car. I even restored my relationship with my son. My ex-wife and I are now some of the best co-parents you’ll ever see. I even felt comfortable enough to buy an Xbox again.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Are you crazy? You’re going to fall off the wagon!!”

Those 90 days did wonders for me. 90 days turned into 180 days. 180 into 245. I picked up a controller for the first time in April and…

It just didn’t feel the same.

I didn’t have the competitive drive I once had. I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. It didn’t feel like an escape. I enjoyed it for what it was for about 30 minutes. I sat the controller down and went outside to join up with some friends to play basketball.

My life is finally back under control.

Sure, every day is a struggle. And the temptation will always be there. But I won’t let it take control of my life again. It’s meant to be a hobby and enjoyed in small segments. That’s all it’s going to be for me.

Sure, I might play once a week. But I have found that it’s much more rewarding to be an outstanding father, to have a career, and to have a meaningful relationship with someone.

To live a real life.

It’s Possible to Make Real Change

father surfing with son

Gaming addiction is real and it won’t go away until you decide to take control.

You have the power to do it.

Here’s how my life has changed since I quit:

  • I own one Xbox, and I use it mainly for Netflix.
  • I’m an Engineer for a building supply company.
  • I own my own house and brand new car.
  • I have my son every other day, and he loves to spend time with me.
  • My ex-wife is proud of my accomplishments.

I even have a girlfriend who’s supportive and understands my daily struggle.

Life is so much bigger and more rewarding than what any game can offer you. I’m living proof that you can overcome your addiction and really create a life worth living.

Thank you for reading this. I hope it helps you in some way.

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.

“I knew I was addicted but I couldn’t stop. My brain was telling me, ‘wow this is so fun and so enjoyable.’ My addiction was and I guess still is – video gaming.”

Speaking about his video game addiction is former World Snooker Champion Neil Robertson. Robertson has spent the last several years of his life battling against his demons which have come in the form of certain video games.

Neil Robertson Snooker

“This addiction cost me a lot in my career and my personal life,” states Neil.

“I probably would have won more tournaments. I won the [snooker] World Championship in 2010, maybe I could have won more if I was fully committed to snooker. I was spending time playing video games when I should have been spending it with my family and on the practice tables. I was addicted to League of Legends, World of Warcraft and FIFA. It was ridiculous. I was staying up all night playing these video games. League of Legends is banned in my house now and rightly so.

“I am a really addictive person with an addictive personality so when I do something I really go at it 100% and try to become the best that I can be at it. Video gaming is obviously extremely unhealthy. Spending so many hours in front of a screen, it affects your sleep, your moods.”

League of Legends and World of Warcraft are massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). They have been found by research 1 1. The influence of game genre on Internet gaming disorder × to be the most addictive video games to have ever been created. Addiction is described as:

“the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable.”

Addiction can affect all human beings and has recently been treated as a disease of the brain. Prior to the last decade, addiction was seen as something that only feeble people were susceptible to and was regularly discussed as a weakness rather than an addiction. However, scientific studies have now begun to study more about the effects of addiction; what causes addictive behavior and how to treat such behavior once an addiction has taken hold. Where addiction was once seen as something that only drug addicts suffer from, humans can also be addicted to activities other than drugs; sex 2 2. WHO: Compulsive sexual behavior disorder × for example and video gaming 3 3. WHO: Gaming disorder × too. But are video games inherently addictive?

Are Video Games Inherently Unhealthy for Us?

gaming

Video games provide a large amount of good to people. Video games can help people relax after a stressful day at work and can provide hours upon hours of entertainment.

Bias notwithstanding, video producer Johnny Chiodini stated that he has used video games as a support tool to help himself deal with difficult times “pretty much throughout his whole life.” When depression started to overwhelm him, Chiodini would use video games in order to give himself something else to think about. They provided him a relief where real life would not give him one.

Related: How to Overcome Escapism

Some video games have been found to lower stress levels in humans – sometimes it is good to have a break from the real world. Whilst other games have been known to improve cognitive abilities. Problem solving and team working abilities can also be enhanced. In addition, positive experiences and ‘wins’ whilst playing video games can build resilience to stress. Video games with an educational purpose are of course much less likely to be talked about in a discussion of the negative aspects of video games. As are video games that encourage physical activity.

But are video games inherently addictive? Perhaps it is not video games themselves that are the problem. Video games are fun and enjoyable. They offer an escape from our sometimes boring and mundane lives. Video games take us into fantasy worlds; horror worlds; action worlds and many other worlds different from our own realities. Video games act like time machines, transporting us back to any period of time in which we desire. They can also transport us into future worlds; into space; into the depths of hell. We can become mythical creatures, Greek Gods and treasure hunters. Video games allow us to battle monsters; destroy worlds; and become underworld kingpins. They give us the opportunity to build new worlds, travel to distant galaxies and meet alien beings.

The paragraph above portrays video games in the most elegant of moonlight. And the words are all true. The technology that has gifted us with the video games of our age is truly spectacular, there is no doubting that. But as every psychologist will tell you – humans have an unquenchable thirst for wealth. As of January 2018, there are 2.2 billion video gamers worldwide 4 4. Number of gamers worldwide hits 2.2 billion × – a market of almost unprecedented proportions. Video game companies have direct access to the wallets of all of these people and they want that cash.

The Mainstream Video Game Industry

feedback loop

In this article published by Gamasutra in 2001, the author, John Hopson – who later went on to become head of user research at Bungie – gives instructions on how to make games that ‘hook’ users. Hopson discusses and incorporates behavioral psychology techniques and instructs the ways in which to use these techniques in order to do three things:

  1. Make players play hard
  2. Make players play forever
  3. Make players never quit

The article was written in 2001 – the industry has certainly evolved since then. Graphics have improved and we are able to chat and play video games online with friends who are thousands of miles away. But the free market allows games companies to monetize the gaming industry to its full extent. Sometimes this is at the expense of the player, sometimes it is not. Ads in games are not necessarily a problem to players other than the annoyance of having to close them down during whilst playing. On the other hand, gaming companies that design their games as ‘pay to win’ or as ‘free-to-play’ can be very detrimental.

We are monetizing the weakness of people and turning it into cold hard cash.

Free-to-play games are, as the name suggests, completely free to play. The creators of free to play games make their money via selling in game items to players.

Teut Weidemann, lead designer of Settlers Online, outlined that in order for a company to succeed with free to play games, they must exploit human weaknesses. Weidemann went on to state that companies need to find those areas in which players can be monetized, and go after that aggressively. “We are monetizing the weakness of people and turning it into cold hard cash,” he stated.

In an article published in the scientific journal – ‘Computers in Human Behavior’ – the authors’ research 5 5. Loyalty towards online games, gaming addiction, and purchase intention towards online mobile in-game features × indicates that the most important stream of game developers’ revenue is via gamer’s in-game purchases. The article came to the conclusion that gaming addiction had a positive relationship with the purchase of in-game apps.

