From 27 January 2019 To 27 February 2019, for a total of 31 days, I did a no gaming challenge. This article I’ll discuss what I learned from preventing myself from playing any video games for a full 31 days.
Brief explanation of the challenge
Specifically this challenge was a 31 days experiment of absolutely no video gaming. What that means was that I could not do any video gaming for 31 full days: no computer games, no mobile phone games and no gaming on any other platform.
Why I did this challenge
Most of all it was a big willpower challenge for myself. I didn’t know if I could do it. I’d done big challenges in the past but recently my “willpower muscles” were getting weak. I did this challenge to try to reclaim some time, the most valuable commodity, and additionally, I wanted to train myself to be more self-disciplined, have more willpower, and work on goals.
I had realized in January of this year that I was spending epic amounts of time playing video games (just casual games on my phones). Some days I was probably spending more than 3 hours per day playing video games.
It seemed that I was clearly addicted, or at the very least, I was wasting way too much time and had not been very productive with other things I needed to do in my life.
I was trying to get better at time management and I realised that to do so I had to get rid of some of the biggest time wasters in my life. One of the biggest time wasters I noticed was video game playing. The other biggest time waster was YouTube watching. Though, YouTube wasn’t all bad because I also watched a lot of educational videos. But, I was spending hours every day on YouTube.
A Little Caveat About Video Games
Before I start with what I learned about deciding not to do any gaming, I need to concede video games aren’t all bad and have benefits, albeit within limits.
Benefits of Video games
Several studies have noted benefits of video games. One of the best books on the topic, which cites many of those studies, is SuperBetter.
In SuperBetter, the author Jane McGonigal discusses many benefits of video games including:
- Video games can be calming and a good way to de-stress
- They can be good for socializing with friends and family
- In some studies get have shown that video games can help make people more creative
That being said, while video games do give me some benefits, I now feel that they have given me many more disadvantages due to the huge amount of time I was spending on them and not working on being more productive in my life with other things.
Things I Learned About Video Games From This Challenge
Videogames can suck up tons of your time
Even if you just play casual games, time adds up. Sometimes, what I intended to be just 5 minutes of playing ended up turning into more than 1 hour of play. And other days, I got so addicted, that I probably spent more than 4 hours per day gaming.
How I managed to avoid giving into temptations
Studies have shown that willpower is limited. See the book called The Willpower Instinct for more info and link to Amazon.
That is to say we don’t have unlimited willpower; eventually we run out of willpower every day if we do too many things which exhaust our willpower reserves.
Deleting games off my phones
One thing I did was to delete all the games I was playing off my phones. I knew it would be a lot easier to complete this challenge if the temptation weren’t even there to play video games. I know I could have reinstalled the games on my phones but, thankfully, installing the games would have taken effort, so the lazy part of me would have wanted to avoid this.
Think about how it would feel at the end
One thing I did was think about I wanted to feel at the end of the challenge. I knew that video games would give me great pleasure playing them. They have since I was a young child. But, for this challenge, it was important for me to imagine how much the pleasure of having accomplished this challenge would affect me.
Long term vs short term pleasure
In some ways, this challenge was about weighing long-term pleasure versus short-term pleasure. The short-term pleasure of playing the video games would be immediate, but would be fleeting. The long-term pleasure would take a lot longer to get, but it would last longer and probably feel better.
So in a sense, this challenge was a long-term investment in myself and recently I’ve been losing self-respect due to various factors in my life.
Benefits of the challenge
Gaining self-respect etc / self-reflection
I think that this challenge was a way for me to gain more self-respect. I knew that if I could deal with a challenge like this which was difficult but not extremely difficult that I could take on harder challenges later.
Unfortunately in life, as they say, you can’t always get what you want.
This challenge certainly was one of the biggest challenges I’ve done in a while. This challenge was self-imposed which I suppose is probably easier than it were imposed on me by someone else. In the end, this challenge was about changing daily habits.
5 important things to note about video games
1. Video games can be beneficial… BUT… don’t spend more than 3 hours per day playing them.
The number 3 hours comes from the book SuperBetter. Actually, based on my experience, I think you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes per day playing them.
2. Video games are very often designed to be addictive
Like social media companies such as Facebook, video game companies sometimes hire psychologists, or people like them, who can help design games to specifically be addictive.
3. Don’t overstimulate your brain
It’s important not to overstimulate your brain for many reasons including the fact that the pleasure parts of the brain can literally get overloaded and this can really affect your ability to feel pleasure when you really should be able to feel it.
4. Be aware of the amount of time you spend when gaming
You should be aware of the amount of time you spend playing video games. Very often, as I mentioned, video games are designed to be addictive and sometimes you don’t even know how much time that you spent playing them.
5. Find new ways of socialising rather than just by playing video games
Even if you have friends around the world such as I do (I have friends in nearly every major time zone) you still don’t have to socialize with your friends via video games. There are many other ways such as directly chatting or calling each other. The best of course would be physical interaction in the non-digital world.
More Reflections Regarding Video Games
As I mentioned, video games have been shown to help some people be more creative. But, that being said video games of course can have and create huge problems in people’s lives. It’s important to use critical thinking regarding video game use.
Additionally, I believe that self-control regarding video game use will be far more useful for you in the long run than someone forcing you to stop playing them. I think that when you actually own the decision it becomes easier for you.
Who Should or Shouldn’t Play Video Games A Lot
I only think that people who want to become (or are) a video game designer, video game programmer, or professional video game player (or some other job where you could make money from video games) should play video games for hours and hours.
For most other people, I think that playing many hours of video games per day can be more detrimental than helpful.
Additional Reason For Doing This Challenge: Improve A Habit / Modify A Bad One
Another reason I did this habit was to try to break a bad habit and try to replace it with a better one.
One thing I learned after completing this challenge by reading the book The Power of Habit was that I made a mistake in the modification of habits. I broke the so called “Golden Rule of Habit Change”.
According to the Power of Habit, a basic habit is composed of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
A cue is the thing that starts a habit and it is usually influenced 5 main things: by location, time, emotion, other people around you, or the thing that happened immediately preceded your current action.
Additionally, a craving is what drives as habit to keep going again and again. And, to acquire some tougher habits, you must have the belief that you can do it for you to be able to do it.
The “Golden Rule of Habit Change” says that in order to change an old bad habit, you need to keep the cue and reward the same, but change the routine.
My problem was that I didn’t replace my bad habit of too much video game play with a better routine. I ended up wasting time in other ways by watching more YouTube videos and surfing the web.
Overall this challenge I’ve learned a lot about myself. If I had known more about habits, I would have tried to apply the Golden Rule of Habit Change to replace this bad habit with a better habit. Though I did actually improve my willpower a little bit by doing this challenge.
The hardest part of this challenge was actually in the beginning. The first week felt like I was getting the jitters all the time, almost like a drug addict who can’t get their drug(s) of choice.
The main phone games I played were Boom Beach and Clash of Clans (two super fun and addictive games).
After this one month challenge, I played these two games the day after finished the challenge, for a while, but after I found that I didn’t desire the games as much as I had before the challenge.
I actually think I could have done this challenge for 2 months or longer but I wanted to prove to myself I can do it for a full month or 31 days and the day
Here the things I would change if I could do it again:
- I would try to replace the bad habit of too much video game playing with something else for example I could have replaced a 3 hours of video games with one hour more of reading every day
- Next I will try making the challenge longer I could do 2 months or longer.
Watch the YouTube video below I made about this challenge
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