Help me break my Video Game Addiction and get back to work!
May 31, 2008 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Help me break my Video Game Addiction and get back to work!

Hi guys. I just finished my freshman year in college and am on summer vacation right now. The whole year I was mostly able to keep on task, and have gotten ok grades. However, I did play some games back then as well, often at the worst moments (day before exam etc.) Right now i regret doing this, since i know i could have gotten better grades if i could just stop booting up those .exes

Now that I am on summer break, I promised myself that I would get to work learning extra things for my major (computer science) such as python. However now the urge to play is so much greater since I dont have deadlines or a strict schedule. If im reading a book, I let my mind wander and start thinking about games again, and usually just think that ill play for an hour, why not?...which always turns to more than just one hour. Same thing if im having a problem understanding something or im just having other random problems. I boot up my favorite games to just get away from it all.

Here are some reasons why I think im addicted (in my opinion):

1. Im just really good at basically every video game
I'm not bragging here, since i wish I actually was not. Im usually in the top three of every game I play, and its fun. Sadly this fun just makes me want to play more and more, since i keep getting more kills, points etc. Most of my friends have given up on video games, or play them very rarely, but they arent very good at them. My guess is if your always losing, your not really having much fun so you would play less.

2. I dont really have to think to play games, while looking at a technical book or dealing with problems does. Plus it seems there is only so much i can read before i just get bored. It also kind of helps me get away from the world if things are going on.

I know i have a problem, im just having a hard time fighting it. I've tried uninstalling the games, but I always end up installing them again later thinking ill control myself more this time or when I have friends come over and they want to play some. Ive tried setting notes around my computer reminding me not to play, or play for only a limited amount of time but they always seem to be ignored. Even when im writing this its 2 am, and I just finished playing for four short i need help. I need methods to make sure I do my work with hopefully no more playing video games ever (except those few times when friends might come over). I also need help just getting my stupid work done. I know im wasting summer like I have always done but i want to stop doing so. I want to actually get ahead for once, and I know im as close as ever if i could just break this stupid addiction.

Thanks hive mind :)
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sell them, unless they are illegal copies, in which case you'd just download them again anyway.

If you really want to drop the games, sell your graphics card. You probably don't need it for programming and the on board card will work just fine.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 9:01 AM on May 31, 2008

Sounds like you have chronic procrastination syndrome, something that anyone who works from home is prone to. I would recommend Dave Allens Getting Things Done as the book to snap you out of it.
posted by Artw at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2008

Approach life like it's a giant Video game. warning: social manuevering is much more difficult than A W S D.
posted by Student of Man at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2008

Sell them. If you can't sell them throw them in the bin.
posted by fire&wings at 9:34 AM on May 31, 2008

I did this too, especially playing Quake3 when I had tight deadlines. Moving yourself away from your computer is the best thing to do, or getting a laptop which can't support game-playing (or the internet!).
posted by beerbajay at 9:38 AM on May 31, 2008

You also might consider taking up another hobby, one that gets you out of the house for set amounts of time. This will probably help satisfy your need to recreate, and may allow you to concentrate better when it's working time.

Then again, it may not.
posted by Caduceus at 9:47 AM on May 31, 2008

Try being more studying, and don't play any games during that time. One thing that's been amazingly effective in keeping me working out regularly is to count the number of days in a row that I do cardio. Right now I think it's about 75 days in a row. That number has become like a 'high score' to me and it would be very, very hard for me to skip a day now.

I don't think you need to throw away your games or graphics card, it's not like an addiction to crystal meth that's going to destoy your body, you just need to schedule your time better. If you give up your video games, you may just end up wasting time doing other things. I gradually lost interest in video games over time, I still enjoy them but I don't really go out of my way to find new games to play. I still haven't gotten a current generation machine (PS3, Xbox360 or Wii), but I still spend a ton of time surfing the web. It's time management overall, not just games.

By the other bit of advice for college (for a computer scientist), which is kind of tangential but NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK. I don't mean learning socket programming. I mean go out of your way to make friends with people and get contacts. That will do a ton of good for your career, because if you're a good programmer and people out there know it, you can get a good job without putting up with all the bullshit of dealing with recruiters, etc.
posted by delmoi at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think it's a good idea to go cold turkey. Sell them if you can. Buy a safety deposit box at your bank if you don't have one already. Put them in there for now. Maybe you're getting a thrill out of being the top player. Video games let you escape everyday life. I think a lot of us have been there. It can become a bad habit.