When it comes to the monetization of people, no person is out of bounds, not even children, it seems. A study found that even ‘educational’ games for children as young as six have manipulative advertising in them. According to the study, in the children’s gaming app, ‘Doctor Kids’ the game is interrupted by a pop-up bubble with a new mini-game idea. “When a child clicks on the bubble, they are invited to purchase it for $1.99, or unlock all new games for $3.99,” the study tells us.

doctor kids

“There’s a red X button to cancel the pop-up, but if the child clicks on it, the character on the screen shakes its head, looks sad, and even begins to cry.”

A game built like this raises many ethical questions, unfortunately this kind of manipulative advertising within children’s gaming apps, are becoming increasingly popular.

At the same time, children are also spending a large amount of time playing free to-play-games that often have an age range of under 18. There have been numerous stories of children who have spent thousands of pounds of their parent’s money without permission, by purchasing in game items. Many of course are unbeknown to the consequences of spending such money. Although this does not correlate with being addicted to video games, it does however show how simple it is to buy these items if children are able to do it. Free to-play games are set up so that it is as straightforward as possible for players to spend their money in game and rack up huge bills.

We are now witnessing games that are created and designed to ‘hook users’ and keep them playing for as long as possible. In addition, many newly created games are set up to ensure that the fastest way to success on these games is by paying real money in order to buy in-game items. It is estimated that the video game industry is worth over $100 billion, over double the revenue of the International film industry.

Video gaming has ‘evolved’ to such an extent that earlier this year, gaming addiction was listed as a mental health addiction by the World Health Organization. Some countries have gone as far as to identify game addiction as a major public health issue. The UK has funded public clinics to help treat addicts of video gaming.

The Online World of Video Gaming and the Effect on Players

global gaming market

2001 brought us the first installment in the Halo franchise, Grand Theft Auto III and Max Payne. All fantastic games in their own right, each of them challenging in their own ways and fun – it’s hard to argue otherwise. Where these games differed from contemporary games, however, were that the early nineties games were primarily single player story mode based and for arguments sake, split screen multiplayer and co-op – before the evolution of online game play.

I was spending my time playing League of Legends rather than interacting with my family.

Post nineties, video gamers have been catapulted into the frenzied world of online gaming. The best-selling and most played video games in 2018 include two Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) – these types of games are never ending and highly competitive. League of Legends – the online game which hooked Neil Robertson is regularly quoted within online forums discussing video game addiction.

World of Warcraft, a game created by game design company Blizzard which came under heavy criticism via a BBC Panorama documentary which looked at teenagers under the age of 18 who were skipping school to play this game, is another. In a recent CNN article, the writer visited South Korea in order to talk to people who were recovering from gaming addictions in treatment centers. These recovering addicts told CNN that they played some of Blizzards most popular games at the exclusion of other activities; foregoing sleeping and eating in order to carry on playing.

“As soon as I became addicted to them, my spare time was spent playing video games,” states Neil.

“League of Legends, World of Warcraft and FIFA were the main ones. I knew it became a problem when me and my wife Mille had our baby – Alexander. I was spending my time playing League of Legends rather than interacting with my family. I was pretty quick to see it as a problem but it was such a great escape from the pressures of playing professional sport that it took a while to confront my addiction.

“When I was playing video games, nobody was watching my every move or judging me, I wasn’t putting as much pressure on myself to play at the top of my game constantly. It was something different. A release. I enjoyed playing video games more than I enjoyed playing snooker. I would think yes, I’ll just go to the snooker club and practice later but then it would get to 3pm and I would have to get ready to pick up my son from school. I would miss an entire day’s work just like that.

“It is interesting that video games have become a sport now. A lot of the ‘athletes’ are not grown men either, they’re just kids. 16/17 year olds who have gone from playing video games in their mum’s basements to earning a living playing in arena’s at esports tournaments in front of an audience of thousands. These esports stars have become idols for so many children around the world.”

The Effect On Children and Adults

According to a discussion on pathological video game use among youths 6 6. Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study × ; depression, anxiety, social phobias, and lower school performance seemed to act as outcomes of pathological gaming. Whilst another similar scientific study 7 7. Effect of Pathological Use of the Internet on Adolescent Mental Health × that followed more than 1000 healthy Chinese teenagers aged between 13 and 18, concluded that those who used the Internet excessively to play video games were more than twice as likely as the others to be depressed nine months later.

Another study 8 8. The relationship between online game addiction and aggression, self-control and narcissistic personality traits × has shown that aggression and narcissistic personality traits are positively correlated with online video game addiction among gamers whilst self-control is negatively correlated with an online gaming addiction. The same study also infers that a high dependency on online games is associated with interpersonal difficulties and stress in reality. Although it is not clear whether this is a cause or a consequence of excessive online video game addiction.

In this article 9 9. The Unexpected Effects of All That Screen Time × discussing the effects of staring at a screen for multiple hours per day, physician and filmmaker Delaney Rushton talks the reader through her research into the consequences of spending too much time in front of a television, laptop or mobile phone screen. Teenagers, for example – according to Rushton’s research, are in danger of losing self-confidence as well as failing to fully develop their social skills in the real world. Rather than approaching a crush or attempting to make friends in real life – something that requires confidence to do – they go to a computer screen either as a diversion or because it makes them feel just as good as approaching their crush due to the dopamine hit that video games produce.

Search this for yourself, check out the hormone dopamine to find out why you feel so good playing your favourite games 10 10. The next level: Video games are more addictive than ever. This is what happens when kids can’t turn them off. × and why this is likely to be so detrimental to you. Incidentally, dopamine is also released in your brain when you are watching pornography, when a drug such as cocaine is taken and when your social media posts garner attention.

Whilst it is easy to say something along the lines of ‘if video games are causing such problems for some people why don’t they just stop playing’ the reality is that it is not this simple. As discussed earlier, some games are designed in order to get people hooked and to ensure that they keep on playing by using behavioral psychology methods.

“All humans have these addictions to what makes us feel good,” says Neil.

“I was addicted to snooker when I was younger – a very good thing to become addicted to as it gave me a job and provided for myself and my family. Then I became addicted to video games – a very bad thing to become addicted to. I discovered snooker at an early age. Somebody else could discover gambling at a very young age and get excited about a £20 jackpot on a fruit machine and get addicted that way. A lot of science goes into the human brain; receptors go off in the brain to make us feel good. Gambling addiction, video game addiction, alcohol addiction, drug addiction – there are all these things which need to be controlled. Addictions to these things need to be talked about.”

“The tough thing as human beings is to strike a fine balance between what is the fun of entertainment to what can become a really terrible addiction where you get a lot of people getting themselves into perilous positions. Your marriage could break down; you could lose your house; you can lose real things thanks to an addiction to something bad.

“I was lucky, others might not be.”

Gambling in Video Games

kids gambling

Neil believes that some video games have elements of gambling involved in them directly, he says: “One massive problem is the element of gambling that has been introduced for children in video games.

“One of the video games I played a lot was FIFA. I was addicted like hell to FIFA. You can open up packs in order to get different cards for your club and depending on how lucky you are you can get really good players.”

