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Stop Gaming

Just Three Steps to Quit Gaming

Quitting games is simpler than you think. You don’t have to find inner peace before quitting games. There’s no need to work on letting go of negative experiences from your childhood before quitting games.

You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a recovery program to quit gaming. Heck, you can still use your phone and computer while quitting games instead of eschewing all screen devices like some Luddite. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Throw away your assumptions and self help books because here are the minimal steps you need to take to quit games:

1. Sell Your Games and Delete your Accounts

Delete Steam, Origin, and any other gaming accounts.

Steam is notoriously tough to delete. I’m not sure if the other gaming accounts do this, but Steam lets you recover your account even if you switch to a throwaway email account.

Contact steam (and other gaming accounts’) support and ask them to permanently delete your account. I relapsed a handful of times before I finally asked them. Don’t be like me. Ask support to delete your accounts immediately.

Yes, you will be throwing away potentially thousands of dollars worth of games (like I did) when you delete your accounts. This is a sunk cost, and your hesitation is just the gaming junkie part of your brain not wanting to let go. It’s not like you can sell the Steam games anyway since it’s against Steam’s terms of service. The money is already gone, regaining your time–your life–is far more valuable.

If you have physical systems or games, offload them to goodwill or a game reseller. I was lucky to have a used game store nearby which wasn’t GameStop. The small used game store actually paid more than I would have gotten reselling on eBay. Either way, get rid of all games and systems at once. Don’t give yourself the chance to relapse by selling a little at a time.

2. Create a ‘Stop Gaming Contract’

These behavioral modification contracts go by a few names. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, calls it a Habit Contract. Here’s a template.

Nir Eyal has a similar system where he uses loss aversion to stick to habits. Just turn this around to lose money if you relapse on video games. But don’t burn the money as Nir suggests. Either give it to charity or your accountability partner. Giving it to your accountability partner to handle right away is the best option, since there’s the temptation to “forget” about the owed penalty.

The first step in creating the contract is to find an accountability partner. You want someone who will catch you lying to yourself if you decide to renege on the contract or sneak in an activity which is considered relapsing. They will be co-signing the contract and holding you accountable for paying up when you relapse. And it’s okay if you relapse. I did a several times.

Next, clearly define what relapsing means to you. This would be any activity that makes you want to game. For me, this included not only video games, but also gaming media such as videos, articles, or gaming subreddits.

Also define clear exceptions to the rule. For example, I don’t get the urge to play Jackbox Games alone for 72+ hours straight (I don’t think most are single player anyway), so I’m allowed to play these with friends.

Finally, define the penalty. This penalty should be enough to hurt, but not enough to impoverish you. The monetary penalty may change over time based on your life circumstances. If you make partner at a law firm or are a surgeon, then a $100 penalty won’t mean much.

I recommend setting two equally painful penalties: one time-based and another money-based. My time-based penalty involves cleaning the entire house, taking my partner to dinner, and making her lunch for a week. If I’m busy with work, I just choose the money penalty.

3. Find a Purpose

Games give us a clear purpose in a way of quests, ranking systems, and achievements. It’s satisfying to look at these paths of progress in games and to complete each milestone.

A similar system can be created for real-life goals with a bit of organization.

Start with your vision statement

First, find your overall purpose. Creating a personal vision statement is a solid start.

Person vision statement examples:

To provide value to others and to inspire them to live their best lives.

To achieve mastery in a skill and achieve financial independence.

If you find it hard to discover your vision, ask yourself these questions:

How do you want people to remember you?

What activities do you enjoy which provide value to others; to a market?

What are your core values?

What important truth do very few people agree with you on? (The famous Peter Thiel question).

You will dedicate your life to this vision; this purpose. It’s not set in stone, but it should change very infrequently, and should be solid after your first few years as you dial in your purpose.

Derive your mission statement from your vision

You have a clear vision. Now how will you get there? The vision statement describes the what and the mission describes the how.

Your mission takes your vision and outlines the practical steps to achieve it.

