My name’s Cam and by the age of 21, I had been addicted to playing video games for over ten years.
This addiction affected many areas of my life, including being a major influence in my decision to drop out of high school not once, but twice.
I never graduated, never went to college, and struggled with depression for many years.
I want to share my experience playing video games and how the decision to move on from them has taught me more about living a meaningful life than anything I’ve done before, and how over the last five years I’ve built Game Quitters, which helps people in almost 100 countries.
I’ve also become an active public speaker, talking to parents, professionals, and researchers all over the world and educating them on video game addiction.
How Did I Get Addicted to Gaming?
I was a fairly normal Canadian kid. I went to school, I played hockey and then I would go home and play video games. I was happy, I felt smart, and I had friends.
My nickname was even “Smiley.”
That all changed in the 8th grade when I began to experience intense bullying. For example, the fun game to play for kids in the 9th grade was “Can we put Cam in a garbage can?”
Every day during lunch hour, kids would chase me around the school trying to put me in a garbage can. I would kick and scream and squirm and do everything in my power to avoid this from happening because otherwise I would be humiliated otherwise.
Life on my hockey team wasn’t much better, and after a game in Red Deer, Alberta we all got on the team bus to head back home, and for an entire hour I laid at the back of the team bus in the fetal position being spit on.
These experiences caused me to isolate myself. I didn’t really enjoy going to school much anymore and hockey wasn’t any better.
The less I went to school and the less I went to hockey, the more I played video games.
They were a place for me to escape to, a place I had more control over my experience.
I didn’t have to worry about kids bullying me online because if they did I could just block them, move to a different server or play a different game.
Eventually I dropped out of high school and retired from hockey, the game I loved more than anything else.
My life continued to get worse, until one night when I wrote a suicide note.
That’s when things started to change.
The Moment You Realize You Have A Problem…
As is the case with most addicts, they find the motivation to turn their life around after one specific moment.
Sometimes you have to stare death in the face before you accept that something needs to change.
After I wrote that suicide note, it was like flicking a switch in my mind. I looked at the piece of paper for what seemed like an eternity, before going to my dad and asking him to help me.
That’s when I was given an ultimatum by my counselor. Either I get (and keep) a job, or go on anti-depressants.
Neither of these options appealed to me, but I knew that I didn’t want to take medication.
I ended up getting a job, working on my social skills, and going to clubs (sober) just to learn how to meet people.
As a result, I didn’t play a single video game for two years.
So, what changed?
I realized that by escaping into video games I was really just trying to fulfill certain needs in my life.
If I wanted to improve my life I was going to have to satisfy these needs elsewhere in my life.
The 4 Human Needs Fulfilled by Video Games
These are all things that can be obtained through everyday life, but as it turns out gaming is incredibly effective at delivering all of them at once. Something you just can’t do with any other activity.
Having some separation from the rigors of daily life is perfectly normal. However, when you play video games it allows you to become an entirely different person in a world where nothing can go wrong.
Video game addicts find comfort in knowing they can solve all of their problems in this virtual world, and they can (temporarily) get away from the struggles in their life.
Human beings, at their core, are social creatures. No matter how introverted you think you are, no one enjoys being lonely. For a lot of gamers, their entire friend group is online. When you play video games it’s easy to feel accepted in the community because all of a sudden, you have a common interest with a huge group of people.
Similar to how you make friends easily in college because you’re seeing your roommates every day and everyone has the same mutual talking points.
In our society, we stigmatize gamers as being nerds, loners, and losers. We say they are lazy and they are wasting their potential, so they don’t feel accepted outside of games. And because they feel this way, their online gaming communities are a place where they all have a special bond.
It’s them against the world.
Constant Measurable Growth
I don’t think there’s a better example than video games of something that provides you with instant gratification and constant progress.
Think about it. You kill enemies and gain experience, which helps you level up and get new items. On top of this, you’re gaining achievements, as well as getting random ‘drops’ from those monsters. You’re also leveling up your skills and seeing your damage go up.
It’s a never-ending cycle and is one of the core principles of video game design.
In reality, when you learn a new skill, it takes a long time before you see yourself improve. However, in video games ,within minutes or hours, you can become a master at whatever you decide to do.
The Need to Be Challenged
Games give you a sense of purpose, a mission, and a goal to work towards. They are specifically designed this way. It’s part of the invisible game design.
You always know what the next thing is that you need to do. You have to beat this boss, get this weapon, and achieve this level.
If you don’t have a sense of purpose outside of games, which a lot of people don’t, they will provide it for you.
Once I discovered I was using gaming to fulfill these needs, I started looking elsewhere for guidance. Unfortunately, when I tried to look for support online, my searches came up blank.
There was the odd article about how to stop playing video games but aside from that, the information was useless.
This inspired me to write a post about how to quit playing video games and it soon became viral.
I was receiving hundreds of comments and e-mails about other gamers in the same situation, and it even led to me running a TEDx talk on video game addiction.