It has come to the point where these gaming companies are making a living off of gambling edges.

Neil is talking about FIFA Ultimate Team which has been a game mode on FIFA titles since FIFA 09. FIFA Ultimate Team allows gamers to build their very own dream team’s in the form of cards which can then be played with on the virtual pitch. Cards can be gained by opening packs – packs can be opened by the player by using either in-game coins which the player must earn, or they can be opened by using real money in order to purchase ‘FIFA Points’. However, no matter how much money is spent, whether or not the player receives a rare player from their pack or not is solely luck based. The pay-to-win element also exists within FIFA Ultimate team. The more money you spend the more packs you get to open which will result in a more likely chance that you will receive the very best players/cards to use in your Ultimate Team squad.

EA’s newest installment of the FIFA franchise is FIFA 19. Before the release of FIFA 19 in September 2018, various governments ordered EA Sports to disclose loot box odds in-game. The government of Belgium stated that in-game loot boxes were a form of gambling and demanded that FIFA removed loot boxes from their franchise. In April 2018, the Belgian Gambling Commission stated that loot boxes were a form of gambling under existing Belgian law and was therefore illegal. After being under a criminal investigation in Belgium, EA has agreed to remove loot boxes from FIFA games sold in the country.

“Online casinos are subjected to a wide range of extremely strict regulations but the same scrutiny is not applied to video games even though they can have the same addictive effect and even include loot boxes,” states Sebastian Lindt from PlayFrank.

“In the future it is likely that the same regulations will begin to be applied to video games – this is extremely important because kids are playing these games. Regulations certainly need to be applied.”

In China, it has been written into law that gaming companies must make the odds of loot boxes public. Although some gaming companies including Blizzard have found ways around this law, it is a step in the right direction.

“It has come to the point where these gaming companies are making a living off of gambling edges,” says Neil.

“You can buy these packs online and for £20 you can buy a certain amount of packs and then you open them. I used to play it religiously and my son also plays it and we have spent thousands on this silly game in the past. Opening the player packs becomes an addiction, you’re so eager to get a rare player so you can give your brain that adrenaline rush that it is asking for.

Related: Video Games and Gambling: An Introduction to Loot Boxes, Microtransactions, and In-App Purchases

“My son used to come running into the room saying Daddy, Daddy can I please have some money to open these packs. Already this sort of gambling is available for kids. If kids aren’t becoming addicted to the video game itself, they are becoming addicted to the gambling aspect of the game. This sort of thing just shouldn’t be allowed whatsoever.

Neil now realises how detrimental video gaming can be for him, so he is now able to speak out about it.

Fortunately, thanks to his friends and family and his own mental fortitude, Neil has managed to kick his video gaming addiction, although he will forever live with the battle against falling back into his old habits. Others, on the other hand are deep into their addiction whilst many do not even realise that they could be addicted to video games.

As humans, we have a natural predisposition to addictive behaviors. Gaming companies such as EA – the company behind the FIFA games and other pay-to-win type video games – have begun exploiting this predisposition not only in adults but also children. Incidentally, FIFA 19 has an age verification of 3+. The dangers of introducing children to gambling are obvious.

EA’s Ultimate Team was worth an estimated $800m annually. Anyone who is familiar with Twitch and YouTube will have witnessed streamers record their own pack openings. These streamers showcase themselves spending thousands upon thousands of dollars opening FIFA packs – this is how game companies like EA make the majority of their money now – by selling in-game items.

Overcoming Addiction?

Neil Robertson

Photo credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Humans are not perfect and are always going to be susceptible to poor choices,” says Neil.

“Some people become aware of their addiction at a good time but for some people it comes too late. For addictions, we need to raise as much awareness as possible.

“Instead of playing video games I now have this hobby called Warhammer. I paint these little figurines which I can then battle with against other collectors. It takes skill and time to paint them and I’ve become really good at painting. There’s lots of different techniques to it. During my spare time a few years ago I would be glued to the laptop for 8 hours before playing snooker which is obviously poor preparation for when you’re going to be focusing your eyes on a 12ft snooker table. Now I bring all my paints with me before a match and I just chill out.

“If you are recovering from a gambling addiction or any other addiction that is detrimental to you, you have to find something healthy to distract yourself with. You need to keep yourself busy so that you do not end up going back to your addiction. We are all addicted to different things, every human being has some sort of addiction in them, you just need to distract yourself from the bad addictions.”

Written by: Iain is a nomadic freelance journalist from the UK and can be found traveling the world searching for stories and on his Twitter account: @iain_fenton

Need help to quit gaming? 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.

This is the story of how I stopped being addicted to Neopets.

After some 10 years, 10,000 hours, and millions of points won in various online games, I finally accomplished my dream of becoming an elite gamer…

Okay, I wasn’t an “elite” gamer. But I did make it to 100 gold trophies on Neopets.

In the end, all my trophies were gold, with not a single silver or bronze. I’d set my sights on this target for so long — and I was proud of how I reached it.

Gaming Was My Escape

neopets logo Explaining why I gamed is hard to do without spilling some of my most personal details. But, I’ll do my best.

First, I’m transgender – male-to-female. I was born as a boy and wanted to be a girl.

If life wasn’t difficult enough, it became much trickier in middle school. Then there was the impending doom of male puberty… I wanted to escape my body.

Then, there was the teasing at school… “that’s so gay” reverberating in my head like a corny pop song lyric. In games, I could escape that judgment too.

It soon became obvious how un-alone I was. Browsing the forum and beautiful stories at Game Quitters, it was clear how much I had in common with other ex-gamers.

So many people feel like they can’t be who they want to be for all kinds of reasons. In games, we get to choose our own character and it can feel like a miracle.

As Cam talks about, we all want a meaningful challenge. That’s another reason why I gamed.

If the 26-year-old me could mentor my preteen self, she would have gotten lots of words of reassurance… along with a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, and about eight dozen other books!

Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to turn my passion into a meaningful challenge. I felt alienated from society, ready to plunge head-first into a fantasy.

I Was At Home Inside the Game

inside the game

Despite playing a variety of online games, Neopets was the only one where I really found a home. The place was populated with cute creatures and their stories, and a wide assortment of games and activities to never get bored.

Each player on the site had a page with their stats and accomplishments. I was struck by the shimmering stacks of trophies that adorned other users’ pages, and soon was hooked on winning them myself!

It was kind of like being in school, where we vied for A grades (now, trophies), only the atmosphere here was more playful. Plus, participation was optional; you could play whatever you wanted! In that way, Neopets felt familiar, yet new and self-empowering.

Amid being addicted to Neopets or any game, sometimes it’s hard to say if you’re happy or sad. You’re flooded with euphoria the moment you hop back on the computer. You’re ecstatic over every in-game escalation. But at the end of the night, you can’t shake the feeling that this techno-bliss rests on a real, physical world – where the evidence says you’re not thriving.

