There is an argument to be made about whether or not video games can truly be addictive.
However, if we consider addiction a physical and mental stimulation that causes a damaging change in our perception and way of life, then it stands to reason that video games can easily be considered an addiction.
While it is clearly not the same as a chemical drug, video games alter our perception, transport us into another world and can be a great deal of fun.
However, when they begin to interfere with daily tasks and eat away at free time, a clear and present danger has been established.
When all of the mind’s conscious energy becomes scattered throughout real-life circumstances and in-game nuances, a division of self occurs.
The person’s brain becomes built to perceive the rules of the video game, and as a result, they can never give the full energy of their mind to new tasks without removing the mental structure that the video games have created.
This division of self is the ultimate consequence of video games.
If they’re still worthy of free and recreational time, they should be included in life.
But in the event that they become damaging, overwhelming and difficult to step away from, conscious and dedicated effort must be taken to prevent the habit from causing any more damage.
By becoming conscious and informed of the nature of this addiction, a clear path away from unhealthy gaming is easier to understand.
A Temporary Stimulation
Whether it’s an in-depth game or something with short, fleeting tasks, the nature of a video game is to provide a person with temporary stimulation.
Seldom do the benefits of a game outweigh the benefits of learning a task as it applies to the real world.
For every game that offers hand-eye coordination benefits, there is a real world activity that does the same or better. More importantly, the landscape of video games is constantly changing, and most of them are discarded within months.
Long-term games may seem more preferable in this light, but the reality is that they offer a deeper time sink that slowly drains away mental focus, energy and time. When it’s time to put the game down, it is more difficult to unravel the parts of the mind that have grown to play that game.
If an impulsive habit leads to more time invested in the game or games, and that habit causes serious personal issues, the system of temporary stimulation is functioning like a harmful drug.
Recognizing that these games rarely offer more than temporary stimulation is a great way to curb the habit.
Creating a list of things to learn, places to see and people to meet can often help to reveal that video games have a hidden cost associated with them: they sap away the precious time that we need to achieve our hopes, goals, dreams, and aspirations.
The True Price of Time
There is no true way to measure the price or value of time.
Spending 10 minutes doing a certain task might accidentally win a person the lottery, and so it is difficult to truly establish whether or not one action is worth more than the other.
From this perspective, it should be perfectly clear that it is up to each individual to decide whether or not it is wise to use the time of their life playing video games. However, once the decision to play a game has been made, the time spent is lost.
If there was something else that could have been done, it was sacrificed for those moments of play.
While fun, recreation, and play can be deeply fulfilling, it is always worth questioning whether or not there was something else that could have been done in place of that time.
Achieving higher degrees of personal success often involves sacrifice, and even if playing games isn’t truly functioning as an addiction, it can serve as a serious barrier between higher results and a failure of potential.
It is only from this perspective that the true price of excessive gaming becomes visible: superior goals are impossible to reach without consistent time and effort, and the biggest price of gaming is time.
Finding Superior Alternatives
The ultimate goal of breaking a video game addiction is to find superior alternatives that can replace the games while increasing personal skills, long-term health and real-world prowess.
The biggest issue for most is that the video game is an escape from boredom that becomes an impulsive decision to escape from reality.
By investing their mind in the game, the game becomes more palatable than their personal life, responsibilities, goals and preferences.
The more alluring that the game is, the more time that they lose overall.
The process of finding a superior alternative is quite simple: find enjoyable skills and lifestyles that can only be achieved through work and dedication.
Recognize these as worthy goals and take the action that it takes to move towards them.
The delayed gratification of achieving a worthy goal creates patience, discipline, and mental skills that are often impossible to gain from a video game.
Once superior alternatives are identified, the mere process of spending the time to learn about them and what it takes to succeed is often enough to trigger true desire.
By thinking through the benefits and rewards of the superior alternative, the unconscious mind begins to place more value on the process of moving towards that new objective. By getting the unconscious mind on board, old habits become easier to notice.
Perhaps playing a game is simply a default strategy to escape boredom, and by recognizing this connection, healthier ways to escape boredom can be conditioned into new habits.
Once healthier habits have been established, the superior alternatives will become the new default.
However, the old allure of games likely will remain indefinitely.
Even after a few weeks, the old urges to trade time for a video game will arise.
The true test of willpower is in recognizing the damage that this time spent can do to greater goals.
Simply abstaining from playing the games is not enough, as it does not mentally enforce the reasons why the superior alternatives are superior in the first place.
By challenging the mind at a deep, unconscious level, the habit is easier to dismantle and replace.
That is where habits live, and disturbing their foothold in the mind is the ideal way to evict them.
Developing New Interests
If the addiction is deeply rooted in the mind, it will be quite difficult to establish new interests.
Unconscious habits will create thoughts of the game, and the urge will arise to “play.”
However, by replacing the word “play” with “invest time,” the entire process can be thought of as a purchase.
If time can be used to purchase 1,000 hours of game-play, it can also be used to purchase 1,000 hours towards a superior goal.
The difficulty is not in trading time but rather in developing new interests.
By having preferences that are a more valuable investment in video games, even the mere thought of spending a few hours will start to feel like a terrible idea.
Someone that loves to go surfing every day would be difficult to convince to move 500 miles from the beach.
In the same way, someone with personal goals and interests would be difficult to convince to start playing video games on a regular basis.
All that is required is that a person have a deep, sincere connection with interests that are more fulfilling than video games.
If that interest outweighs the temporary stimulation of the game, the addiction will break apart and fall by the wayside.
After the addiction is broken, it’s still perfectly acceptable to play video games from time to time.
There might still be fun, new releases that are enjoyable enough to warrant recreational time, but until new habits are thoroughly established, it’s best to avoid them.
Someone with a deeply addictive personality might have to avoid them for the majority of their life, but personal responsibility and willpower are ultimately more powerful than the temporary stimulation of a game.
With that said, the final stage of breaking the addiction is following through with the decision to walk away.
A sincere and lasting commitment to work towards greater goals will certainly require an investment of time and effort.
If those goals are worthy, the thought of never achieving them will feel painful and unimaginable, and once that pain is associated with spending too much time on video games, the commitment to quit will be heavily fortified.
All that’s left from that point forward is to strive for greater goals.