Note: This is the second of a four-part series. Click here for Part 1—becoming a professional gamer, here for Part 3—how I solved my addiction, and here for Part 4—how you can quit games for good.
Before we dive into the discoveries I’ve made from all my time gaming, let me say this: I don’t consider all the time I spent as only wasted time.
I had a blast playing video games.
But that’s the problem…it was too much fun.
Too fun? Yes, and that’s why games have a dark side—the addictive nature.
And for me, video games, while they were fun, were taking more than they were adding to my life.
Before we get dive into that, though, let’s talk about why video games were beneficial.
The Upside of Gaming
Yes, believe it or not, games have an upside. What’s the upside?
For me, it was how they affected my mindset. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for the way video games shaped me.
Specifically, they shaped my mindset in four important ways.
In life I’ve learned that effort is the name of the game.
I spent seven years playing real-time strategy games—Warcraft 2 & 3—before touching Starcraft 2. Seven years, and thousands of hours, just to get my foot in the door.
Yet even that wasn’t enough to become a professional. There were plenty of gamers like me who’d been playing for years. What made the difference?
Every day I watched streams, studied replays, and played opponent after opponent. When I lost, the first thing I did was figure out why I lost, and then I aimed to never make that mistake again.
That might seem like common sense—the fact that you can’t skip the process and the daily grind—but it’s not a mindset the average person has.
I’m just thankful the lesson got instilled in me early, because it keeps me on-target when things look bleak.
Just stay at it. Do the thing. No matter what. Because it will pay off.
#2 The Mindset of Greatness
By the time you enter your twenties, the belief that you can achieve big things, gets strangled out of you.
But I learned that I could go from being a nobody, and by sheer effort alone, I could scale the mountain and become a somebody.
That’s what playing video games gave me—a belief in myself. I learned I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
I don’t have to settle for the status quo.
And you don’t either.
#3 The Self-Sustaining Effect
Have you noticed that the better you get at something, the more fun it becomes?
For example: beating players you previously struggled against; climbing to a new division; or being rewarded for your effort with new gear or other perks.
That’s why video games, for me, were so addicting. As you climb higher and higher, it becomes more and more fun.
And you know what? I’ve found this holds true for just about anything in life.
With enough time and effort, even things that might seem like work—weightlifting, building a business, learning a musical instrument—actually become a joy once you gain a smidge of skill.
Take reading books: I used to struggle to read for even an hour a day. It was a chore.
But now after doing it for years, I’ve become a learning machine and I read for several hours a day, with ease, and I love it.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
#4 Compete with the Best
Iron sharpens iron. To be the best, compete with the best.
It wasn’t luck that granted me the ability to beat the best players in the world in Starcraft 2.
My tournament result in New York, and beating a top-three player in the world, only happened because I had spent the previous eight weeks practicing on the Korean server (the Koreans were, bar none, the best Starcraft 2 players).
Playing against the best forces your game to rise to the occasion.
And even if you think you’re not capable—you are. If you’ve put in the work, there’s simply no reason why you can’t make it to the top.
The Darkside of Gaming
While video games gave me invaluable life lessons…was it worth the cost?
That’s the thing, with video games, you’re having so much fun in the moment that you tend to neglect everything else.
At least that’s what happened to me.
I was having so much fun playing games…why worry about the future when I’m having a blast right now? The consequences can be dealt with in another life…right?
Then…smack…it hit me at the age of 19 when I realized the mess I was in.
Using Games to Escape Reality
Growing up, video games were my outlet.
Being home-schooled, along with being shy, meant I lived a very isolated existence. Video games gave me the social connection I ached for.
But over time it became a vicious cycle. The worse my life got—social anxiety, being scared to ask a girl out, having few friends—the more I immersed myself in games, where all those problems disappeared.
At the end of a day it was always the same. Emptiness.
The void never got filled.
Hour after hour I played. But it didn’t matter.
And it was times like these that I just wanted to live a normal existence…
- Hanging out with friends…
- Having a girlfriend…
- Going to parties…
But it wasn’t possible—I was too far down the hole.
Why Was I Uncontrollably Addicted?
By understanding what the foundation is built upon, it makes fighting the addiction that much easier.
And believe me, I needed every ounce of help I could get.
Video games, for me, were meeting several key needs that were not being met in real life.
#1 Immediate Gratification
Video games offer instant fun. No matter what’s going on in your life, you can still sit down after a rough day and forget about your troubles.
You don’t have friends? No problem. Simply jump online.
You don’t have social skills? That’s okay. You can feel instantly better by playing a game.
Video games are the “easy” way out. Instead of putting in the work to build a better life, why not skip that and have fun now?
Just like food manufacturers tweak their food to make it as addictive as possible…
…game creators, too, tweak their games to make them as addictive as possible.
Humans are designed to strive for achievement—learning new things, gaining new skills. It makes our life purposeful.
And believe me, game creators understand this better than you or I.
A game like World of Warcraft, which I played non-stop for two years, always gave me the next thing to strive for.
- Leveling up a new character
- Acquiring the next gear upgrade
- Climbing the ranks and earning PvP titles
Being shy growing up, along with having a hard time making friends, meant that online gaming was my safe haven.
Anytime I got lonely, all I had to was log online and find a buddy to play with.
Essentially, I never had a reason to push myself to make real-life friends.
Why would I do that, when I could comfortably stay in my bedroom?
By nature, I’m extremely competitive and I hate losing.
Playing games gave me an outlet to express that competitive spirit.
And the better I got—the more I won, which naturally, made me want to play more.
The dopamine spike from beating people was incredibly addictive.
Overthrowing the Vices
I knew that, ultimately, for me to quit and move on, I had to find a way to meet these needs that weren’t getting met in real life.
…or else it was simply a matter of time before I’d go crawling back.
And that was not admissible.
Not when video games had made me neglect relationships with family, throw away my closest friendship, and miss out on all that life has to offer.
At the end of the day—even though video games were a blast—the destruction far outweighed the fun.
That’s why I quit and implemented strategies to help me me move on.
In part three, I’ll talk about those strategies that helped me finally move on and quit video games for good.