Overcoming My Neopets Addiction

neopets addiction

Comparing myself through the years, I could see that gaming hurt me socially, mentally, and physically. It weakened my patience for dealing with life’s imperfections. The sheer time-suck prevented me advancing towards my real life dreams.

Dreams like solving the confusing enigma called gender. Of one day having a joyful relationship. And the dream to help humans be more compassionate towards animals.

I realized at age 11 that I didn’t want to eat animals anymore after learning about factory farming, and about what is involved in bringing animal products to the table.

I wish I could have devoted my energy to promoting a plant-based diet – but gaming always got in the way.

Another thing I realized is that some dreams are already right there in front of you… like having a family. Family can be tough, but being lost in a game world made it tougher. My mom was dying of cancer, and I wish I had supported her and my other family members more.

Those bigger dreams take thoughtfulness and concentration. I knew that if my gaming addiction persisted, the years of little progress would keep rolling by.

As my depressed teen years turned to a better early adulthood, I managed to quit gaming completely several time.

Video Game Addiction Test for Gamers

I also tried to game just one hour per day or one day per month, but the intrusive thoughts were just too much!

So I recommitted to not gaming and I’ve been free since the spring of 2017. Over two years!

Turning My Dreams Into Reality

purpose

Spring 2017 was also when I got my first paid job related to protecting farm animals. I’ve stayed in the movement and kept finding work ever since.

Meaningful challenge – complete!

Currently, I work part-time for a plant-based meat company that you may have been hearing about in the news. It’s exciting because it helps people who want to eat less meat, but still want that awesome taste!

Meanwhile, I live as a woman in a very LGBT-friendly area. When you’re transgender, I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to walk around and have people see you as the gender you feel you are. Times have changed and I’ve gotten acceptance from my family too.

I’ve lived a very lucky life, and count my Neopets experiences as a part of that. Still, there’s no denying the losses I’ve incurred, by so much gaming during those formative years.

Finances got off to a rocky start, and I’m in debt. My knees are in bad shape, exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle and poor physical alignment. My passions for tennis and for writing fizzled out. It’s just generally disappointing to feel I didn’t give things my all and wasn’t fully “there” to experience them.

Fortunately, the success that I enjoyed on Neopets gives clues, clues about how I can live the rest of my life to the fullest.

Download: 60+ New Hobby Ideas

Life Is Just One Big Video Game

Whenever I get nostalgic now, I ask myself what I’m missing from the game. How can I create a real-world version of it?

Gold trophies were an effective motivator of my behaviour (mastering the games). They were visual, memorable, and beautiful to look at. Most of all they were public. We could watch each other gain trophies, spurring on some friendly competition.

Neopets TrophiesI now have a printed list of my goals and commitments, kept in a (fittingly) golden folder. It’s inviting to pick up and glance at multiple times a day, keeping me focused on what matters.

I try not to overthink these lists, but do update them regularly as the vision for my life evolves.

Making friends with trophy collectors in the game was something I loved. Thus in real life, I pursue friendships that are centered around a shared goal. They keep me accountable, and it’s friendly competition.

On Neopets I learned ways to cheat and won with unscrupulous techniques. I eventually froze my account out of guilt and started clean with a new one.

On my last (and most successful) account, I was proud that I gamed honestly. I learned that it’s not worth it to taint a good thing with even minor disloyalty. Living truthfully has many obstacles, but it’s an amazing feeling and one we all deserve to have as much as possible.

If I catch myself “cheating” in real life I remember how I redeemed myself in the game and know that it’s never too late to correct a bad habit, make amends, and choose a more authentic path.

My message is this: Be your own real-life hero. Take on the real world’s juiciest challenges with integrity. Your long-term happiness – and the other beings you help along the way – will thank you.

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.

I stopped enjoying gaming after I quit watching porn.

Hi, my name is Hayim and I’m going to tell you how I quit video games without even trying.

Like many other guys, my teenage years were filled with too many video games, porn and shitty habits.

I would spend countless hours in the basement with my Playstation 2 from the moment I got out of school until bedtime when my mother would coerce me out of the basement.

Joining the Army

hayim

When I was 18 I joined the Israeli Army in a combat unit. It was tough as hell and basically a constant state of exhaustion for years.

Even in the army whenever my buddies and I would get off for a weekend we would head home and play Battlefield 3. We were soldiers playing army games on the weekends.

Sounds funny I know.

We would spend the whole week in the field training for war and on the weekends we would get home, make some food and try to level up on Battlefield 3.

We’d resort to gaming because video games distracted us from the thought of having to return to base after a few days, and all the exhaustion that comes with it.

Related: How to Overcome Escapism

Long marches, sleepless nights, and the occasional action.

Gaming is Fun, But…

computer gaming

Video games are powerful, and I know why many of us play. I’m not going to go on and tell you how lame they are and why they’re ruining your life.

What I’m going to tell you now is going to help you quit because you won’t even enjoy the games anymore. Discipline alone is a tough way to attack any problem.

It’s a lot more effective when you attack the root of the issue, and that’s what I accidentally discovered.

Instead of putting the focus on quitting to play video games, we should instead focus on the question: Why do we enjoy video games so goddamn much?

Let me explain.

A few years after the army I started studying engineering. But after classes I would still play games up to three hours per day.

It may not seem like a lot but that’s three hours that I was not studying, in class, or sleeping.

The other thing that was holding me back might surprise some people, but in hindsight it was incredibly obvious.

Link Between Gaming and Porn

I used to watch porn, and porn and gaming are inextricably linked.

In Philip Zambardo’s TED talk The Demise of Guys he conflates video game pleasure with porn pleasure – Referring to them as Present Hedonism. Present hedonistic people live in the moment – seeking pleasure, novelty, and sensation, and avoiding pain. Philip Zambardo knows his stuff, he was the leader of the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment.

Video game addictions thrive upon a similar reward system that is very different from substance addiction but very similar to pornography.

Related: Why You Should Quit Gaming for 90 Days

The similarities between porn and gaming don’t end there. With the rise of high speed internet they’ve both earned their own disease classifications in the ICD-11.

The ICD is the International Classification of Diseases and was created by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The newest edition of their disease classification manual ICD-11, has included new diagnosis for both Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder and for video game addiction Gaming Disorder.

Both of these issues have had a notable uptick with the advent of high speed internet that allowed for extremely immersive media.

Digital Addictions

porn addiction

Digital addictions differ from that of substance addictions like drugs and alcohol in one very simple way.

When you’re enjoying a digital form of entertainment we seek different types of pleasure from that same source.

Our pleasure comes from something new and unique. That is why multiplayer gaming has caught on so much, with every match you have a totally new experience thereby creating variety and wanting different experiences with every round.

The same goes for pornography. When someone browses through online pornography, they’re constantly looking for new variety with every video. No one sticks to the same type of porn for long periods of time, they’re constantly changing it up.

This leads to desensitization of porn tastes and can lead to more and more extreme pornography.

But substance addicts?

Substance addicts just want more. They just need more alcohol, more drugs, more.. Whatever.

