I started playing video games at age seven. Since then, I have accumulated over 20,000 hours of gaming for over 20 years.

My Gaming journey has started due to my love of Pokémon. The Pokémon games fulfilled the needs of my competitive nature.

At age ten, I fell in love with horses and medieval knights. I was drawing knights and horses during classes and in the evenings, which led to a massive interest in military history. I started playing strategy games revolving around ancient and historical time periods, building my empires, and strategizing to overcome and outsmart my opponents.

Until age eighteen I was obsessed with military history, from Ancient Rome and to Napoleon Bonaparte and WWII. I read books, played games, and watched documentaries all around military history.

Being so passionate meant that my gaming habits were complementary to my love for military history.

Gaming hadn’t been the focus of attention and did not serve as a ‘gap filler’ that allowed me to escape from or avoid life outside of gaming. I had genuine interests and a balanced life.

When I was passionate about gaming I:

  • Contributed to forums and worked with the game developers on improving the games I played
  • Learned English to a very high level (it’s not my mother tongue)
  • Learned the Geography of most of the world and a lot of history
  • Arranged tournaments and made content for YouTube
  • Was at the top of the world leaderboards
  • Developed strategies and analyzed the games to improve
  • Met some of my best friends online (we also met in real life a few times)
  • I managed a ‘healthy’ and ‘balanced’ lifestyle: I played tennis a lot, I had real life friends, I did well at school.

Around age eighteen, I moved away from my passion for strategy and historical games and entered multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) style video games.

MOBA is a competitive five versus five online game revolving around team play in a fantasy world and characters.

Coupled with finding this new video game, other areas of my life were also altered.

  • I moved to another town and so tennis was no longer accessible to me
  • My gaming friends have mostly moved on with life
  • My best friends from school went to the military
  • I went to university (only three days a week) and had plenty of free time and no structure

I believe all those factors together, initiated my unhealthy addiction for gaming.

When I was addicted to gaming I:

  • Felt anxious and depressed
  • Didn’t have real online friendships
  • Didn’t exercise
  • Gained weight
  • My grades deteriorated
  • Avoided my in-person, tangible friends and my girlfriend, making up excuses in order to play
  • Didn’t contribute anything to the gaming community

There is a very thin line between passion and addiction

Being passionate for gaming creates positive behavior such as:

  1. Being creative and productive in learning the game and striving to improve methodically
  2. Contributing to the game communities in a positive way
  3. Are overall in a good mood and are satisfied and happy with your life
  4. Have goals and dreams that you work daily towards in relation to Gaming and are seeing progress (outside of the game itself)

Gaming Addiction can signal some of the following behaviors:

  1. Prioritize gaming over more important areas of life like health, fitness, friends, and finances
  2. Optimize your schedule to just fit in another game.
  3. Play your games on an ‘autopilot’ without putting the time and work required to analyze, do real work and planning to improve on your game like you would with a business or a career
  4. Are toxic in the community and not contributing in a meaningful positive way
  5. Are overall feeling depressed, anxious, irritated, and socially feeling lonely with lack of motivation
  6. Have no real goals or dreams and use gaming as an escape / nostalgia
  7. See gaming as the only ‘colorful’ activity while the rest of life’s activities seem ‘gray’ and all feel like depressing ‘chores’

I didn’t realize for many years that gaming has been harming my mental health and my life overall only until a few years ago.

I always blamed other things like:

  • My horrible bosses
  • My work environment and politics
  • My lack of free time
  • Lack of money
  • Being tired most of the day
  • Not having a lot of friends

At age twenty-four, I had a massive drive to change my circumstances. By this point I was married and struggling to create success in a business I had been formerly thriving in.

My breaking point

I hit rock bottom and realized that gaming was destroying my life and my relationship.

  • I was stressed and felt depressed
  • I neglected our financials
  • I neglected our relationship
  • My entire life revolved merely about playing or watching other people play
  • I imagined my dad looking at me with disappointment after all that he had invested in me through my life

I made the decision to quit gaming for good.

Gaming had turned from a positive learning and social experience into a vicious cycle that only dragged my life down.

My key advice

Develop your self awareness. Make sure you keep gaming as a passion or a small hobby and don’t let it turn into an addiction.

It’s important to keep a balanced life routine and structure, including school, work, exercise, healthy eating, other hobbies, and meaningful relationships.

It’s important to identify what drives you to play games. What is the root cause?

Is it escapism?

Is it low self esteem?

Is it a place where you feel a sense of achievement that is missing in other areas of your life?

by Matan Marom