THE PCG Q&A
There's something wonderful about escaping into a game, completely shutting out the world for a while and just playing to the exclusion of everything else. But sometimes games sink their claws in a little too deep and it can be hard to pull yourself out. There can be repercussions: maybe your social life starts suffering, or you start sleeping less so you can play more, or real-world tasks—as unenjoyable and achievement-free as they are—don't get taken care of because you're too deeply involved in a game.
So, sometimes you have to do more than just shut the game off—sometimes you need to quit playing it altogether because it's taking you away from everything else. And that's our question this week: What game did you quit playing for your own well-being?
Below you'll find the answers from our staff as well as some from the members of the new PC Gamer Forums. You can pitch in your own answers in the comments or, hey, why not join the forums too? It's nice in there!
Jody Macgregor, weekend editor: I played it on my phone for months. Then when it came out on PC via the Bethesda Launcher I played it again. Oh, now it's on Steam? Time to start again. Three vaults built up, perfected, running smoothly, all begging me to check in and defend them from the latest raider attack, see what my quest progress is like, call home the poor wanderers I sent out to explore with a handful of stimpacks back in 2017. There are only two achievements I haven't got on the Steam version and one of them (Collect 20 Legendary Vault Dwellers) seems borderline impossible without spending a bunch of money. But no, I have to stay strong, keep it uninstalled and never look back on those three doomed vaults slowly running down.
World of Warcraft
Andy Kelly, section editor: It's a cliche, but I genuinely did have to force myself to uninstall WoW. I got deep into it in the Cataclysm era, back in 2010. It was released on December 7, and I played it all over the holidays, staying awake till 3-4 every night. I wasn't even playing with mates or doing raids or anything, just solo questing. I'm not even sure how I became so obsessed with it, but I reached the point where I had to forcibly remove it from my PC so I could get some sleep. I logged out for the last time in a snowy region, I can't remember where, and my troll hunter is still there today. I logged into the game recently to research something for an article and there he was, standing in the exact spot where I decided to give up years earlier. I think I'll leave him there as a monument—or a warning.
FIFA 20 (FUT) Transfer Market
Emma Matthews, guide writer: It’s kind of like a game within a game. I started off just buying and selling players so my other half could build a decent squad to use online. On launch we found a player that I could buy for a few hundred coins and sell for a small profit. It started off as a very casual thing. I’d log in on my phone, win some listings and then relist to try to make some cash. Each hour when my auctions ended, I could see the coins mounting up. After just a couple of days I had over 100,000. I was staying up late to restock at low prices and was waking up early to relist, then I’d be checking on it throughout the day. It was addictive to see the balance creeping up knowing that I hadn’t invested any real money, but I finally had to call it quits when we purchased an ICON. I’ve steered clear of Ultimate Team since and have uninstalled the app from my phone.
Morgan Park, freelance writer: I’ve never had a problem tearing myself away from a game, but I have felt repulsed by my recent interest in clicker games like AdVenture Capitalist. Watching numbers go up is fun, OK? It’s a time-honored tradition in video games. Still, the pointlessness of the exercise is laid bare in clickers. If I play one for too long, my mind drifts into loftier realizations. Destiny 2, Diablo 3, The Division 2: they’re all just very pretty clickers.
I’m scared of where that line of reasoning leads, so I uninstalled AdVenture Capitalist. In other news, I started a new Titan in Destiny 2.
This War of Mine
Rachel Watts, staff writer: I put so many hours into This War of Mine. When it first came out it was like nothing I had played before and it completely swept me away. It's a pretty brutal game in terms of subject matter and difficulty but I remember playing through every one of its scenarios trying to save all the characters. If someone died during my run I would immediately quit and restart it from the beginning, considering it a failure. It also just made me really sad, so it was time to move on!
Andy Chalk, news writer: Many years ago, I was presented with a photo of myself sitting naked in a chair, unshaven, hair long and scraggly, cigarette burning in an ashtray overflowing with butts, surrounding by empty Coke cans, and here and there, dirty food wrappers. I think it was taken near the end of a week-long vacation that I'd used for a non-stop Diablo 2 binge. It was fun! But seeing that photo, I realized that it was also Really Not Good. That was the end of D2 for me.
Chris Livingston, staff writer: Pretty sure I've told this story before, but back when The Sims first came out I played it obsessively, creating a Sims version of me, getting him a job, moving him into a little house, and managing his life. Very late one night I was making sure the virtual me had washed his dishes, paid his bills, and had gotten enough sleep, and I realized I myself had not washed my dishes, paid my bills, or gotten enough sleep. It suddenly seemed ridiculous, even repulsive, that I was neglecting my own life in favor of making a better life for fake-me. Then my Sim-Chris sat down at his virtual PC (which looked like a better PC than I owned) and started playing a game, and I thought "What if he's playing The Sims?" That was enough. I not only stopped playing The Sims but I uninstalled it. I didn't need to watch my Sim play the Sims (and probably have a better time doing it) and I definitely didn't need Sim-Chris having a better life than Chris-Chris.
