The Intelligent Gaming Guide: Part 1

Gaming With A Purpose

Video games are a powerhouse of entertainment. There are so many genres to suit your preference, and because they have so much to offer us, we tend to be motivated to play them for longer and longer periods of time. Many of us gamers can admit that it’s possible to step over the line and game a little bit too much.

The thing you might not know is that overplaying actually gets in the way of getting good and enjoying your game.

This guide will be all about how to get the absolute best out of your gaming experience without overplaying so that you can get as good as you can, as fast as you can, and have as much fun as you can with your favourite game. If you’re lucky, you’ll get into the zone and play better more often, while having the time to keep everything else in balance. Part 1 is about why you’d want to play intelligently. Part 2 is all about how to game intelligently.

This video is a collaboration with FrothyOmen who’s channel is focused on gaming tutorials and how to play games well. His tagline of “Relentless Improvement” comes from his ability to pick apart the mechanics of games so that he can learn fast and get the best out of his game time. He then passes on that info to us, the gamers.

What Motivates Us To Play 

These motivations are not limited to games. We try to fulfill these needs in our lives through our work, our play and our relationships. Video games hit all three of these needs, but they don’t meet them entirely. Here they are in a gaming context:


That sense of getting good at something and achieving goals.
ex) Completing, unlocking, developing your skills and seeing your scores improve.


That sense of being in control of your choices.
ex) Games like “The Walking Dead” where the entire story can change based on your choices.
ex) Skyrim, where you can explore anything you like.

Social Connections

The social connection we feel with other gamers in the community, whether it’s with your real life friends, or people you’ve met online playing the same games you love. It also includes competition in multiplayer games.

So WHY do you play the games you play? What’s your main motivator? What are you getting out of it? Whatever you come up with, it’ll fall into one of those 3 broad categories. No matter which of these motivators you personally favor, you have to be wary of the risk of playing too much in an effort to reap the positive feelings games can provide. I would argue that if you are playing too much, you’re gonna end up performing worse, and you enjoy it less. We seem to think that to be really good at a game, you need hours and hours in the chair. We are here to tell you that it doesn’t work that way. You want to get good? You need to manage your game play so that you can learn faster and keep it fun.

When Is It Too Much?

People who don’t understand games may have trouble understanding what “too much” actually is. From a gamer’s perspective, playing too much is when you start to have less fun, your performance goes down, or you start to feel stress in other parts of your life because you’re too busy gaming to deal with it.

With the right planning, You can play around 15 hours a week or less, which is a good amount to play if your goal is to get good at your games and consistently perform better compared to when you are overplaying. The other important thing is that you’re not playing every single day. That being said, your gaming sessions do still need to be long enough to get something out of it. 30min isn’t going to afford you much learning, you’ll want a bit more time than that. We’ll have a look at an ideal gaming schedule in part 2, but basically you need to give your brain a chance to learn, and then a chance to lock it in. How you spend that time is really important.

If you are spending a lot more than 15 hours a week playing games, you might need to take a look at WHY you are gaming. Is it because it’s fun? Is it because it’s the only thing that you do to try and hit those MASTERY, AUTONOMY and SOCIAL needs? Or is it because it’s a distraction from whatever else is going on in your life? There are a lot of reasons to play. What are yours?

Quality Over Quantity

If you game too little, you may not develop the skill you want, making it hard to have fun.
If you game too much, you’ll take longer than you need to gain that skill, and again, you’ll make it hard to have fun. You’ll get salty and you’ll get bored. You’ll chase the enjoyment but rarely catch up to it. That’s just how the brain works when repeating tasks too many times. If you play intelligently, you are more likely to experience a flow state when you play. Let me tell you, this is the real reason why you play.

Flow States

The Best Gaming Experience You Can Have

A flow state, also known as the zone, is a state of mind in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, and enjoyment. The thing about flow states is that if you’re in one, you become capable of crazy stuff. Things that you might write off as a fluke aren’t flukes anymore. You get out of your own way and enter God Tier, even if it’s just for a few moments. These are the moments that keep us coming back.

So how do you get into one of these flow states? Well, the thing is, it’s not something that you can force. You can’t plan to be awesome. You can set the right conditions with intelligent gaming to let it happen naturally. To be in a flow state, you need to feel challenged, but not beyond your skill level. You want that perfect balance of skill and difficulty so you aren’t bored by how easy it is, but you aren’t completely confused and disengaged, either.