Let’s use the earlier examples:

Vision: To provide value to others and to inspire them to live their best lives.

Mission: Provide content on a daily basis to others while maintaining revenue streams to pay for personal expenses and to invest back into generating more valuable content.

Vision: To achieve mastery in a skill and achieve financial independence.

Mission: Take online courses and enroll in coding boot camps while building a portfolio through open source contributions and freelance work. Then land a career in one of the top 50 tech companies.

Your personal mission statement will change more often than your vision since the implementation of achieving your vision may change based on life circumstances.

For the second mission example, let’s say that after two years you still haven’t been hired into one of the top tech companies. Maybe it’s due to the lack of a relevant degree, experience, or maybe the GitHub projects you contributed to didn’t get enough exposure.

The mission could change to:

Further my software development portfolio while interviewing at startups. Seek a position with ownership options.

With this modified mission, you can still achieve financial independence through skill mastery. But now you have a higher chance of fulfilling your vision given your new life circumstances. It’s not moving the goalposts as much as it is creative thinking. Missions are plans, and plans change. The vision is ultimately what’s important.

Supplemental Tools

The above three steps are enough to stop gaming. But there are tools to make the journey more bearable and to reduce the chance of relapse.

Filter Out Gaming Media

Use browser filters like Distraction Free for YouTube and News Feed Eradicator to reduce the chances of surfing gaming media.

If you want to take it a step further, there’s also Pluckeye, although I noticed increased page load times after installing. There’s the simpler, perhaps better, manual method of blocking sites via your hosts file. Here are instructions for Windows and Mac.

Time Tracking

If you do not track your time, other unhealthy activities may fill the void created by gaming abstinence. Track every activity to watch for this. It may seem like a pain to track your entire day, but here’s why it works when quitting a time sink habit like gaming.

By having to track each activity, it forces awareness of how you spend your time. If you decide to watch Netflix in the middle of the day, you have to record it. Even if you decide to watch, your weekly hours will show your hours sunk into television versus activities in pursuit of your vision.

Time reports allow you to set quotas for time investments. Say you want to spend a minimum of twenty hours weekly on building a new skill. Then, if you need the motivation, reward yourself for meeting the quota. If you pursue the right skill, meeting the quota should become its own reward after the first few months as the new positive habit strengthens.

Harvest works well for time tracking and is free for up to two projects. It’s easy to work around the project limitation by using tasks to track activities. Any time tracking software with reporting which allows you to track by activity should work.

To-Do List

To-do lists like asana can organize your goals into projects. Then you break your projects down into to-do items with due dates. This creates some healthy time pressure to help you stay on track.

Daily Exercise

Whether it’s lifting weights or cardio, exercise lifts your mood and trains your mind to associate uncomfortable tasks with rewards. This attenuates the effect that games have where you become used to comfortable, less challenging tasks. It also reduces the anxiety you will experience from not gaming.

It may feel agonizing at first if you’re not used to regular exercise, but after about fifteen to thirty minutes of your workout session, your brain releases dopamine and endorphins. Become aware of this feeling once it happens and recall it whenever you don’t feel like exercising.

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Stop Gaming

Nostalgia Triggers Gaming Urges

We tend to remember only the rosiest parts of our past when feeling nostalgic. This is especially true for games. Memories of childhood games beckon us to replay them; to try and recapture this part of our lives.

Why are games so nostalgic?

When we revisit physical locations from our past–maybe a childhood home or grade school–we see the effects of time. Our childhood home’s landscaping is overgrown with untrimmed shrubbery and weeds. We notice the roof is discolored and sagging.

Something digitized like a movie or game provide a piece of frozen time. A digital format provides an exact copy of the game we played from our childhood.

While our childhood home decays, the neighborhood changes, childhood friends grow up and grow apart, we can replay an experience from the past in a game, like a high fidelity memory. As we play the game, old memories are triggered, amplifying that warm, nostalgic feeling.