Do you have a nice park, lake, or ocean nearby? I suggest taking a week or two to get outside and just walk. Take long walks. Even if you walk around a mall or bookstore. Walk or bike the neighborhood. Walk, take in some sites, stop in for a sandwich someplace. Go to the movie theater and watch a movie by yourself or with a friend. If a negative thought enters, such as, I've wasted so much time, or I could have done better, push it out and be proud of what you are doing now to improve your life. Don't worry if you aren't doing anything "meaningful" or "productive". Notice how life can be enjoyable without video games.

In the evenings go to more movies, rent movies, make plans with friends, or all of the above. Read a book that is enjoyable and holds your attention. Catch up on some laundry. Organize your music, dust your bookshelves, or other chores you've been meaning to get to. Listen to music. Go to bed early. Work on Python if you feel up to it.

Take a break. You can do it. When a couple weeks are up you might find that video games aren't nearly as appealing as they used to be.
posted by LoriFLA at 10:00 AM on May 31, 2008

The obvious massive scale solution is to mail your discs and whatnot (including all saved games, manuals with serial codes, etc) to a long distance school friend for the summer with instructions to keep them until school starts again, no matter how much you might beg.

But I was really struck by this sentence: My guess is if your always losing, your not really having much fun so you would play less.

Since I know from personal experience that this assumption is incorrect, I suspect what you enjoy so much about video games is positive reinforcement...and it's much more elusive in the real world. I like delmoi's idea of finding quantifiable achievements. Would logging the time you spend on other projects and putting it somewhere prominent keep you on track? Or thinking of Python lessons as levels that you need to gain, and keeping track of that?

You might want to spend a little time paying attention to what you're getting out of the game playing, rather than just beating yourself up for it. Then, think about how you might be able to tweak the real world accordingly.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:13 AM on May 31, 2008

Nah don't give them up. I'm a chronic procrastinator/video game addict. I managed to get through undergrad, med-school and residency with a serious counter-strike (and current xbox360) addiction. The critical thing is to be able to budget your time. And study away from where you live. Reward hard studying with some gaming time.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:55 AM on May 31, 2008

My guess is if your always losing, your not really having much fun so you would play less.

Not true. I quit most games I played when I was at the top. It still got tedious. Look being good at most games isnt tough. Video games are designed for 12 year olds. Youre a college student. The problem is that your peers have moved on to a much more difficult game called life and you havent. No wonder youre king of the hill. Youre playing against minds several years younger than yours. I suggest you think long and hard about the hours youve spent gaming and what else you could have accomplished in that time.

I dont recommend going cold turkey, but you can probably start by cutting down on your comeptitive games (most hardcore gamers are just too competitive) and move towards more thoughtful one player games. Then start introducing different hobbies and activities into your life. After a while you'll wonder how you ever spent 9 hours in front of the computer doing the same old thing.

If you cant do that then just follow a strict gaming schedule. GIve yourself 2-3 hours a day maximum. Avoid timesinks like MMOs.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2008

I traded my gaming box and monitor for an IBM thinkpad that couldn't handle games too well (with a flawed screen to boot). This broke my very compulsive habit for about a year and a half. I recalibrated my time and priorities, still playing occasionally, but for much less time due to the poorer quality of the experience, which made it less of an escape. (Also, it turns out I live in a somewhat interesting city. who knew?)

I always justified my gaming benders as time well-enough spent, considering I watched no sports. It is all about time management.

30 months after going lappy, I've reverted back to a gaming-level box and monitor, but keep it down to a single game (team fortress 2). I try to set specific times where I'll play, or treat it loosely as a reward for more productive time use. Keeping it pared down to one game also allows boredom to enter the equation. At my worst, I've had a dozen games installed on a machine, only to waste an hour trying to find the one that didn't let me still realize I was wasting my time.

I still have (and use) the laptop, as it's great for getting away from the desk and its magnificent gaming abilities. I also still have a problem being productive on my desktop because the next killing spree is only a double-click away.

FWIW, I just ordered that Getting Things Done book ArtW mentioned above. No, this addiction is not like Meth, but it is powerful. Games are designed to engulf your attention. I wouldn't change that at all. Good luck.
posted by Busithoth at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2008

Are you considering joining the game industry when you graduate? Whether or not you are, one thing that got me excited to work on my computer science studies was thinking of how to apply all that knowledge to cool new game ideas. It's not even that remote. Once you learn python, you can apply it to making facebook games, or google apps, or whatever. Maybe the shift in mentality from gamer to indie developer would help with your focus.
posted by naju at 12:53 PM on May 31, 2008