You’re also going to need to have a relatively fresh head. High levels of concentration can’t be kept up for hours and hours, so if you play too much, you get further away from being in the zone, not closer. This is a big part of what we mean by Quality over Quantity. You can’t chase flow states. If you try, you’ll just get yourself further from your goals.

Overplaying: What To Avoid 

Keeping a fresh head is really important to enjoying your gaming experience. Here are a few areas to keep in check:

Staying up late

If you stay up late enough that you won’t get your 8 or 9 hours of sleep because of gaming, it goes beyond being tired the next day. Basically your brain needs sleep to perform. Your gameplay needs your brain to perform, ergo, your gameplay needs sleep to perform.
If you don’t get a chance cement your learning by taking some time for your brain to “lock it in”, then you won’t improve as quickly and you’ll learn bad habits that are difficult to get rid of because you’re repeating them so often. The real learning often happens when you’re NOT gaming.

Gaming Alone

Think back to days of arcades. Playing a game like Donkey Kong or Pacman was a performance in front of people, or often with your friends. When consoles like NES and Sega Genesis made it into the home, gaming was split screen and so it was something you did with your friends when they came over. Nowadays, we are all in our own homes. If you are always playing with your friends online, you miss out on much of the connection you experience in person. That being said, gaming with your actual friends online is a lot better than playing with randoms online. But still, game in the same room as your friends whenever you can. It’s worth whatever effort it takes to set it up. When we play with our friends in the same room, we tend not to overplay. We take more breaks, we eat together and maybe do something else together as well. We also get to learn from them and ask them to show us how they did that cool move they nailed you with.


If you’re getting salty on a regular basis, you just have to start asking yourself if you are gaming to have fun, or if it’s a different reason. If it’s to have fun then you’re failing aren’t you! When you overplay, you might notice that you get more frustrated with yourself, with the game, or with other players and something they are doing. You start to desensitize and feel less of the rewards you used to feel, and now it takes more gaming to feel the same reward that a shorter session might have done for you before. It’s a bad loop to be in because you never really get what you’re looking for, and even if you do, you sat there playing, unsatisfied and unhappy for hours before you felt it. The question there becomes: Are you playing the game, or is the game playing you? Game intelligently and brush the salt off so you can actually enjoy your games.

The Fantasy of Becoming a Pro

If you are already a pro, you might agree with the fact that while you are doing what you love, it’s getting tougher to enjoy your gaming at this level. Your happiness is defined less by the fun factor of the game, and more about whether or not you performed well, or won the game. There’s a lot of pressure when you are at that level, and playing that much takes its toll on you. It might be glamorous, but let’s just say it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be happy.

Many professional athletes say the same thing. They used to love basketball, now there are anxieties around performance and if they don’t perform well, they really struggle with happiness. It’s no different with pro gamers. They don’t feel the reward from anything except absolute domination and winning first prize. Winning first prize is extremely rare for pro gamers. It’s not as glamorous as you would like to think. It’s also a huge risk because they often drop out of high school to do it, and they have no plan B. It’s impossible to have a solid plan B if you are gaming 10-18 hours a day. At least with pro athletes they can’t possible train that long. Sports have a built in regulator called: “Getting tired”. That doesn’t exist in the world of video gaming! Check out this article to see what I mean: Retired at 20: A Pro Gamer’s Life After ESports
Whenever you do anything too much in life, including work, something suffers. Maybe it’s exercise and physical health, maybe it’s just some socializing with your friends. While there is a definite draw to eSports and it seems like a lot of money, most of these guys don’t make enough money before they retire. Imagine you are a top tier eSports athlete who retired at 22. You made a million dollars. That’s $100,000 to spend over 10 years. Ok, so now you’re 32. That’s a nice headstart, but since you’ll need to go back to school for possible 4, 5 or 6 of those 10 years, you don’t really end up in the prime position it seems like you would. Many of these guys will be ok, it’s true. It’s just really hard to go back to school after you made a good living playing games. Have a look at eSports salaries, and what Cloud 9 player LemonNation has to say about plan B at the end of this clip.

So that’s it for part 1 ladies and gentlemen. The message here is to love your games, but love them part time.  Gaming is definitely the icing on the cake, but it’s not the cake itself. Stay tuned for part 2 and learn how you can get good in as little as 15 hours a week and hopefully enjoy more flow states.


Self Determination Theory:

Check out Part 2 here