Fallout Shelter, Plants vs Zombies 2, Bejeweled Blitz
Jarred Walton, senior hardware editor: I've quit all games on my phone, as they were not helping my relationship with my wife or family. There were three primary culprits that wasted I couldn't even guess how many hours of my life. Most recently, like Jody, Fallout Shelter was a time sink. I only had one vault, but it was completely maxed out before Bethesda started adding a bunch of additional activities, and I would make sure to 'check in' for the daily activities only to find I'd sunk an hour into the game. Plants vs. Zombies 2 and Bejeweled Blitz were the other two, both with daily activities. There were several other games I perhaps didn't play every day, but at this point I've sworn off any games that try to get me going on daily quests. Now, I read books on my phone via the lovely Libby app instead.
Robin Valentine, managing editor: I don't think I've ever become so addicted to a game that it's had a major impact on my life, but at the same time I am pathetically easily entrapped by predatory development practices. I'm always getting sucked into things and having to quickly tear myself out—usually it's on mobile, with things like clickers and gacha games, but I definitely run into it on PC too.
My most unhealthy relationship was with Hearthstone. For about three years I played Blizzard's card battler almost every single day, and in retrospect barely a third of the time was I actually enjoying myself, as opposed to just plugging away for that next pack of cards or mindlessly filling time. I uninstalled it a couple of years ago and I've never looked back. But I have to stay vigilant. Recently I had to install it again to try out Hearthstone Battlegrounds, and almost immediately its icy fingers started trying to grasp round me again. 'Oh, I could just play a couple of games and complete that quest... that couldn't hurt, right?'. Get thee behind me, devil...
Final Fantasy 7
Tom Senior, UK online editor: Likewise I've never had to stop playing something because it was really impacting my life, but I have definitely pulled back from grinding so much in games. My most egregious example is probably Final Fantasy 7, when I was a teenager. I got so sucked in that I wanted to gather every summon, defeat every Weapon, find every ultimate limit break, breed a golden chocobo, and—most time consuming of all—grind out materia to forge the most powerful combinations in the game (quad slash plus mimic for the win).
Diablo is a more recent candidate. I have eventually drifted away now I feel like I've exhausted the classes of all their worth, and besides, Diablo 4 is coming one day. Destiny is another one, but I get a lot out of the social multiplayer aspect of Destiny, so it feels a bit more worthwhile than the long random battle grinds of my youth.
Joanna Nelius, hardware staff writer: I haven't had to quit any games because I was playing them too much—but I have had to change the number of hours I spent playing a game in one sitting. At my peak, I was playing games in 10-15 hour sittings, but the tipping point came after I played Fable II non-stop for over 15 hours. I wanted to sleep, but couldn't. It felt like I had taken psychedelics. Everytime I shut my eyes all I could see was my character running around. My brain played all the quests I had finished over the last half-day in second-long snippets. I wasn't even playing the game anymore, but I was still stressing about finishing quests I had already finished. It took two hours for my brain to calm down so I could fall asleep. That was over a decade ago, though, and I haven't played a game any longer than three hours in one sitting since. Just thinking about it again is stressing me out.
From our forums:
Gvaedyn: DOTA 2. I'll hold my hands up; I used to have bad "gaming rage". I'd yell down the microphone a lot, and one time broke my headset in frustration. I had an unhealthy attitude and allowed my experiences with it to really get under my skin. Life happened and I ended up not playing for a while, and now-a-days I don't lose my temper with any game. I'd attribute the change to taking some time away, as well as refocusing efforts on other aspects of life.
Dan: I actually had to stop gaming entirely for a few years. This was probably early 2009, as Left 4 Dead 2 hadn't come out yet, but I remember I used to come home after school and just play video games, all weekend I would play video games. It was only when I played Left 4 Dead for 8-10 hours non-stop with a friend from school online, that I took a long hard look at myself.
It was after that session that I realised that even though gaming wasn't necessarily harming me, other aspects of my life were definitely being hurt because of it (like my social life). I stopped playing video games for 3 years after that. When I eventually returned, I was able to better share my time between my activities and made sure that gaming wasn't the only thing in my life, and had better self control.
Krud: Morrowind. I remember reading as much as I could about it, going so far as to make Excel spreadsheets outlining the pros and cons of each race, class, skill, sign, etc. I was obsessed with making the "ideal" character, stats-wise, and scoured the internet for tips and tricks. I think it was the also the first game I ever modded. (Not counting hex editor fiddling in the 90's, or level editors.) It was to reduce the number and aggression of Cliff Racers. Once I beat the main game, however, I realized how much of the several months prior I had dumped into the game, and vowed never to let myself do that again. I didn't go back to play Bloodmoon or Tribunal, either, in case I got sucked in again.
Granted, when Oblivion came out a few years later, pretty much the same thing happened again for a while, until I walked away from that after beating the main questline and Knights of the Nine, never diving into Shivering Isles, which I've been told was a mistake. Fortunately (?) when Skyrim came out, the lack of class or attributes made it so I never felt compelled to min-max my character progression, though mods came along to suck me in.
Apollo: Probably Minecraft. When I was around 7-9, I was obsessed with Minecraft and would get home from school and just mine and build for hours on end. I've probably dumped around 1k hours in MC Java Edition from between 2011-2014. Still play Minecraft, just with more restraint.
spvtnik1: Farmville. Yup. If I'm gonna pin quitting a game for my own well-being on one title, it's that one. I spent actual money on boosters, and it was taking my time away from games that I really enjoyed. Now I'm grateful that if I want to scratch that itch, I can just dive in to Stardew Valley.