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It always seemed to me that gaming itself was counterproductive, and I've always struggled to spend less time on it, but really never managed to. That is, until now. The only way I found to keep the games from consuming more of my time than they should was quitting them completely.

The thing now is that I can't profit from all the free time I earned by doing this, and often I just feel too anxious to do something productive at times in which I'd likely be playing games, so...

What can I do to overcome the anxiety left by my gaming addiction?

Or even,

What can I do to make good use of the free time I earned by quitting games?

At first I thought that by quitting playing games the productivity would come to me naturally, but here I am, a month in without games, and still I find that I'm not doing anything productive with my spare time.

I do know what I wanted to be doing right now, like having a blog or contributing to some open source project, but there seems to be something blocking me. I can't manage to put my time in things I'm not obligated to do. Has anyone gone through anything like this before?

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Awesome question. Now what's your steam name? :) – Mikle Jun 13 '12 at 10:01
Hello, my nickname is ripper234, and I haven't played Starcraft 2 in about 3 months. I love the feeling of being to accomplish so much every fricking day, doubly so on the weeklends. I do miss the game sometimes, but less so now. I will install it again for my birthday/lan party next month, but I will uninstall it afterwards. – ripper234 Jul 7 '12 at 15:31
Just regard life as a MMORPG and keep on playing. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 10 '12 at 14:51
up vote 13 down vote accepted

I've been through not just once, but several times. World of Warcraft disks tossed in a dumpster, a Netflix account canceled, and a switch to a mini-computer that had on-board video. Games and shows are easy, soothing, and provide a steady stream of dopamine rewards. Interacting with the real world and creating in it are hard and anxiety inducing. I've got three major pieces of advice:

  1. Be forgiving of yourself. You are making a hard change and it will take time. There may be lapses. That's okay. Think about it enough to learn from it (noting what triggered it is especially useful) and then move on.

  2. What really helped me stick with it this past time (three years and counting) is reading Getting Things Done, by David Allen. There's a lot of corporate-executive-cruft in the GTD book, but the important parts of the system - writing everything down, break projects into the smallest possible chunks, and reviewing as needed - gave me the tools I needed to spend my time and energy more productively.

  3. Are you sure you know what you'd rather be doing? Your examples are awfully vague. If you're just being circumspect in public, that's cool. However, if you can't name something specific to yourself and describe it with passion and enthusiasm, then you don't know yet. That's also okay. Take some of your newly made time and spend it thinking (or writing or drawing or mind-mapping, etc.) about what excites you. Ponder the aspects of gaming that you most enjoyed. You might even look through a copy of What Color is Your Parachute.

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Yeah...the problem seems to be directly related to the sense of accomplishment of activities. Even if I take on a small personal project I don't feel as quickly rewarded as I'd be by playing a game or such. I'll give GTD a try. – bWowk Jun 11 '12 at 0:19
Lately I've been trying to play less games (which is hard with Diablo and ~100 steam games) but I've been naturally doing the things you describe appear in GTD - writing everything, making micro tasks, etc. I am going to order GTD because of this answer :) – Mikle Jun 13 '12 at 9:59
I did try to limit my gaming time a few times before, but it always ended crashing up whenever I had a bad day, sat in front of the big screen, opened up some game and told myself "I need this, just today". And so it all went back to the beginning. Maybe that goes with my lack of self control but, anyway, I'd recommend anyone who is trying to play less games to quit playing them at all. My point is: Gaming, although fun, is not constructive, so you may as well spend your time in something fun AND constructive. All it takes is getting used to get the fun out of something else than games. – bWowk Jun 18 '12 at 20:30

hope that the quitting is still going well for you. Stick with it!

The above answer is extremely good - it does sound like you need to make your new goals a little more concrete and well defined. I'm a project manager, and setting good objectives at the front of any project really helps focus you to get sh*t done :)

To answer one of your questions directly: "What can I do to overcome the anxiety left by my gaming addiction?"

I've recently been taking a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy course, and it is certainly helping with my anxiety - which I've dealt with by absorbing myself in games, too.

In the UK, the NHS tends to recommend CBT for managing anxiety - and there's sound scientific evidence that it works.

There's a good introduction here:

Including an approach for 'problem solving' - which is a structured way of getting to the point of being able to set goals by breaking down the problem first. The relaxation exercises help, even if they're a bit cheesy.

My course has also been given exercises from 'Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel By Changing the Way You Think' - which has also been recommended to me by friends, independently. Find it on amazon.

I can't manage to put my time in things I'm not obligated to do.

I also have difficulty focusing on things I feel I 'ought' to do - I end up avoiding them or procrastinating.

Structured Procrastination (Google it, the original essay should be the top result) whilst jokey - has a lot to be said for it. I managed to cut back our front hedge the other day whilst avoiding writing a work presentation :)

And finally - if you're someone who enjoys games, you might find the extrinsic motivation of a game-like structure to your project helps. I'm a big fan of crossing things off paper todo lists as a way of feeling the progress I'm making. In the office, I work on a task per post-it note, then spear them on a paper spike once finished. Mmmmm SATISFYING.

If you think you might respond to something like that, have a look at Epic Win app

It lets you level up at getting your todo list done. Also, you get to play as an ent. :)

GL! And try not to fear yourself in to the whelps.

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It is indeed going well. The urge to play games is finally fading out of me. I found myself to be a long time structured procrastinator, only I'm not harvesting it's full power, given that my usual procrastinator hideout is turning out my room. – bWowk Jun 18 '12 at 20:58
Also, I'm noticing that gaming was just a way to relieve myself from my already present anxiety, so I need to work something out to fight that feeling, and CBT may be the way to go, so I'll look deeper into it, thanks. On what concerns making a game out of the TODOs, I gave "don't break the chain" a try once before quitting games, but failed because of my lack of compromise. Maybe I'll give it another try now. And man, I wish there were an android version for Epic looks neat. – bWowk Jun 18 '12 at 21:09
Yeah, try not to be too hard on yourself if you 'break the chain' - remembering to just start again is really useful. Try, fail, Try, fail again, but fail better :) Totally sounds like a pen and paper review of stuff you've got done in any given week would help - and give yourself credit for the little stuff too! – mildlydiverting Jun 24 '12 at 16:13

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