Maybe it’s a game you used to play with a friend or family member who passed away or who grew apart. You feel as though the game is a link to their memory.

Can we really relive the past?

Despite the high fidelity of digital games, we cannot relive an experience in this same fidelity. This is the fault of our ever-changing lives. Greek philosopher Heraclitus defined this in his quote:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Even though a game stays constant in its mechanics and graphics, our experience differs when we play it years later. Our knowledge of the world; our interpretation of our experiences change.

This is also why eating food you enjoyed as a kid, especially sweets like candy or cookies, changes. You no longer enjoy sugary things like you did as a child.

Replaying an old game that seemed so magical as a child now seems vapid once you take off the nostalgia googles. You don’t enjoy the game as much as you enjoy the memories and feelings it triggers.

The game remains exact, but our interpretation is different.

So when you feel the urge to game due to nostalgia, remember that the promise of reliving the past is a lie. The game is better off as a memory. Focus on creating new memories so that several years from now, you can look back on today as a fond memory–one that doesn’t involve games.

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Stop Gaming

Why Quitting Gaming is so Hard

Playing video games is a sort of security blanket, a surrogate mother, wrapping you in its embrace when you don’t want to face life’s problems.

This escape hatch for life’s problems feels safe. It reduces anxiety since you know you can fall back into gaming’s warm embrace.

You become satisfied with working just enough to survive in order to spend the rest of your time gaming. It’s like this verse from the King of Queens show theme song:

I’m sittin’ here in traffic,
On the Queensborough bridge tonight,
But I don’t care cuz all I wanna do,
Is cash my check and drive right home to you,
Cuz baby all my life I will be driving home to you

Except instead of driving back to a loving spouse, it’s gaming–an all-consuming habit.

But you’ve been gaming for so long that this habit releases dopamine while also relaxing you. Over the years, your brain becomes rewired so that these pleasurable feelings are amplified due to neuroplasticity.

It feels like losing a best friend

This is why it feels like losing a best friend or loved one when you quit games. When your thoughts drift to pleasurable memories of gaming, you’re struck with melancholy as you realize you can’t return to games without relapsing and having to start over.

You have all of these pleasant memories of gaming. And if you’ve gamed most of your life, most of your memories may revolve around games. This leaves you feeling that you can only be happy while gaming. But this is a lie.

Fulfillment without games

It will be depressing at first, especially the first few weeks without games. But don’t believe the lie that you can’t achieve happiness without games.

You will experience a deeper sense of fulfillment through building real-life skills than you ever did with games. But this is difficult to explain in words and is something you must experience to appreciate.

This deeper sense of fulfillment starts to take hold after your first few months. Give yourself at least 90 days before expecting a reward while working on real-life skills that fit your life’s task.

Your life’s task, or mission, takes time to realize. Experiment with learning different skills to see which ones energize you and feel effortless.

Once you start building the skill set in line with your life’s task, you experience a slower burning gratification. And just like with the gaming habit, the more time you invest in a real life skill, the more pleasurable it becomes.

The gratification return on time investment is a steeper curve than gaming, but unlike gaming, it’s sustainable.

Gaming slowly erodes your quality of life. Building a skill in line with your mission slowly improves your quality of life.

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Stop Gaming

Quitting Games Will Not Fix Your Life

When you quit gaming, you won’t magically turn into some successful person with a great job, a relationship with a great partner, and a better body.

Quitting games is tough, especially in the first few weeks, and you likely won’t see much progress on other aspects of your life for the first few months, perhaps longer. You’ll also likely feel depressed and have a sense of loss during your first few weeks.

After a year of quitting games, I’m still some pale guy with the same office-chair posture because now I code and write when I stare at a screen all day instead of playing games.

I’m still not a social butterfly and haven’t developed as many deep relationships as more extroverted people. Quitting games didn’t change my personality or temperament. I still have social anxiety and general anxiety when alone.

I still have addictive tendencies and must be continually watchful for other addictive behaviors and thought patterns.

