According to data, today’s millennials are the most plugged-in generation in history. On average they spend a whopping 9.5 hours a day engaging with media, usually through smartphones. But it isn’t just mobile devices that have hooked folks—for many people, their drug of choice is video games. Those who take part in the marathon “Call of Duty” sessions that last through the night, or who miss their subway stop because they’re glued to Candy Crush, or spend more time immersed in MMORPG worlds than reality, are all too familiar with this affliction. Nothing wrong with a little diversion in video-game form, but everyone could benefit from unplugging every now and then. On that note here are some tips to control that button-mashing monkey on your back.
Be social, curb the addiction
That isn’t to say folks who spend time in virtual worlds with virtual friends are not connecting with others. Online gaming is indeed a highly social form of interaction. The problem is that, in the video-game world, there are virtual friends and competitors available 24/7. Gamers who can’t put down the controller should swap their online pals for real ones. Only indulge in extended video-game sessions with other groups of physical people. Eventually the party will wind down and everyone will move on to something else—the direct result being that you cut down drastically on those blocks of hours.
Anyone playing video games over 24 hours a week might be an addict. Once it has reached this point the goal should be to cut back on the number of hours spent playing per day. Do this incrementally until the hours have been reduced to a manageable level. Those who can’t manage even a slight reduction in hours spent gaming could reasonably considered habitual players, and it might be necessary to find a support system, of which there are many in the online community.
Take the enjoyment out of the game
If setting reasonable goals fails to do the trick, it might be time to consider more draconian measures. Taking all enjoyment out of the games you spend the most time on is a good way to jumpstart the process of beating the addiction. Read walkthroughs or anything else that spoils the storyline, thus rendering the game uninteresting. And if a particular title has really got you, take the final step of uninstalling it from your computer or mobile device.
Change your routine
Just like smokers get into the physical habit of smoking over years, gamers often get as addicted to the routine of playing as they do the titles themselves. That’s why it’s important not to stop the routine altogether, but to refocus that energy elsewhere. Instead of spending hours a day manipulating digital characters, divert that passion to a project or hobby you had an interest in before gaming took over, be it art, music, sports, schoolwork or just spending time with friends and family. Sure, it may not deliver the immediate gratification of “World of Warcraft,” but anything to keep your mind on track while building personal relationships is a good thing.
Ultimately, a video-game addiction is no different than an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It takes inward reflection and a commitment to changing one’s future to overcome it. The important thing is that there is no rush. Take it one day at a time, implementing easy strategies like the ones listed above, until your focus has shifted from what’s on the screen to the world around you.