Just ditch games. I used to play tons of games and I was really good at them, but I would get sucked into them and forget to eat and use the restroom sometimes. I just took the approach that I take with junk food, which is that I'm not strong enough to resist the temptation if they are right there in my house, so I just don't buy them. Sure, you'll miss em, kinda... but only for a while. Nowadays I just sometimes get sucked into a game when I am visiting a friend who has video games, but once I leave I have to stop. That's what works for me.
posted by kosmonaut at 1:20 PM on May 31, 2008

If a game requires any kind of wait for an installation, deleting it can make it a lot easier to quit. When I first quit WoW, I found myself 'checking in' every so often and getting sucked in. I thought about uninstalling, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Then one day (as I was about to log in to WoW, even though I didn't really want to) my hard drive crashed. I had to buy a new one and lost all my data, including that game. That was the end of me playing WoW. It's a lot easier to resist installing and playing than it is to resist just playing.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:38 PM on May 31, 2008

You say that you're good--really good--at all video games. I've got a hard time believing that, frankly, when it seems so much more likely that you only play games you're good at (especially since you seem to believe that it's not fun to play games that you lose all the time). If you switch to something outside of your comfort zone (let me guess--you play mostly FPS's), perhaps it won't be so compelling.
posted by box at 2:32 PM on May 31, 2008

Set yourself a weekly limit for how much time you can spend gaming, and then stop video gaming. Play board games instead. The great thing about board gaming is that they can be every bit as challenging and fun as video gaming, but they're inherently more social. You'll have to get a group of friends together to play, so that right there will inherently limit the amount of time you'll spend gaming. And when you do get your gaming time in, you'll be able to hang out with your friends, network, and enjoy good company at the same time. Some recommendations would be games like Arkham Horror, Settlers of Catan, Carcasonne, Descent, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Puerto Rico...whatever your favorite gaming genre is, you can play it on a table with your friends (Fantasy Flight Games even did a damn fine game based on Doom 3), and you'll probably find you have more fun at it when you spend your gaming time with your mates, rather than at your computer/console by yourself.
posted by baphomet at 4:25 PM on May 31, 2008

You're procrastinating and using the games as an excuse. Even if you "sold them to your friends" or "put them in a safety deposit box" or any of the other ridiculous suggestions in this thread, you'd come up with something else to do to put off actually doing work. Harden up and read the earlier posts about ways to solve procrastination problems, because THAT'S the issue.

I've been there. I failed out of college years ago because I was playing an MMO every waking minute. But it really, really, really wasn't the game. It was just poor mental discipline. Trust me.
posted by liet at 4:28 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you need to go back to your plan for the summer and work out how to turn it into something you actually want to do. My suggestion would be to create an application or utility for your own use, but I'm sure there are other possibilities. I remember writing an LZW compressor just for a fun personal project in the first year of my CS degree and being thrilled to bits when it was finally working.

I used to play tons of games and I was really good at them, but I would get sucked into them and forget to eat and use the restroom sometimes.

This is also what working on a piece of software you really care about can be like - but in a good way!
posted by tomcooke at 5:37 PM on May 31, 2008

Hah! I too just finished my freshman year at college and when I got back, it was videogame land for me. This only lasted for two weeks or so and then I got back into playing music and making zines and stuff.

What really got me out of it was that I started questioning where I was in my life and why I kept turning to video games. Are you ok? Like really, deep within yourself, are you happy? Do you feel like you have adequate control over your own life? Do some writing or some journaling. This may sound like a bunch of mystic hubbub but I can assure you there is no crime in self-analysis.

Make a list of things you want to accomplish this summer. Summer vacations are amazing due to the sheer amount of time you have to have to your own device. Think about what kind of person you want to be when you get back into school in the fall. If you live in a large city, go online and find some events/concerts/theatre that you want to attend.

I'm also going to recommend you take your python education into the game sphere. Py is such an awesome and fun language that you can do a lot with. Get creative! Make an intriguing game that you've never really thought of before.

Best of luck compadre!
posted by saxamo at 7:04 PM on June 1, 2008

One trick I used during finals week was to have my roommate set a BIOS password on my computer and not tell it to me.

My advice is to learn some web development languages, I taught myself PHP during college and the real world experience that I gained from creating personal projects did more for my career than anything I learned in 4+ years of computer science classes.

Also, this may or may not apply to you, but a significant amount of my peers in my computer science program dropped out because they realized as much as they liked using computers and playing computer games, they didn't want to be programmers. Playing computer games != programming, just something to think about. It's better to change majors early in your college career before you've wasted a couple years taking classes that can't apply to your new major.
posted by bertrandom at 11:09 AM on June 2, 2008

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