What’s behind the increasing popularity of gaming? And how can people take steps to curb video game addiction and reclaim their time? Let’s explore the recent growth of the mobile game industry, how new technology has made gaming more accessible than ever, and how website blockers like Freedom can help people say goodbye to video game addiction.
The Rise of Gaming
By the end of 2019, the gaming industry was worth $152 billion. Why does this market continue to grow? Many smartphone users are big users of mobile gaming apps, and widespread smartphone ownership means that millions of people are carrying a gaming device in their pocket at all times. In fact, mobile games now represent 33% of all app downloads, with about 2.4 billion people around the world playing mobile games. And today’s games are more engaging – with modern, updated graphics, it’s easier to get lost in these visual worlds on screen.
With gaming accessibility increasing, the average gamer looks a little different than you might have imagined a few years ago. There is a nearly even gender split between male and female gamers, and the average age is also increasing. Video games aren’t just for college students anymore – there are plenty of people in their mid-thirties playing, too! What’s the appeal – and what are the risks?
Why Video Games?
Why are people spending so much time playing video games? While video games often get a bad rap, and some of this criticism is well-deserved, it’s not all negative! Playing video games with friends can foster social connections and encourage a healthy sense of competition. Plus, achieving goals within the game brings a feeling of accomplishment.
However, there is a serious drawback to gaming, and this factor is a major contributor to video game addiction. Video games can be an outlet for escapism. Gaming allows people to get away from the problem of the real world for a while and lose themselves in the game. If you’re only playing for a couple of hours of the weekend, this isn’t a big deal – everyone has certain hobbies and habits that provide that feeling of escapism, and sometimes, you just need to relax and forget about your worries for a while.
But relying on video games as a crutch to avoid dealing with difficult situations or challenges you’re facing can make you more susceptible to video game addiction. After all, if gaming is so much easier than facing reality, and you can spend hours each day gaming instead of attending to your responsibilities, it’s tough to motivate yourself to log off.
The World Health Organization and the DSM V now recognize that “gaming disorder” is a health condition caused by the rise of excessive gaming. Although there is some debate over whether or not the term “addiction” is the right term to use, some researchers feel that this is an appropriate description. The stats on video game addiction are sobering. Researchers estimate that about three million young Americans are currently afflicted, and with the widespread popularity of mobile games, that number could easily increase. And while this is primarily an issue for teenagers, who may be more susceptible to the effects of addicting tech because their brains are still developing, adults can also fall victim to gaming addiction.
What does video game addiction look like? It’s important to note that someone who spends a couple of hours gaming each day, yet can still stay focused at work or school, attend to domestic responsibilities, maintain healthy habits, and see their loved ones is probably not suffering from video game addiction. There’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about video games – the problems start when everything else falls by the wayside. Someone shifts from a gaming enthusiast to a gaming addict when their gaming habit interferes with other areas of their lives. And even if they recognize that they have a problem, they’re unable to stop – they might make a half-hearted effort, but they won’t be able to step away for long.
Am I Addicted to Gaming?
Wondering if you or someone you know might be struggling with video game addiction? The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction offers the Greenfield Video Game Addiction Test (GVGAT). The questions will ask you for information about how you feel when you’re unable to play video games, if you have trouble cutting down on your time spent gaming, if you have experienced any health problems due to gaming, and if your gaming habits are holding you back from success at school or in the workplace.
Someone who is suffering from video game addiction may feel depressed, irritable, or restless when they have to stop gaming, even for a short period of time. A person struggling with an addiction will often take steps to hide the extent of the problem from their loved ones, and someone with a video game addiction is no different – for instance, a high school student who spends most of their free time gaming might try to hide the extent of their gaming habit from their parents.
Furthermore, a person with video game addiction can experience health issues related to their addiction. They may have dry eyes from staring at screens for hours on end. They might have trouble sleeping because of constant blue light exposure disrupting their circadian rhythm. They could also experience headaches as a result of extended screen time and lack of sleep. In addition, sitting and gaming for long periods of time can raise the risk of various other health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.
Like any other addiction or dependence, getting past a video game addiction can be difficult. But with the right strategy, it’s definitely possible to leave this habit behind.
How to Stop Playing Video Games
It’s clear that video game addiction can have a very negative impact on someone’s grades, career, social life, and health. People who suspect that they are dealing with an underlying issue that is contributing to their addiction, like depression or ADHD, will likely want to seek professional help from a therapist to address their symptoms. However, many people dealing with video game addiction could benefit from simply setting boundaries around their technology usage.
If you find yourself playing video games for hours each day, to the point where you are falling behind on your other commitments, think about how you can balance your gaming hobby with your responsibilities. Perhaps you can afford to spend an hour or two gaming at the end of the day, when you’ve already tackled the rest of your to-do list. Deleting mobile gaming apps from your phone can help you achieve this goal, and if you have a gaming set-up in your bedroom, moving it would probably be a smart idea! If your friends want to play video games when you hang out, suggest alternative ideas.
Using a Website and App Blocker to Limit Your Gaming
Relying entirely on willpower and self-control to quit playing video games may not be enough. But website and app blocking tools like Freedom that work across all of your devices – computers, smartphones, and tablets, – can help people set strict limits around gaming time and focus on other activities.
Freedom also gives users the option of utilizing the Recurring Schedules tool, which allows you to set up block sessions at the same time of day throughout the week. For instance, if you’re a college student who should be spending a few hours studying after your last class of the day, you might choose to automatically. block your favorite gaming apps and websites during those hours. Setting up recurring block sessions with Freedom is simple – here’s how.
How to Block Games on a Computer or Phone
1. Click on the Freedom icon in your top menu bar to access the dropdown menu.
2. Select Manage Blocked Desktop Apps. Check the box next to any distracting gaming apps in the pop-up menu.
3. Launch the Freedom dashboard. Start setting up your block sessions by clicking Apps.
4. Next, select the devices you want to block these apps on.
5. Click Recurring Session and choose a title for your block session.
6. Enter the times when you would like your session to start and end.
7. Choose the days of the week when you want your block session to repeat. Click Save, and get ready to boost your productivity.
If you are struggling with video game addiction, using a website and app blocker like Freedom can help you reduce your gaming time. However, you may also want to seek additional support. There are several groups dedicated to helping people with video game addictions, including On-Line Gamers Anonymous, Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, and the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, which offers the video game addiction test.
In addition, spending more time outside, away from your phone and your computer, certainly won’t hurt! With helpful tools like Freedom and a commitment to spending less time online, you can reduce your overall screen time and kick your video game addiction.