If you focus on quitting porn, your brain will start to enjoy life more and you won’t require the dopamine that can only be provided by the novelty of video games.

Porn addiction is massively understated in society. Most men have been watching it from as soon as they became old enough to search for it on the web and many go on into their 30s and 40s without ever noticing how dependent they are.

The core reason porn leads to increased video game pleasure is because porn messes up our dopamine reward systems.

We get so used to massive dopamine rushes when watching porn that very little else can compare to it. But video games? That dopamine hit that we get when we headshot that guy with a pistol at 50 yards on Metro?

That can compare.

I Quit Porn (And Gaming)

hope

I quit watching porn in February 2015 and within 6 weeks I went from playing three hours a day, to thirty minutes, to deleting my computer games within months.

I wasn’t even trying. I simply lost interest in them.

I accidentally discovered that video games were only enjoyable for me when I would watch porn.

As soon as I stopped watching porn my dopamine reward system didn’t need video games to enjoy things anymore.

I started to enjoy reading, meditating, working out, and doing more.. “mediocre” things.

I started a daily meditation practice that I keep to this day, and I’ve gained “superpowers” of confidence, posture, vocal tonality.

It’s been over four years and I still don’t own or play any video games or watch porn. In fact, I’ve decided to try to help as many men as possible and recently started a website dedicated to helping guys diagnose their potential addiction to porn.

I’ve turned my life around and so can you.

If you’re going to turn around your video game habit, take a look at your porn habits first.

Written by: Hayim Pinson

I found myself in a bad place.

I was completely addicted to one particular game – an MMO called Black Desert Online.

The thing is, I was really good at it. I enjoyed playing the game so much I actually stopped working so I could play it 24/7.

Why would I do something like that?

I was trying to make sure my name remained relevant in my own little digital heaven.

I wanted to be remembered.

Turning My Back on Gaming

Black Desert Online

As expected, things went south fairly quickly. I soon had to find a job and get back to work.

This was the catalyst for change. I ended up selling my account and didn’t look back once.

Just like that.

I remember, in the interview for my current job, my boss was telling me that the job could be boring.

My reply: “Don’t worry, I’ve been known to do the same thing for 18 hours straight and even enjoy it”.

I still cringe thinking about it, but I ended up getting the job. However, like most jobs, I soon became pretty bored.

I wasn’t fulfilled and I found myself having way too much free time. So, I started using this time to go to the gym.

It turned out that I could carve out a decent shape if I just follow a good workout plan. While this was a great habit, it didn’t help with the boredom.

That’s when I started experimenting.

Firstly, I turned to audiobooks.

I’m allowed to wear headphones at work. So, I started listening to fantasy audiobooks like the Wheel of Time series and Brandon Sanderson novels.

Maybe I still had the bug for getting enveloped inside a fantasy world.

This newfound passion for audiobooks worked really well for about 8 months.

But not well enough, I guess.

I was getting bored. Again.

Life Became My Video Game

After a bit of searching for things to do, I came across an app called LifeRPG.

This completely changed my life.

LifeRPG allows you to track your habits and goals, but it presents them in a way that makes real life into a video game. liferpg example

You gain experience for completing missions and can earn real-life rewards once you finish a certain amount.

I spent a couple of days getting into the app and adding little missions for myself.

Finish workout = finish a mission.

Clean my car = finish a mission.

It’s like having daily quests from an online multiplayer game.

Complete missions, get exp, level up skills, and earn crystals with which you can use to purchase your own custom rewards.

I was using LifeRPG every day, for a time, but it really got interesting when I decided I wanted to get into programming.

I started to study a lot, and almost forgot about the app. Then, one day, I remembered it existed and decided to use it to encourage myself to study.

I added dozens of missions, even rewards and stuff for myself. Some of my rewards included a day off or an unhealthy snack, to more expensive things like buying a new laptop.

Real Life Gamer

Not long after I discovered something called litRPG books.

I still only really listen to audiobooks, but I noticed that there were a lot of them involving characters playing MMOs.

They’d have stats that level up during the book, and it was as close to playing an MMO as you could – without the playing.

So I started soaking them up. Awaken Online, The Land, Life Reset, The Gam3, The Way of the Shaman, and so on.

litrpg example

There are so many of them. Some are better than others, but I even enjoy the bad ones.

I’ve completely lost any urge to play MMOs because while I’m working and driving I’m listening to someone else play MMOs.

Positive thinking doesn’t quite work for me, but turning my life into a video game works wonders.

I’d rather randomly take out my phone to complete a mission and add rewards to purchase than start gaming.

My Life Has Completely Changed

man on top of mountain

In the past, my typical day would involve me waking up really late, playing video games all day, and then going to sleep really late.

I’d miss school, work, and whatever responsibilities I had in order to play.

However, now my day is completely different:

  • Wake up early for work
  • Weigh myself (mission)
  • Listen to an audiobook in the car
  • More listening while working
  • Go to the gym after work (mission)
  • Drive home, audiobook again
  • Study programming for a few hours (mission)
  • Browse the internet
  • If I have time I’ll complete some optional missions

I’m well on my way to become an experienced programmer, and I have a great routine and structure to my life. It’s been so long since I was a hardcore gamer that I haven’t got any issues saying no to games anymore.

My Advice for Someone Trying to Quit

just do it

Don’t expect to change your life without taking some drastic steps. You have to do more than just uninstall a game or two.

You’ll have to change as many things about yourself as possible.

Get rid of that ugly lamp. Buy a new mousepad. Toss your old clothes.

These things might not be holding you back, but being able to change these little things will make it easier to change yourself.

And remember – The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now. The worst time is never.

Thank you for reading my story. Hopefully, I’ve inspired someone else who’s reading this to turn their life around by quitting gaming, it’s well worth it.

Signing off – Herman.

If you want to find out more information about video game addiction, and how it might be having an effect on your life, check out the 90-day detox. Like Herman and hundreds of others on Game Quitters, you too can turn your life around.

My name is Jeroen, and I’m an addict. Well, I used to be.

Today I am a Belgian personal coach and IT student, I am 24 years old and I used to game 10 hours a day whenever I had the time.

In high school I didn’t really have to work very hard to get decent grades. Well, for the first few years at least. When I was 17 I had to stay in the same grade for another year, due to poor grades – mainly caused by my severe gaming addiction.

I would wake up early and game a bit before going to school. At school I would think about gaming and my goals (in the game), finally return home, and continue gaming until my parents arrived from work. I ate my dinner and then went back to my room, gaming until bedtime. Rinse and repeat. This was my typical day from the age of 14 until I was 21.

Gaming Had a Huge Impact on My Life

escapism

While there are negative influences that came from gaming, it did also have its benefits.

Gaming was an escape. I used to get bullied in high school, and that’s exactly when the addiction became out of control. Through my game I could stop thinking about the bullying and other stuff that troubled my mind. Online I was just an anonymous boy. I could be anyone, and I was respected (most of the time).

At one point I was so good at RuneScape that I was ranked 25th best in the world in PVP. This is the kind of hype that kept me drawn to gaming. The progress and sense of achievement is what makes gaming so addictive. The unlimited amount of dopamine that’s sitting right in front of you.

Related: Why You Game: Your Need for Accomplishment

College Helped Me Quit Gaming

denmark

While in college, and getting my Physical Education Degree, I had some experiences that caught my attention and got me away from gaming.

My favorite experience was the 6 month Erasmus studies I did in Denmark. While being there we had a lot of little projects, and I got to meet new people and interact with several different nationalities. It was a very cool experience, and it kept me from gaming. I think the main reason here was the fact that I actually felt useful, and I could really contribute to a lot cool projects that also had social value.

I’ve always been fortunate to have good friends around me and caring parents. I played soccer and went to the gym. These are things that really helped me when gaming started taking full control of my life. I mean there were still bad parts, where I would game 10-12 hours a day for a week, which is very unhealthy, but without sports or friends, it could have been a lot worse.

Is Productivity Sustainable?

productivity

3 months after my Erasmus experience I graduated college as a sports teacher and fitness instructor. I got my first job, and started my own business on the side as a personal trainer. The first month when I graduated I actually spent a lot of time gaming between looking for a job. Luckily it didn’t take me to long to find one.

When I signed my contract I made big decision. I was going to put all of my effort and time into this job, and creating my own business. Not one minute would be wasted. I was going to be successful in real life. I had never been so motivated.

6 months later I soon realized that this was not a sustainable pace to live my life. I would wake up at 07:00, workout, work on the business, go to work, and get home at 23:00. I also had to work weekends.

Most people would say I was doing amazing. Freshly graduated, got a decent paying job, and I was growing my own business on the side. What else could a man wish for, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. I just didn’t feel too well. The long hours, and tons of physical activity started taking its toll. I would have the worst migraines in the middle of the day, and sometimes even get dizzy when I stood up. I realized I was working too much and it was hard on my body.

Finding Balance

netflix

I needed to take some time to relax. Life is not just about working your butt off and making money, it’s about balance. Doing what you love, working on projects you’re passionate about, spending enough time with friends and family, watching a Netflix movie, or any other things that you may enjoy.

After spending 7 months without watching TV or playing a single video game, I started watching some Netflix shows and started gaming. Not when I had other things to do, but when I felt like I deserved it. I think gaming and watching TV are a good activity if they actually help you relieve stress and if you enjoy it. But one thing I have learned is that it is all about moderation and balance.

Related: How to Relax Without Playing Video Games

Present Day:

I quit my job as a fitness instructor 4 months ago. I decided to go back to college to become a front-end developer. This course will take me 3 years, but I know it’s the right choice. I am still working as a personal trainer for my own business, which I really like because I help people become more active. The goal is to one day combine these passions of mine and make a living out of them both. These goals are what keep me going.

This is my story, and this what I have learned from my addiction. I wanted to share this with you guys who are suffering from something like I did or who have been through this as well.

Join our Movement

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

Ready to quit gaming?

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.

I haven’t played a video game in two years and counting.

Quitting video games isn’t an unlocked achievement I put in my trophy cabinet to never think of it again. It’s an endurance training program. The goal of my program isn’t summarized in fighting back the craving every time I feel it until I win and relax (and repeat) – it’s how I don’t get used to relaxing because you never know when your gaming addiction will sneak back into your daily life.

I don’t mean that I’m at war 24/7 with myself, sweating anxiety and panic attacks. Things get easier when you do them on a regular basis. Gaming and not gaming follow the same rule.

My Gaming Addiction Started at 8 Years Old

teenager playing games

My gaming addiction started at 8 years old with Counter Strike. I loved how you could work as a team to achieve a common goal and have fun, show your abilities and self-declare ‘the best’. I desired to be the best at everything, recognized and valued.

As the majority of people who struggle with this addiction, I didn’t have an idea of how much games hooked me and made me believe they were the only ones who wanted to make me happy. When you’re a kid and a teenager, what matters is being recognized by groups. Why should I care about real life?

After Counter Strike I went to the world of MMORPGs. I still recall how sad I was because I couldn’t play a game because my PC specs were too low. At this time my parents never said a word about it – according to my mother, “it was fine because I wasn’t in danger outside.” We hardly knew the consequences of playing 10-12 hours per day.

I dedicated half my day, every day, for 15 years straight to playing MMORPGs. I felt I needed to play games for hours and hours – if not, someone would surpass me..

Grades Were Fine, Depression Was Not

teenager depressed

Games were a piece of my heart and soul, but my school life remained intact. My grades were great, I talked to people (although being shy) and had a minimal social life outside academic walls. When I got transferred to another school at 14 years old I met a new friend named Depression. We held hands for 6 years.

I didn’t want to talk to people, not feeling understood by society. Depression was now friends with games too, who could tell…They seduced me to play MMORPGs over and over. At 18 years old, I went to college guided by my mom’s feelings. I don’t blame her – how could I if I simply shut down my mind to live in a virtual world?

“My decisions were based on how I could be better at games, not at real life.”

I wanted to overcome depression. I sought professional help with a psychologist. She recommended posting more on Facebook to start making friends and being visible to the real world. I can’t explain how a professional would recommend the virtual world as the solution to the virtual world itself. I felt misunderstood and undervalued.

Note: Do seek help. Only you can solve this mess, however don’t neglect professionals. There are good and bad ones. Find one that works for you.

Suicidal thoughts chimed in. I was nothing in real life. I wanted to be a gamer, one of those streaming on YouTube and Twitch, or a professional gamer, winning millions of dollars and proving that I was ‘the best’ to everyone. I even told my mom I wanted to be a gamer, she was like: “do whatever you want, but I don’t agree with it”. Of course I interpreted as my family was against me and my ‘dreams’.

Related: Why Your Parents Don’t Believe in Your Dreams

I Decided to Quit Gaming

inhale the future exhale the past

At 20 years old I tried to stop playing games over and over, unsuccessful. At 23, I discovered Game Quitters. Someone decided to share his experience, to say we were not alone and yes, it was possible to stop for once and for all. I watched all the videos and interestingly, my doubts were answered where no one could help me.

November 1st, 2016: the last time I said ‘I won’t play games anymore’. Cold turkey, ‘all or nothing’. Each day taught me about who I was and what I could learn from others.

Not everyday is the same, so there isn’t a single formula to solve all your problems and questions. If you believe in a single formula, you get used to it. I adapted this sentence to ‘getting used’ to new experiences, solutions and interpretations about myself and my life everyday.

Even if you use an old formula today, you are actually using it for the first time. As, Heraclitus’ says: “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”.

When I finally started to live this phrase, I got used to learning everyday, to use my addiction to learn about myself, and about itself. It was hard, shaking in my bed and the impossibility to think about anything outside ‘you have to play games, you are losing time’.

Related: How to Deal with Cravings

Where I Am Today

man walking on hills

At 25 years old, reading books, walking for the sake of walking and gathering knowledge is what define me, for now. I study Psychology (oh the irony) because I love it, I want to help people live their lives with passion, with what they can and have in the real world. I’ve never been so happy and motivated in my whole life, virtual or real.

I have a path, I pursue goals, and I make decisions. Bad moments happen everyday, but now I have a choice in how I respond to them.

More than 2 years later, I still haven’t played games. I decided to quit games by sharing my story with you, as Cam shared his. Thank you, Cam.

Fifteen years later I see myself out of the world of games. As I said, I’m the ‘all or nothing’ person, dedicating my time and my life in goals that matter for the better of people. Please never give up. Thank you for reading my story. Thank you for those who choose to share their stories as well.

Join our Movement

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

Ready to quit gaming?

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.

I booted up my computer. It was Friday and I had a lot of work to do, but hey, I kept the whole weekend free so it’s okay. I can start my work tomorrow, and play a game now. Before I knew it, it was 5:00 AM.

On Saturday I wouldn’t start on my university work either. I ate “brunch” at 2:00 PM and skipped dinner. I went to sleep at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning, and consequentially woke up at 2:00PM. By then I figured that my homework wouldn’t get done anyways, so I fired up my game. At 7:00AM on Monday “morning” I finally had a moment of clarity.

I Spent the Whole Weekend Gaming

dark keyboard

I skipped half of my meals and also a night of sleep. I failed to do my homework. I failed. But this time I didn’t return to the cycle of addiction. Normally I’d focus my eyes at the screen again to escape thinking about my gaming behavior. A paradox, but I fear a recognizable one.

Instead of running from the “fact” that I failed again, I put into doubt that conclusion. Was it fair to conclude that I failed? “To fail” means that you do not reach a certain standard. In this case, a standard that is set by myself. And that I had not met my standard was crystal clear: instead of doing homework, I wasted the weekend on a stupid game.

But this mismatch can also mean that the standard is the problem. And it was. Perfectionism is the disease of our time, and I am no exception. I wanted my life to be perfect, and in “reaching higher”, I had put so much guilt on myself that I went into hiding. Games merely gave me shelter.

So when I played games during the weekend, I didn’t fail. Demanding that I would do homework for the whole weekend at home was a ridiculous idea. Maybe the most disciplined among us can do such a feat, but it’s human to fail such a task. My standards were making me feel miserable so I did away with them and looked at my life. Without a standard, and without judgement.

My Life Was Miserable

man staring out the window depressed

I felt depressed. I seldom saw friends, or did anything productive. I skipped half of my school classes. And I played games, a lot of. And now that I wasn’t trying to hide from my own judgement I could finally look at this without fear. It was emotionless, rational. Gaming had numbed all my feelings.

Now for a solution I figured it would be too much to ask to shut down my computer right away. It would also leave me with a poor sleep schedule, going to bed at 8:00AM. So I decided that today would be the last day that I gamed. I also decided it would be too much to ask to not game ever, at least right now, so I decided to task myself with not playing any games for 30 days, after today.

When I shut down my computer at 5:00PM I felt a weird kind of energy. It was going to happen. I was going to break the cycle. And I was going to focus on that. Starting slow and easy: my goals for tomorrow would be to get out of bed, take a shower and not play any games.

30 Days Without Games

whatever it takes

The first day, Tuesday, was bad. Without my games there was no hiding from my loneliness. No reason to even get out of bed. No escape from the fact that I had about 3 weeks of homework waiting for me, due next week. But somehow I got out of bed and took a shower. Bought some breakfast at the grocery store, warmed up leftovers for dinner, and most of all, I didn’t play any games.

When I went to bed, for the first time in what felt like forever, I felt proud. Genuinely proud. And it felt weird, because by my previous standard I had achieved absolutely nothing. But for the first time in months, I made progress. And this feeling of achievement to look forward to is what got me through Wednesday. I was looking forward to lying in bed thinking: “today I didn’t play any video games”.

I Wrote My Family a Letter

writing a letter

On Thursday I decided that my parents and my brother should know about my situation. I shared details about my situation. About how terrible and lonely I felt. About my gaming addiction and interweaved depression, about my guilt. Writing this letter is one of the hardest things I did. It took me 2 days to write 500 words, but somehow I did it. I told my parents that I’d be coming home this weekend and I’d have something to tell them. They wouldn’t be too happy to hear that I might fail my class, but it had to be done.

I told my brother on Friday evening, I sent the letter to him online, and I called him on Skype. I read the letter to my parents on Saturday. I cried, my brother cried, my parents cried. But to have their support was important and the tears brought relief. With my parents watching me I made it through the weekend, and to my own shock that left me on Monday evening with the realization that I hadn’t played any games for a week.

Halfway through week three I was starting to struggle. The emptiness had caught up with me, and I still didn’t have a whole lot to do in my life. But I had something to look forward to.

I would go on a holiday to meet my brother who was studying abroad. I talked with him extensively about my problems, my addiction and depression. It made me understand my problems much clearer. And last, but not least, it was a break from doing nothing. Doing stuff is great, and my time with my brother was surrounded by his friends, whom I got along with.

With this newfound strength I finished the fourth week. My life slowly began to take shape. I went out for daily walks, I hung out with flat mates and I joined a club. Slowly but surely the void was filling. But also day 30 was coming up.

Resource: Need activity ideas to replace gaming?

I Tried Gaming Again

shiny computer

On day 32 I decided I’d play a game again, and it went quite well. I quit it exactly when I meant to. But on day 33 I didn’t. However I realized not all was lost. 30 days without gaming had taught me that there was something worth quitting for and I wrote a program that would shut down my computer if I exceeded a time that I set for myself. With this “gaming-clock” it was possible to moderate.

However I made sure that I kept filling the void. I signed up for a sport (a team sport!) and another club. I hung out with friends and flatmates. I even started being productive again. And by asking myself every time before I turned on the PC: “Is there something I could do that would make me happier?”, the time that I spent gaming decreased. And with that for the first time that year I saw a glimmer of happiness. But then Christmas came.

Christmas is great right? Well not for me. The holidays broke my rhythm completely and I stayed at my parents where there’s a whole lot of nothing to do. I went back to gaming out of boredom and frustration. It took me quite a while to recover, but the 30 days clean and subsequent introspection gave me the tools to do so. I never sunk as deep as I had in October. By February I returned to my schedule. Whether or not you beat an addiction is decided by how you bounce back.

Related: About to Relapse? Consider This First

In March I got a part-time job which started to take up more and more time, to my liking. With school I was starting to become a “busy” person. Things were looking up again. I started being invited to parties, being the “fun” person I once was. It’s funny to look at my calendar and seeing it fill up from February to now, getting busier and busier.

I had some more minor setbacks, but in general I always made more steps forward than backwards – progress. I filled up the summer holidays with trips funded by my job and I met a wonderful girl. (Too late) I consulted a psychologist who diagnosed me with “depression in remission”. And that brings me to today.

One Year Later

boy reaching for the clouds

Today it has been a year since I made that decision on Monday the 9th. A year since my moment of clarity. A year since the best decision in my life. And for the occasion I wanted to write out my story. To tell you, StopGaming, because hanging out in the discord is one of the many things that filled the void initially. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one kept me from going insane.

