The last couple of decades have seen video games undergo a remarkable evolution. Advances in hardware capabilities and widely available internet access have made it possible to play sophisticated games on smartphones. It has helped to transform what was once a niche hobby into part of our mainstream culture.
More people today understand that video games aren’t the enemy when it comes to being more productive with how we use our time. They are a leisure outlet, just like TV or social media. If someone descends into sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle patterns, gaming (or any other form of technology) can’t be a scapegoat. There are many other factors in the mix.
Yet there’s no denying that for some, certain games can be as addictive as alcohol. And just like people get into programs like sober living for women to reform their lives and escape addiction, there are ways to quit gaming, too. In fact, the gaming experience as a whole offers some helpful lessons to anyone who’s seeking to improve their overall health and fitness levels.
A philosophical approach
A good video game never gives you early access to the full set of tools you’ll eventually end up with. Game designers know that fun comes from a combination of reasonable challenges and a sense of progress. They want you to climb the learning curve and enjoy the journey while you’re at it.
You’ll find this in any game, but it’s most prominent in the genre of role-playing games (RPGs). In a typical RPG, your character starts at level 1 with a rudimentary skill set. They also lack the resources needed to purchase equipment that could help them become stronger quickly.
The RPG player accepts this as a central principle of the genre. They know that if any methods exist for bypassing such limitations, they are cheats or exploits that threaten to sap the fun out of the game quickly. In the end, the player themselves will be the ultimate losers.
The takeaway here is philosophical. Your journey to better health starts at level 1, with only basic tools, plus a firm commitment to working hard. Embrace the grind. Don’t be in a rush to circuit train or power lift. Don’t get duped by the ‘instant results for minimal effort’ promise of fad diets. It’s a journey, and you can’t cheat your way to the end.
We’ve come a long way from the ’90s when video games were blamed for everything from obesity to mass shootings. Gaming culture has since found widespread acceptance. But we still don’t see games as something that can actually benefit our health and fitness.
There are ways to make this relationship more synergistic, however. Games and exercise don’t have to be antagonists. Research on competitive gamers playing League of Legends found that an intense 15-minute pre-game exercise routine was enough to boost their performance.
If you’re serious about your games, exercise helps you play better by empowering different functions of your brain. This helps tie your motivation for increased physical activity to something you love.
And if you want to keep your gaming casual or eventually shift towards quitting, there’s another genre that can help you achieve your goal. Exergames can be played on platforms like the Nintendo Wii. By encouraging you to get up and move about as part of the gameplay, they offer an alternative to the usually sedentary mode of play found in most video games.
Learn how to reform
Searching for synergy or framing your health narrative with lessons found in video games can be useful if you’re in control of your gaming habit. But not everyone has a healthy relationship with their games.
The World Health Organization estimates that 3-4% of the gaming population suffers from actual addiction. The American Psychiatric Association lists several warning signs to help identify possible gaming disorder.
These include excessive preoccupation with video games, using them as a refuge from negativity, concealing the extent of game time, and withdrawal symptoms. Most of all, they have a detrimental effect on other interests and relationships.
Quitting games is hard because they were designed to be addictive. And video game addicts might need professional help to change their ways. But if you’re feeling some of those symptoms, you can learn from the methods used to help break the addiction.
Modern video games are, above all, a social experience. You can’t change without also reworking your social influences. If you want to become fit, stop associating with people who don’t support you and whose own habits are unhealthy. Start seeking the right sort of people whose behavior mirrors what you are striving for. This curtails the influence of negativity and empowers you to achieve positive change.