So why stop gaming?

Quitting games simply provides you with the raw material to build a better life: time.

How you invest this newfound time determines the extent of your personal growth. You won’t see an immediate return on this invested time in building skills or relationships. It’s not the short feedback loop that games provided. Returns are usually realized weeks, months, or sometimes years later.

If you begin a new skill, it could take years before you turn the skill into a career.

One way to counteract the slower burn of real-life skills is to spend time on healthy experiences, such as hiking or a road trip. Reward milestones for building a new skill with these experiences to take the drudgery out of the grind. But here’s the best way to take the blow out of real-life leveling.

Find a purpose

One issue that draws us to games is our lack of purpose. Games provide clear-cut goals with a firm sense of progression toward achievements.

Life is open-ended. If you lack a defined purpose with goals and plans to achieve those goals, then life lacks an end game and has no meaningful achievements.

Finding your purpose isn’t easy. But once you do, this provides meaning to the grind of building new skills. With a purpose that excites you, investing time in real life skills won’t feel like work. You will eventually look forward to building your chosen skill with the same enthusiasm as you did games.

Explore your purpose by asking these questions

What do you want to be remembered for?
What skills have you started building which provide value to others and that you enjoy doing?

If you have no existing valuable skills, then explore marketable skills which match your interests. Test drive each skill to see what which one captures your interest and energizes you.

Once you’ve targeted a skill, hone it for at least two hours daily for two to four weeks. If you see it turning into a long-term career, then keep at it with the eventual goal of mastery. After around 20 to 40 hours, if it’s not what you thought it would be, then explore a different skill.

But do not keep jumping from one skill to the next every few months once the going gets tough or you will never achieve mastery. Building a skill will have its low points and it will sometimes feel like drudgery. This aspect of learning a skill is described in Seth Godin’s The Dip. After the honeymoon period, building a skill may start to feel like work, this is The Dip.

The key to skill selection is deciphering which skills are worth continuing and which can be dropped.

Skills required for a dead-end careers with minimal future growth are not worth the continued time investment. On the other hand, a skill which you enjoy that also has excellent market demand is worth the time investment even if it’s not your current job. You can gradually transition to work which uses your target skill.

Transition to your target skill

For example, if your target skill is writing, then your current job may not utilize this skill. You can either ask your boss for a lateral move to a position which utilizes the skill or ask to take on a project which utilizes the skill.

If a lateral move isn’t possible, you can moonlight with freelance or part-time work. Once you have enough writing work to sustain your personal expenses, then you can give up the job with the low value skill and write full-time.

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Can you ever game again after quitting?

Once you stop playing games, you will keep wondering if you can ever play again. Will you ever outgrow your compulsion to binge playing games?

The short answer

If you’re here because you’re seeking help due to an out of control gaming habit, then no, you won’t be able to return to playing the types of games you’ve played in the past.

The long answer

You can’t return to the games you’ve played in the past. It’s up to you to set these boundaries. For at least the first six months, do not return to ANY games, even digital board games (physical board games are fine).

This reddit post offers a great explanation as to why we shouldn’t return to gaming. We have to stop gaming because we cannot moderate our consumption. One hour of gaming is too much and 72 hours isn’t enough.

For me, the games I binged on consisted of open world single player games, mostly Bethesda games. I never marathoned multiplayer games alone. The closest I’ve come to this were all-nighters in college and high school LAN parties and a two-day WoW binge with a friend in-person LAN-style.

This doesn’t mean I can play multiplayer shooters or MMORPGs. I’m sure I would start gaming binges with those due to an addictive personality. But I allow myself to play digital party games like You Don’t Know Jack type games. Also, digital board games are allowed as long as they can’t be played single-player or alone against bots. This rule excludes the video game version of Gloomhaven since it has a single-player mode.

When I play these party/social games, I don’t feel the urge to binge them and don’t have obsessive thoughts when I stop playing them. They can only be played with others and the type of people that play these games rarely have time to marathon them.

