It's a tricky time for digital wellbeing right now. Since COVID-19 has graced us with its presence, behaving responsibly includes being cooped up at home and isolated from your friends. Plenty of gamers are going to see this as a free for all and an excuse to play the hell out of their games, and that's definitely going to concern a lot of parents. The other side of the coin is that this is a way to socialize when they can't do it in real life. At the best of times playing together online is still a good way to connect but it still lacks the deeper and more nuanced connections we get in person. To learn all about why gamers really play, and why that can become obsesssive, have a read of this blog article: Kids’ Video Game Obsession Isn’t Really About Video Games. It’s About Unmet Psychological Needs.
So if gaming is taking a front seat in your household during this time, or if your own play is ramping up, here are some tips to help play a little more intelligently while we are supposed to be out of action. Most of these tips are for gamers 12+ years old and their families. If our gamer is younger than that, adjust the numbers appropriately, but consider the purpose.
Tip #1 for Parents:
Invest some time into their gaming, either as their fan or as a player. The benefits of being coached in their favourite game are significant. One reason is that understanding the information on the screen can help avoid many arguments or deception because now you know what's happening in their digital playground. Doing this will also simply give you some valuable connection time in an area important to them. The tone of the conversation changes when they see you as a teammate and not an opponent.
Tip #2 for Parents:
Promote quality over quantity. Support them playing socially by connecting with the parents of their friends and helping them organize play sessions. Sometimes the planning itself ensures that the session is high quality because it wasn't done out of habit, it was done deliberately, with a specific social purpose. By suggesting they play with their real life friends for most of their gaming time means that they can have more meaningful connections that they will be lacking if under lockdown. Online friends have value, please don't underestimate that, but fostering the real life connections virtually will hold more value while under self-isolation.
Tip #3 for Gamers:
Try to take a couple of days off gaming every week. Normally I would recommend 3 days off in a week for the majority of players but I think we can relax a bit under these conditions. There are a lot of reasons why you'd want to do this. Over playing will dull your experiences. Losses will become more frustrating and wins won't feel as sweet. That's your brain adapting to overplaying and sending you the message that it's time to do something else. Find another activity that helps you feel like you're good at something. Find another activity that lets you connect with people - even if it's other screen related activities. Just understand that if you play past the benefits, you're not getting what you intended to get from your gaming sessions. After all, games are supposed to be fun, right? Taking even just 2 full days off a week will help. If you had access to more things to keep you engaged, I would suggest more time off. While it's tough to set limiting hours, just understand that you will lose your ability to concentrate and perform well after a couple of hours. There isn't any point going past a 3 hour session because you are pretty much cooked by then, even if you don't feel it. If your performance starts to slide and you get frustrated, you might start to notice what I mean. It's time to move on. Otherwise, you'll not only continue having a bad time, you'll teach yourself bad habits. Check out the Intelligent Gaming Guide to learn how to improve skills without overplaying.
Tip #4 for Gamers:
Have some variety in what you play. Being stuck playing the same game can become compulsive. You know what I'm talking about. You feel the drive for that one game and it's hard to let go of the progress you've made. The thing is, you'll get more out of your gaming overall if you avoid the grind. Ideally, if you enjoy exciting, competitive games, have a pivot to a relaxing activity that slows you back down again. While practicing social distancing I would suggest we get creative about how we entertain ourselves. Maybe it is learning how to edit your own videos or listen to interesting podcasts and learn something outside of school. Keep an open mind.