Moderation Planning for Video Games

What is Moderation Planning?

  • Learning how to change behavior by setting a plan and keeping to it to reach your goals  
  • It involves making concrete changes guided by self-reflection
  • