I was as bad as they come, neglecting schoolwork, my social life, personal hygiene, and pretty much every other obligation imaginable. For me, the game was World of Warcraft and I knew I had a problem, but I was just too dependent on it. Here are the steps I took four years ago to shake off video game addiction and become a different, less obsessed gamer.
1) Become aware that a problem exists
Cliché. Similar to every other addiction, generally those affected are incredibly defensive of their lifestyle. If you already know you need to cut back, but have mental roadblocks, then you’re already past this step. I’m not here to be the judge, so I can’t help you with this part. Having a hobby does not mean you have a video game addiction and there is no set amount of time played that makes you addicted, rather it’s when you realize that this one thing is monopolizing too much of your time, but you simply can’t resist.
2) Narrow down the game, genre, or mechanic that hooks you
Unlike other addictions, there may be one type of game that your brain goes crazy with, though you’d be relatively safe with others. I fell victim to World of Warcraft’s abusive, digital reward scheme and had over 100 days played over an amount of time I would rather not disclose. I’d say the majority of gaming addicts fall into the MMORPG category, though score attack arcade style mechanics, and others, could also have this effect.
3) Let your friends know you’re quitting the game
This was by far the most gut-wrenching step I went through to quit my World of Warcraft addiction. I told my guildmates (and real-life friends who knew I played a lot) that I would not be logging back on. This started the process by publicly committing myself to it, making it a lot harder to back out. The guilt I felt from leaving them behind was my brain fighting itself; you have to ignore this because it’s not legitimate. They’ll get over it and you can keep in contact with the ones who are really your friends.
4) Make it difficult for yourself to relapse
This goes hand-in-hand with step 3 and you need to do it while you’re still in that euphoric I’m-Doin’-It mode. Uninstall the games (PC Master Race), or trade in the discs (console dregs) of your problem games. In my case, I actually sold my WoW account, which really helped every time I considered playing again and I would recommend it to any MMORPGers wanting to quit. You could also change the password then transfer the account to a supportive friends e-mail address.
5) Find new hobbies AND play different video games
Other games are still alright, but pick games with definitive endings and little to no achievement emphasis. Avoid multiplayer that utilizes a leveling system. Focus more on finding something new to do like getting in shape, joining a book club, or even blogging about gaming (just like I’m doing right now).
Now I can healthily game with no lack of fulfillment and fun and can even play most “danger” games like Fallout 3, Starcraft 2, and Skyrim. I’m writing this mostly because my old WoW account is available to me again by complete chance. I’ve considered going back, but don’t even want to anymore.