Of course non-digital games are fine. Board games are a great substitute. However, I’m undecided on persistent campaign games requiring large time sinks such as Gloomhaven.

In other words, you will never play games again that scratch the addictive itch. So although they are technically games, they’re not anything you would want to binge.

Cold Turkey versus Selective Quitting

Some cold turkey purists my scoff at my inclusion of digital party games and multiplayer-only digitized board games, and that’s fine. It’s up to each person to decide their boundaries.

If you find yourself neglecting your responsibilities to play a digital version of Catan with online friends, then that’s a good indicator you should exclude digital board games as well.

If you compare addictive gaming to alcoholism, alcoholics must discontinue all alcohol consumption since alcohol is the same whether it’s in beer, wine, or liquor.

But games are more nuanced. They consist of a series of activities to achieve set goals. Game mechanics control how the activities achieve these goals. The mechanics and activities to achieve these goals come in a wide array, with some activities being on the addictive/compulsive spectrum, and other activities being casual/social.

Examples of addictive/compulsive game mechanics

Expiring time and resources

Examples: FarmVille, scheduled raids in MMORPGs, Animal Crossing’s timed errands.

Games with this mechanic will penalize you for not playing, or not playing at specified times. A game starts to control your schedule instead of real-life responsibilities.

Wealth and experience acquisition

Examples: MMORPGs, Open World RPGs

Games like this are especially addicting when there is no clear end game or when the end state requires hundreds or thousands of hours. This can be compounded by games which encourage replay though various character builds, New Game Plus modes, or infinitely generated worlds or quests.

Here’s a great resource on addictive game mechanics and how games leverage them.

Social/casual game mechanics

Multiplayer games without persistence or global leaderboards/ranks

Examples: Jackbox Games, Mario Party 10 and earlier

Multiplayer games which have no effect persistence between game sessions. Without the drive to level a character or increase global ranking, there is little reason to play for more than a few sessions, usually with friends instead of strangers.

Skill or logic-based casual games

Examples: Snake, Mario platforming games, and most similar platformers

Puzzle games or platformers are iffy. I wouldn’t recommend that any recovering game addict play them, but there is usually an expiring interest after the first dozen or so hours.

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Stop Gaming

A former gaming addict’s view on Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven scratches the gaming itch I’ve been ignoring for almost a year, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

I had never been so excited to play a board game, but was never this ambivalent about an analog game once I started playing.

It took several hours for my partner and I to assemble the game pieces and comprehend the rules while absorbing YouTube videos, the rule book, and online searches for ambiguous guidelines. The setup felt like work, but we heard from others that it was worth it.

After the first few turns in the initial dungeon, I felt a dopamine release as the game mechanics clicked and I started anticipating building the town and starting character skills. This was more than the normal reward experience when learning a new board game.

Games like Dead of Winter become rewarding after suffering through the one to two hours of learning. But Gloomhaven’s initial learning curve reward was more pronounced, likely due to the game state’s persistence between gaming sessions.

Your character is one of many playable characters, most of which are unlocked through various achievements and actions. Many unlocks are unknown until you get to a certain point in the world map. The maps points of interest also need to be discovered, similar to an open world video game. And not only do you level and customize the characters, but the town of Gloomhaven can also be improved.

The persistence of leveling different aspects of the game creates a sort of anticipation where you look forward to sinking more time into the game. Aside the town and your character’s level, each character has a customizable deck of cards it uses for actions. Higher level cards are unlocked as your character gains experience. There’s even extra non-leveled cards so you can customize out of the gate with a new character. What’s more, (possible spoiler), you can eventually unlock enchanting which allows stat increases for traits on individual cards. The sense of accomplishment is complete with stickers displaying the permanence of each card’s stat improvements.

This sort of anticipation of future time investment isn’t present in one-off games where the characters and world reset once you finish the game’s objective.

This is the part that worries me. As someone who has stopped gaming due to not being able to moderate their play time, I don’t want to return to investing huge amounts of time in RPG-like games.

