How to play games less

Playstation controllers

For many people, the only way to rediscover a love of gaming is to play games less. If you’ve come to that realisation yourself, then you should be proud because it’s not an easy thing to come to terms with. It also doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning your hobby or becoming any less of a gamer than you once were. Instead, it is more about increasing the value of the time you do play and being more appreciative and grateful for it.

But once you decide this is the right step to take, it’s not an easy thing to do as gaming is often very habitual – an ever-present part of many gamers’ lives. Suddenly going from playing lots, to playing less, is a challenge in the same way going on a diet or stopping smoking would be. To help, here’s a few tips on how to actually play games less.

A NES to play on less

Embrace selectivity

This will sound obvious, but if you decide to play games less you’ll be able to get through fewer games than before. This is going to lead to the feeling that you’re missing out more often than in the past. This can be an uncomfortable feeling as people typically want to feel up-to-date with what is going on, and gaming is no exception.

To get over this, you’ll need to accept that there are already far too many games to try to keep up with anyway and missing out on a few more isn’t going to make any difference. Instead, embrace selectivity. Limit yourself to the games that you’re most interested in and excited to play. This will make finding the next game easier than it ever has been, and increase the quality of your gaming sessions as you’ll only be playing the best, most relevant things for you.

Set a time limit on your play

There are many levers you can pull to play games less. Potentially the easiest one to begin with is limiting the length of your gaming sessions. For example, if you typically play for 3 hours at a time, cap it at 2. Set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t overrun, and be prepared to walk away as soon as it sounds.

Everyone’s limit will be different, but avoid going too small – perhaps no shorter than 60 minutes – to ensure you still have time to immerse in a gaming session and fully enjoy it. Achieving this might mean combining multiple gaming sessions – for example instead of 2 lots of 90 minutes, play for one 2 hour session.

Even small reductions here will have a huge impact. If you cut back just 30 minutes a day, that’ll shave off nearly 200 hours a year if you typically play every day. You can do a lot with that free time.

Only play on certain days

If you find you aren’t respecting these time limits, instead try limiting gaming to certain days. For example:

  • Play every other day – one night on, one night off.
  • Play only on weekdays, or Monday-Thursday
  • Play only on weekends, or Friday-Sunday
  • Play only on days you work

This allows you to set your schedule for the week, and have a clear dividing line between when you are and aren’t going to be playing. It also has the enjoyable effect of giving you something to look forward to, which will lead to you better appreciating the time you have to spend gaming.

An unloved Xbox controller

Play as a reward

Many parents allow their children to play games as a reward – once they’ve done homework or helped with the jobs around the house. This has the effect of limiting the child’s play and keeping them productive and motivated in other areas of their lives.

Well guess what? You can use this trick too! Set yourself tasks or goals that need to be completed before you allow yourself to play. Tidy a room, exercise, catch up on life admin – whatever. On top of the already-mentioned productivity benefits, this will have a secondary effect of making you feel like your gaming session has been earned. And anything earned always feels better than something you didn’t have to work for at all.

Take a gaming hiatus

If none of this is working, go cold turkey. Specify a period of time that you’re going to not play at all. This could be any length of time, but should really be at least a week to be effective.

If you’re going to go down this route, commit to it fully. Avoid gaming media, and don’t replace one device (a PC, Xbox, Playstation etc) with another (a mobile). After all, if you’re still going to spend your time engaging with gaming in other forms, you’re not giving yourself the time to fully detox.

Find an alternative use of your time

However you decide to play games less, you’ll need to make sure you have a good plan for your newly found free time. If not, you’ll find yourself slipping back into old habits and continuing to play.

This alternative could be absolutely anything, but here are a few ideas:

  • Read more. Books can be picked up quickly and kept close to you at all times. And they’re the perfect thing to fill the 30-60 minutes you’ve freed up from gaming.
  • See friends. Making plans to do something on a given day will almost guarantee you will be away from gaming and distracted.
  • Exercise. A fantastic use of your free time that will get your body and mind performing more effectively.
  • Sleep more. Gaming can be a real hindrance to good sleep (late nights playing, problems switching off after sessions). Catching up on sleep will make you feel incredible and may help you reset your play habits.

Now it’s up to you – good luck! If this has helped you play games less, please leave a comment below or get in touch with us on Twitter.

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