Start Tracking Your Gaming Time
Part of the reason video games eat up so much time is because they’re so engaging. It’s easy to get lost in their finely-crafted worlds, or get hooked by their clever progression systems that leave you saying “Just one more thing...” I can’t count how many times I’ve sat down to play Breath of the Wild for “a couple minutes” then looked up to see hours have gone by, or popped into Overwatch to play “a few matches” then realize it’s suddenly past my bedtime.
Tracking your gaming time can help, says psychologist John M. Grohol. Create a gaming log, be it a spreadsheet or just a piece of paper, and write down when you start playing a game and when you stop. Then add up your total gaming time at the end of each week. When I saw how much time I was actually spending in virtual worlds, it was enough to snap me out of my escapism bubble.
Set Limits for Yourself
When you sit down to play a game, I’ve found setting a timer helps a lot. Set a daily limit for yourself and try to keep to it. Even if you don’t stop as soon as the timer goes off, you still become aware of how much time you’ve spent playing that day, and awareness is key. It can help to create a ruleset for your gaming too, like “I’ll only play games with friends” or “I can only play games on certain days of the week.” That said, don’t restrict yourself too much or you won’t keep to your goals. It’s okay to splurge every once in awhile and plan an occasional “free gaming day.”
Limiting your gaming budget can help a lot too. I set a spending cap on video games, and set a limit to how many games I can buy per month (especially during Steam sales). If you have an enormous backlog of games to play, you’ll feel an urge to play more so you can finally get to them all. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
How to Finally Beat the Unfinished Games In Your Never-Ending Backlog
In a world of regular Steam sales and cheap used games, it's easy to build up a massive…
Start Choosing Games Wisely
There’s no way around it: some games require a much bigger time investment than other games. MMOs, giant open-world exploration games, and RPGs are major time sinks. I spent way too much time doing basically nothing in GTA V, have barely scratched the surface of Persona 5 at nearly 40 hours in, and would probably cry if I looked at my total time played during the golden age of World of Warcraft.
If you’re having a hard time stepping away from these kinds of games because there’s so much to do in them, cut them out of your gaming diet. Shift your focus to games that are more pick-up-and-play so you can play in short bursts and not feel like you’re missing out on anything when you set down the controller. I still indulge in these kinds of games on occasion, but I don’t play as many as I used to, and I still track my time when I can.
Let Go of Your “Hardcore Gamer” Cred
Once upon a time I had unlimited hours to spend on every major title release. I would try to beat games on the hardest difficulty, unlock all the achievements, and reach the highest rank in competitive multiplayer. Well, now I have a grown up job (kinda), and my boss doesn’t care about any of that—neither does my girlfriend. So a while back I ditched my gaming ego.
Now I’ll play games on easy difficulty and charge through quickly if I’m mostly interested in the story. I stopped trying to complete games 100%—nobody cares, not even other gamers. And I skip a game’s multiplayer if it isn’t something I know I’ll honestly enjoy, even if all of my friends are playing it. And if I do dive into the competitive modes, I don’t worry about being the best player out there. I just have fun and move on. Lastly, I drop games the minute they start to lose my interest. I no longer waste my time on a game just because I’m worried other people will judge me for giving up.
How to Deal with Your Video Game-Induced Anger
You’ve got that boss down to just a sliver of health. One more hit and it’s done. Then, out of…
Earn Gaming Time
Too much gaming is usually a problem because it gets in the way of other things you need to do, like house chores, errands, work, and exercise. So, I incorporated all that stuff into my gaming routine. I play Overwatch in between sets of lifting weights, switch between doing chores and playing Breath of the Wild like some sort of weird Pomodoro method, and I don’t do any of that until I’ve already completed my work, run my errands, and at least taken a look at my many side projects. Remember, the goal isn’t to remove video games from your life entirely. It’s to make them a single aspect of your life, not the sole focus of it.
Start Watching Other People Play Games Instead
I’ll be honest, I think it’s ridiculous that people make a living playing video games on Twitch and YouTube… but I sure am glad they do. I don’t have time to play every cool game I want to, so I watch streamers play them instead. I can live vicariously through them and still get a lot of joy out of the game I would otherwise. Plus, watching people play games is a more passive activity. I can do other things while I watch, like do work, exercise, or sneak in a meal.
In Defense of Video Games: More Than Just an Entertaining Time Sink
Many of us at Lifehacker are big fans of video games. Our esteemed Editor-in-Chief, however, is…
Go on a Gaming Detox
Going cold turkey isn’t ideal for everyone, but it has worked for me in the past. When I really need to snap back to reality, I’ll take all my video games (the current ones anyway), put them in a box, seal it up, then hand it off to someone who’s willing to store it for me. I usually do this for a couple weeks at a time, and I’m always surprised at how little I miss them. I get more stuff done, end up spending more time with the people I care about, and find other, less-time-consuming ways to blow off steam. Take some time to focus on the other things in your life and you’ll gradually learn that you don’t need video games as badly as you think.
Figure Out What You’re Escaping
Video games are a fun way to de-stress, but they are one of the most advanced forms of escapism out there. To quell my gaming thirst I started looking at my escapism habits from another angle. I asked myself “What am I hiding from?” and worked from there.
Sometimes it was stuff I couldn’t control, like the general state of the world. Video games can offer a nice respite from the harsh truths of reality. But more often than not, I would be able to identify the things that were stressing me out and making me want to escape to virtual worlds in the first place. If work was getting me down, I’d make an actionable plan on how to improve it instead of grabbing a controller. If the weight of my personal life was crushing my shoulders, I’d talk to somebody about it and try to look at it from other angles instead of hiding behind a screen. We often run to video games because they make us feel powerful and in control. The real world doesn’t always offer that, but it never will if you always run from the issues in your life.
CR Impact Points
Click the VOTE button to give Sheldon 100 CrowdRise Impact Points (CIPs). Vote for the Volunteers and Fundraisers that are answering the call to service, raising money for charity, and making an impact for their causes. Come back and Vote every months. CIPs can earn you the highly coveted, highly respected CrowdRise Royalty Status.
CR Impact Points
If you're seeing the grey VOTE button, you should feel great about yourself. It means you already voted for Sheldon this month. Come back next month and vote again if you still love Sheldon. Thanks to your vote, Sheldon earned 100 CrowdRise Impact Points (CIPs). CIPs can earn you the highly coveted, highly respected CrowdRise Royalty Status.