Many people find that juggling their virtual and real lives can be a difficult act. There are only so many hours in one day, and MMO games are getting more and more savvy at compelling you to play for extended periods of time each day by offering daily quests or other timed challenges and rewards, in addition to the usual drive to raise your level, complete quests, help out with raids, etc. That feeling that you’re missing out on something if you don’t keep going is often what drives gamers to play for numerous hours each day, and can cause them to run into issues with their real life.
Addiction in various forms is a very real threat, and should not by any means be scoffed at or taken lightly. I’ve compiled a few tips below that I think can help gamers avoid falling too deeply into MMO addiction, allowing them to enjoy the great benefits of online gaming, while still maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle away from the game.
Keep Things in Perspective
This isn’t always easy to do, especially when you’re in the throes of long gaming sessions. It becomes very easy for your virtual life to slowly encroach on your real life and exert more and more influence over it. And once that ball gets rolling, it can be very difficult to stop the momentum.
For me, one of the best ways to keep perspective on the reality of the situation is to consciously picture myself 10 or 20 years from now. What relevance is this game I’m so addicted to now going to have in my life in 20 years? What are the odds I’m still going to be playing the game after so long? Will I even be playing games at all, or will I have moved on to new hobbies or pursuits? Will that game still exist even if I did have designs on playing it that long?
Ask yourself these questions and you should be able to help keep your gaming passion in perspective as a hobby and not a way of life. Chances are the game you’re playing now will have no relevance in your life in 20 years, so why neglect yourself and the things that are really important in your life for it now?
Yes gaming is a blast, and a great way to spend some free time. But it should not interfere with things that really matter, and will be important aspects of your life 10 or 20 years from now, namely your education or work career, your family, and your friends.
Get Away From the Game
As I mentioned above, you can begin to lose perspective on reality when you’re in the middle of an extensive gaming session (such as playing 12+ hours a day for several weeks), and often the only way to get out of it is to take a moderate to lengthy break from the game.
Short breaks are not enough to break one from the gaming haze you may find yourself in, and you’ll often spend that time away from the game simply thinking about it the entire time, and counting down the minutes until you can get back in front of that monitor, slaying creatures and slinging spells once again.
After 48 hours or so, the burning desire to play the game should start fading, at which point you’ll begin to question what drove you to play for so long, and neglect your real life in such a way. Take this opportunity to set some new boundaries on yourself as far as play time goes, detailed below.
Stick to Limits
The easiest way to avoid going overboard with your gaming is to set limits on yourself. The limits could come in various forms. It could be a strict limit on the amount of time you play each day, or the times which you allow yourself to play at, and it could also be used as a reward mechanism, limiting play of the game until you’ve completed any or all of your tasks for the day, be it homework, work around the house, or simply taking care of yourself in other important ways (eating right, exercising, etc.).
The most important thing to remember when setting limits on yourself is that you MUST follow through with them. If you break your promise to yourself even once and give in on your self-imposed limits, you’ll have no hope of succeeding afterwards and will have to start the process over again.
Breaking a gaming addiction is difficult, just as not falling into it is difficult in the first place. Let your online gaming experience be driven by your enjoyment for gaming, and not by any desires for in-game wealth, power, or glory, and you should be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that befall many other gamers. Keep the reality of things in perspective and you should be able to maintain an ideal balance between carefree gaming and a healthy livelihood.