Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition or illness. If you’re concerned that you have a gaming addiction, check the list of resources at the end of this article for more information. Read more about mental health from Streamlabs here.

Games are awesome. They can be wonderful sources of entertainment, distraction, and even comfort. Games are there for us during good times and bad (*cough* lockdown!) and allow us to connect with many types of people from all over the world. Furthermore, many folks have been able to play games and support themselves financially with the help of streaming. But like everything else, too much of a good thing can lead to unfortunate consequences.

At what point does an avid gamer become an addicted gamer? There is no clear-cut answer to that question. However, we’ve provided a list of “true or false” questions you can ask yourself about your gaming habits. If a cold, hard look reveals that you’re gaming more often than you’d like, we’ll discuss some strategies you can use to try and get things back under control.

A gamer who is very focused on his game and maybe needs a break!

Gaming Addiction Questionnaire: True or False?

I sometimes skip important events, like work or school, to game.

Most of us want to play hooky every now and then, especially when a game we’ve been waiting on for ages finally gets released. However, real-life obligations like work and school need to come first. While taking days off is healthy, even days when you’re not sick (mental health days, for example), regularly skipping on important activities to game may be a sign of an addiction. There could be other problems—perhaps you’re unhappy at your job or your school environment is too stressful. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with yourself to get to the root of why you’re escaping to your game world so frequently.

I have been told more than once that I game too much.

If you’ve ever been told by a trusted friend, partner, or family member that you game too much, take some time to analyze the situation and their motives. A nagging parent or scolding spouse doesn’t necessarily mean you have a gaming problem, especially if they don’t game themselves. Non-gamers are more likely to berate us for spending time with our beloved games because they don’t understand the appeal. However, if you’re receiving flak from multiple people in conjunction with some of the other symptoms discussed in this article, you might consider taking a closer look at your gaming habits and whether or not they’re to blame.

I spend money on in-game purchases even when it’s out of my budget.

Even just a few years ago, many of us would have balked at the idea of spending real money on in-game items like characters, weapons, or even clothes. Nowadays, it’s par for the course. While there’s no shame in spending your hard-earned money on virtual goods, make sure you’re being smart about it. No game is worth going into debt over, so if you’re racking up charges you can’t afford, it may be time to pump the brakes on your spending.

Every time I try to cut back on gaming, I can never manage it.

Maybe you’re no stranger to sitting down for a short game session and before you know it, the entire day has flown by. If you find yourself regularly saying, “I’ll game less tomorrow,” only to have the same thing happen again, you might have a problem on your hands. 

If I spent less time playing video games, my life would improve.

Your answer to this question is perhaps the most valuable piece of insight when it comes to your relationship with gaming. If you’re aware that cutting back on time spent playing video games would increase your overall well being or allow other, more important areas of your life to flourish, there’s really nothing more to be said. In contrast, if you feel that your life would remain the same (or perhaps, become worse), don’t force yourself to reduce your playing time just because you feel like you should. In the end, no one knows your relationship with gaming better than you. 

Tips for a Healthier Gaming Lifestyle

Understand How Games Work

The ugly truth is that games were designed to be addictive. Everything about the game, from its design to the rewards you receive has been engineered to keep you playing for as long as possible. Many people believe that games provide an overabundance of dopamine (“happy” chemicals in the brain), which is why we can game for hours on end but have difficulty doing things like studying. Simply being aware of these truths can help you in your quest to reduce your playing time.

Save Your Gaming for the End of the Day

Gaming can be a slippery slope, especially for those of us who are trying to cut back. The sooner in the day you start playing, the harder it can be to pull yourself away. Try abstaining from gaming until work, school, or your other important tasks for the day are done. The reward of gaming after a job well done will make the experience so much sweeter.

Budget for Gaming Expenses

If you struggle with your finances when it comes to gaming, simply add gaming into your budget. Set aside a reasonable amount that you can afford and promise not to exceed it. Once you reach your limit for the month, make yourself wait until next month before you spend any more. If you don’t have a budget, consider creating one to see where your money is going and get a handle on it.

Take Gaming Detox Days

Most of us are still trying to figure out how to manage screen time and find balance between social media and our “real” lives. Some people find technology or social media detox days to be helpful; why not try a gaming detox? Set aside a day or two a week where you’ll “touch grass” and spend some time away from your console.

Game with a Purpose: Try Streaming

It may seem counterintuitive to start streaming if you’re already struggling with gaming too much. But gaming is one thing—streaming is another story. Streaming allows you to build social and public speaking skills, practice multitasking, and has the potential to become a source of income. Furthermore, having a set streaming schedule means you have designated blocks of time where you can game without guilt. When you stream, you’re creating content. Regular content creation will build your channel and possibly even a community. Thousands of hours of play time isn’t worth much. Thousands of hours of content creation however, can be worth a lot. 

Game With a Friend

Gaming with a friend allows you to enjoy the hobby you love whilst getting some much needed social interaction. Humans have always been social creatures, and even the most introverted need to spend time with others once in a while. 

Two besties gaming together and having a good time

Whether you truly have a problem with gaming or just play a little more often than you’d like, it’s a good idea to analyze your habits regularly. More people are gaming these days than ever before and it can be difficult to determine how much is “too much” in these ever-evolving technological times. Frank and honest conversations with yourself can be vital in determining if you have a gaming addiction that will require outside help. If you’d like to take a step back from gaming, try out some of our suggestions to see if they work for you. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to seek help.

Gaming Addiction Resources

American Addiction Centers

Game Quitters

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Psychology Today - Find a Gaming Addiction Therapist

The National Centre for Gaming Disorders (UK)

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