This was the inspiration to start Game Quitters, and my life has never been the same since.
Over the last 5 years I’ve built this business into a thriving community. We serve gamers in almost 100 countries, reaching hundreds of thousands of people every month.
We have an active forum, YouTube channel, social media and an extensive library of articles that bring in 50k monthly visitors to our website.
The biggest change in my life has been my journey as a public speaker. From speaking for free just a few years ago to earning over $60k in one month in 2019, I never expected to be where I am today.
The Secrets to My Entrepreneurial Success
Let’s be honest, if you’ve spent any time in the business space, you’ll know there aren’t any secrets to building a successful business.
Everything you need to know already exists on the internet or in a book. However, I’ve noticed that the people who rise above and beyond share a few key characteristics.
- Consistently taking action
- Having the right mindset
- Staying disciplined when it gets tough
Interestingly, these are all common in hardcore gamers. They’re just focusing their energy in the wrong direction.
But how do you go about developing these traits if you have no idea where to start?
I’ll break each one down for you briefly, but from there it’s up to you to take action. Don’t be someone that spends their time reading articles and thinks they know everything there is to know about business. The longer you wait the less likely you are to succeed.
You hear this all the time from online entrepreneurs and ‘gurus’. It might sound like they’re all repeating it to motivate you, but in reality they’re saying it because it’s the truth.
Nothing beats being an action taker in the world of business.
You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t bring them into reality you’ll never get anywhere.
Day in, day out, you have to wake up determined to get s*** done. Work out what you need to do to get to where you want to be, set the right goals, and get to it.
It doesn’t matter if you think you don’t know enough. You’ll learn much more by trying and failing than you will from any article.
Just get started.
Developing a Growth Mindset
Having the right mindset in business is vital. You need to constantly challenge yourself to grow; otherwise, you’ll never find yourself making progress.
A growth mindset says you can change, learn, adapt and grow.
A fixed mindset says you are where you are and there’s nothing you can do about it.
A growth mindset says you can be a two-time high school dropout and still start your own successful business (me), whereas a fixed mindset says you can only be successful if you go to college and get a degree.
A growth mindset is about focusing on your ability to learn. If you aren’t feeling very happy, you can research how to be happier. If you don’t have a lot of energy, you learn how to have more energy.
If you don’t know how to make friends, you can start learning how to make friends.
The difference between those who are successful and those who are not is the difference between those who embody the concept of a growth mindset and those who intellectually understand it.
Remember what I said about action? It’s all connected.
Staying Disciplined During Your Dark Days
When you embark on the journey of starting a business, you’re going to have to accept that some days will be hard and some days will be easy.
There will be times when the last thing you want to do is show up.
You’ll want to hide away from your problems and escape. The only way to avoid falling into this way of thinking is by developing habits and discipline.
People love the feeling of motivation, but in reality motivation is a limited resource. It’s great for getting you interested in something and helping you through the initial stages. But at some point, it’s going to run out.
It’s this point where you’ll fall back to your lowest level of training; your habits, routines, and discipline.
If you don’t have the proper foundations in place before you start, you’ll find yourself in exactly the same place after a few months that you’re in now.
Life Gets Better, But Only If You Want It To
At the end of the day, the only reason my life turned out the way it did was because I saw a chance to change and I took it.
I didn’t make excuses.
I didn’t wait for anyone to change my life.
The only thing that could take me from a suicidal gaming addict to a successful entrepreneur was me.
No one was coming to save me. The world didn’t owe me anything.
It was all on me.
I sometimes look back and think about how different my life would be if I carried on gaming. I’d still be depressed, have no social life, and hate every moment I’m away from a screen.
I might not even be here writing this today…
If you really want to become the best version of yourself, you have to get rid of anything that’s going to get in the way.
For some people this is drinking, for some it’s porn, and for others it’s gaming.
You might not even realize that video games have warped your ability to get satisfaction from other things. Hobbies become boring and staying focused on a task is impossible.
It’s a by-product of a generation obsessed with instant gratification.
That doesn’t mean you can’t change it. With the right knowledge, you can rewire your brain to find excitement and passion again.
In my experience, it takes about 90 days for your brain to get back to normal. That’s why we always recommend people take 3 months away from something before they decide whether or not to go cold turkey.
That’s why I created Respawn, which has become the best resource on the internet for people who want to take back their life from video games.
It’s not an attack on gaming. I’ve got no problem with people who play. But I still tell people to take a few months off and see if their life is any different.
They start off skeptical, but it isn’t long before some of them start showing withdrawal symptoms. Most of these people can’t handle it and go back to playing, never knowing how different their life could potentially be.
But the ones that stick through the 90 days? I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.
You always have a choice to make. Just make sure it’s the right one.
Thanks for reading our post on Ed’s site! If you haven’t already listened to the podcast episode he appeared in with us, check it out here, and find us on social media at Game Quitters everywhere.
Until next time…