It was almost midnight and I wanted to keep playing. We failed our first scenario, but the game allows you to keep your experience and gold collected regardless of failure.

With my partner heading to bed, I considered a solo campaign, since Gloomhaven allows for a single-player variation, but knew this wasn’t healthy.

The game was sinking its hooks into my brain. In bed, I thought of how to improve the next dungeon run and which cards to swap into my deck to specialized against its enemies.

This was all too familiar. I would often think of new character builds for Bethesda games while doing non-gaming activities. This was less theorycrafing and more looking for ways to increase immersion, normally through role-playing unusual builds like a peasant farmer or an orc mage.

I’m taking a break from Gloomhaven as I consider whether or not to keep playing.

Any activity that intrudes my mind while I’m on productive tasks gives me pause. An interesting TV show may do this to an extent. If you’ve watched an engrossing series, a character or some scene pops into your mind while you’re on some other task that requires concentration. But you can usually dismiss the thought and get back to work.

But some games hijack your thoughts and won’t let go. But many people welcome it without concern, since planning character builds and quests is pleasurable. The anticipation of future rewards releases dopamine.

Analog Gaming Addiction

What’s interesting is that I assumed my gaming addiction was unique to video games. I never considered being addicted to a non digital game. But as someone who never played PnP RPGs, perhaps this is what it’s like when you’re involved in an immersive D&D campaign.

It looks like I’m not the only one who feels this compulsion with Gloomhaven.

What makes Gloomhaven so addicting?

It’s turn-based strategy game with RPG elements, something it shares with favorites from my past gaming life: Final Fantasy Tactics and XCOM games. My other past favorites being (almost) anything developed by Bethesda.

Gloomhaven’s designer is a huge fan of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. The sense of exploration and discovery in the game is inspired by the TES games. Similar to strongholds in Morrowind or settlement building in Fallout 4, your choices shape the town of Gloomhaven.

All these video game inspired ingredients come together to make a freebased cardboard and plastic game. It looks like a board game, but feels like an immersive open world computer RPG.

Are other analog games addicting?

So is it just Gloomhaven or are there other analog games with addictive qualities? Some others have the same obsessive/addictive personality when it comes to board games. Spikeybits has an analysis on tabletop game addiction, specifically wargaming.

Magic: The Gathering can be problematic for some. One author goes over some of the addictive qualities about the game.

What are your thoughts on analog games? Have you had trouble controlling your play time with them? Share your experience in the comments.

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Stop Gaming

8 Horrible things that Happen when you Quit Gaming

First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.

Dale Carnegie

Prepare yourself for these unpleasant side effects when you quit gaming for good.

You feel like you lost a best friend

While still gaming, it seems unimaginable to give up an activity on which you’ve spent a majority of your free time. The first few weeks after quitting is tough. You feel a part of you is missing. It’s similar to ending a long relationship or losing a best friend.

It’s okay to sometimes look back on your relationship with games fondly. You don’t have to look back with sadness. It’s a part of your life that’s over.

When you catch yourself remembering a time when you gamed, gently redirect your thoughts to the future and anticipate the new memories you will create with healthier activities.

Keep the nostalgia for gaming at bay by avoiding all gaming media: videos, social media discussions, blogs/news sites, etc.

Searching for any game will only make the separation more painful, and increases risk of relapse.

Gaming dreams that trigger urges

Even if you avoid all gaming media and try to redirect your thoughts while thinking of games, there are still dreams. If you had gaming dreams before quitting gaming, they may increase in frequency after quitting. It’s as though your subconscious is starving for it’s gaming fix and controls dreams as its outlet.

Not all dreams may be an obvious game. I’ve had frequent game-like dreams where I could control events as though it were a game. And the beings in the dreams are either NPCs or enemies with obvious game-like mechanics.

The dreams haven’t stopped even after over a year. The good news is that the dreams become less about specific games after several months of quitting. The dreams become more about new games your mind invents. It’s almost a guilty pleasure, but there’s no use in feeling guilty since you can’t help this side effect.