I hope my story helps at least one person. I wrote the whole story, not only the end result. Because I wanted to be more insightful. I wanted to explain how I was finally able to decide that it’s enough. And how I followed through on it, with both the ups and downs.

Questions I wish I would have been able to ask the future me a year ago:

  • Do I really have a problem? Yes. Unfortunately. You’re not a crazy person though, it’s common enough. And you can get out of it. But not without work and pain. Take it seriously, never let your guard down.
  • Shouldn’t I set myself the goal of never playing a video game again, instead of 30 days? If you can do that, go for it. But it is crucial that you believe, truly believe in your goal. 30 days seems like a good place to start for now. You can also do 30 and then evaluate!
  • What on earth do I do with my time? It doesn’t matter. Before you know it, another day is gone. But don’t play any games. In general: put effort into upgrading the quantity and quality of your activities and you’ll see that eventually your calendar starts to fill with appointments, meetings and parties. (There are a ton of ideas for new activities here.)
  • Is school important? School can help you get into a rhythm. Having some kind of rhythm is vital to recovery, attending a class in this respect is more important than finishing an assignment, because it gives a rhythm to your day. Recovery is the main objective, grades will come eventually. Contact your school about your problems (at least in my country they are understanding).
  • When will I see the light at the end of the tunnel? You won’t. It’s as if somebody slowly turns off the dimmer on a light. First you’ll see where you are, and then you’ll realize this place isn’t so bad after all.
  • What is the one thing you’d want to say to me? You don’t have to do it alone. Call your brother, tell your friends and go in therapy. And when you feel bad, tell someone before you feel the urge to fire up a game. And when you do feel an urge to, ask yourself; “what am I feeling bad about?’, then tell someone.

Join me for another 30 days without gaming.

Story written by OneYearAtATime0

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“The online scene that swallowed me whole also provided the tools to get out of it.”

My name is Rou-Hun (Lowen Flowen) and I’m from the Netherlands. I started gaming around 6 years old with a Nintendo handheld, then the Atari came, Gameboy, Snes, and eventually PC with internet.

On consoles I played action games such as Mario and Zelda and RPG’s like Secret of Mana and ShadowRun. On PC I always played shooters: QuakeWorld, TeamFortress, Quake3, Q3: Urban Terror, and some Counterstrike.

I also played Magic: The Gathering for a couple of years and became a pro (top 50 in the Netherlands as a 13 year old). I wish I hadn’t sold those cards back in the day. What I liked about gaming was the challenge, the stories, and the community.

Escaping Online

“The problems really started when I got into online gaming.”

I was about 14 years old and I hated school. I hardly had friends, and the ones I did have were quite toxic and not very accepting.

Then I found online chat programs like ICQ and gaming communities where I could be myself. Nobody judged me, I felt accepted, and could just be who I was under an alias. That made me feel so connected and it became my new social network.

My grades went down. I didn’t want to do anything else but play and be online. Chatting online for hours was better than being out in real life. My outlet became the online world.

I was around 24 years when I acknowledged that gaming was a problem and decided to quit. The epiphany came when I realised I had to get a job some day. My parents were adamant that I finish college and reluctantly, I did. But I hated work as much as school so I figured I better find something that I can enjoy, and slowly started looking into other things.. online of course.

Ironically, during my gaming time, I had my own clan and someone in my clan built our website. He taught me HTML and I started to code a bit. I created a few websites and learned Photoshop and Dreamweaver. These days I’m a front-end developer and a writer.

What Helped Me Quit Gaming

Have a firm commitment

For me, the realisation was so strong. It was my inner realisations that convinced me to stop. Instead of playing I would try to learn these tools to code and make things online. I saw it as a new challenge and, completing challenges is something I enjoy.

Find new friends

I also made new friends which really helped. They still played games, but with this group of friends we would go out to bars and cafés. We were a small group, but very inviting and not judgmental. Gaining new friends gave me a good excuse to go out and socialise. Though I was always quiet and introvert, it definitely helped me in opening up to other people.

When I was gaming my typical game would be to wake up, take my food and sit behind the PC and start playing and eating simultaneously. Then I would go to school half-awake. Once I was back home I would play again until bedtime, which would total about 10 hours a day.

Get out of your comfort zone

Since I’ve quit over the last four years I have been traveling mostly in Europe and Asia while working as a front-end developer. The last year and a half I’ve been traveling with my girlfriend to over 20 countries.

Other than that, I’ve also written a fiction book where a young man in a unified Korea slowly loses his sense of reality from futuristic drugs and forgotten Korean mythologies. The book is available on shinbyeong.com, and I’m in the midst of finishing it.

Dive into new projects

Being able to do projects like this makes you realise what freedom feels like. If I was still gaming, I would’ve limited my world to digital experiences, and not allowed myself all the adventures of the real world.

Benefits of Quitting Gaming

“Being able to be the real me in real life is better than any video game.”

Besides the obvious benefits such as more time, more experiences, new friends, and a girlfriend, the most important thing is that I started learning who I am.

As a young person, you don’t have a strong identity and I would focus on the negatives instead of my positive characteristics. That really turned me into quite a depressive kid and I would run away by indulging in these games – where I could be someone else. In a sense, the real me was more apparent in a game or chatroom than in actual reality.

My Advice to You

Understand why gaming is so addictive for you. Also take the qualities from gaming you like and apply them in real life. I believe games, though based in a fictional setting, are based on human realities. The challenges, the villain, the good guy. We can be the hero of our own game, of our own life.

Some of the qualities I took from gaming into real life are:

  • Relentlessly pursue excellence: it took me years to master a shooter and I became really good in it – if I was born later, I would’ve been a pro-gamer I think. I realised I could apply this to front-end development and other skills that would benefit me in real life instead.
  • In the real world I was introverted, shy and quiet. Online I was continually making jokes and having fun. Opening up to people made me realise I could do this in person too.

Even though gaming was a huge part of my life, I don’t regret any of it. Strangely enough, it was a way to find myself. I could be myself in this digital world. But an addict is not usually aware that they are an addict. I didn’t have a care in the world – living with my parents, hating school, and not doing anything but gaming. In hindsight it’s easy to think that it was good for me, but I am probably quite lucky I found a career through all of it.

One thing I hadn’t mentioned, is that due to the low grades, I had to redo my year. This actually also opened up my world to all kinds of new people and new friends. People who I am still friends with. The change of perception and being able to build up a new identity is very powerful.

I had new people around me, I could act different, show a different or new side of me. I was able to do the same in the online world. I could do this when I had to re-do my year. I was able to do this when I started living with friends in a tiny room. I did this when I started to travel alone.

There are so many opportunities to change yourself and open up to the world. Looking back on it, these were all tiny steps to solidify my own identity and become who I am today.

Written by Rou-Hun (Lowen Flowen). Find him on Twitter. Buy his new book, Shinbyeong.

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.

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