Explaining why you quit gaming to others

Not all of your friends will understand why you’re no longer online or at gaming events. Unlike alcohol or other drugs, behavioral addictions seem strange to people without addictive personalities.

Imagine you have a friend who is a recovering binge eater. At first it may seem strange that they leave the room if someone brings in a box of doughnuts to share. Unless you’ve seen someone mid-binge, almost possessed, shoveling food into their mouths, you would think they were making a big deal about a harmless activity.

You can either try to hide that you have a problem or just be honest. Tell others that when it comes to you and games, one hour is too much and 72 hours isn’t enough.

Saying goodbye to your anticipated games list

Most gamers look forward to the next Bethesda or Rockstar game. It’s a real kick to the stomach when you realize you won’t play the next release.

But think of it this way. You are only passing up pleasure. There is no game that will add true fulfillment to your life. Reflect on what Marcus says about passing up pleasurable activities:

Remorse is annoyance at yourself for having passed up something that’s to your benefit. But if it’s to your benefit it must be good—something a truly good person would be concerned about.

But no truly good person would feel remorse at passing up pleasure.

So it cannot be to your benefit, or good.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book 8

You realize how many projects you’ve ignored

You turned to gaming to escape responsibilities and stress. These stressors will return once you’re off the high of gaming. You will have more time that you’re no longer gaming, but it won’t feel like it at first. Now that your brain isn’t being constantly distracted, you will start remembering all the projects you’ve been putting off.

Don’t let this discourage you. Turn it into fuel to beat your gaming addiction. Categorize your projects in asana (the free version) and configure a setting that triggers random rewards when checking off to-do items. It’s not as great as opening a treasure chest or loot box, but it’s a start.

Oh boy, Extra Delight. The methadone for recovering gaming addicts.

Low dopamine levels

You’ve been getting “high” on a steady dopamine drip while gaming. These dopamine releases are triggered when you level up, get rare loot, win a match, etc. During the first few days if quitting, you experience dopamine withdrawal.

Thankfully you can counteract this with supplements like the uridine stack (uridine, DHA fish oil, and CDP choline) and keep your energy levels up with some caffeine.

But supplements only help so much. Positive habits are the best long-term solution. Start a consistent exercise schedule to improve mood and energy levels. Also get at least seven to eight hours of sleep and create a consistent sleep schedule.

If you still feel unmotivated after getting plenty of sleep, try this trick: sleep only five to six hours the next day (and take your morning caffeine). See if your mood is increased on this reduced sleep schedule. Then continue your usual sleep schedule the next day.

I can’t find solid research on this, but my theory is that some people become used sleep deprivation and the mood boost it provides. There is something called the hangover effect which could be related.

This dependence on a reduced sleep scheduled happened to me while binging games and getting little sleep. After stopping a binge and getting a healthy amount of sleep, my mood actually dropped. I had to temporarily reduce my sleeping hours to feel an increase in mood.

Being tempted by other bad habits

You will be tempted by other bad habits. Be careful not to fall into other pleasure seeking behavior such as binge eating or binge watching television.

I had a difficult time with binge eating after quitting gaming. There’s a sort of euphoria, or numb feeling, when you shovel enormous quantities of food into your mouth. I overate sometimes when I was gaming, but it was infrequent. Once games left the table, food was an easy replacement for instant gratification.

My solution was a habit contract (which I broke a few times and had to pay the price). Make one of these contracts as soon as you notice another bad habit filling the void of gaming.

After the first several months of quitting, if you abstain from other habits, the temptation for other bad habits diminishes.

If you’re curious as to why this happens, read The Addictive Personality. The short explanation is that, as addicts, we look for something or some activity to enter a trance-like static (the “high” we experience when acting out). Once we give up one addictive habit, the addict part of our minds seeks the next most convenient replacement. These replacements tend to be TV, food, alcohol, or drugs.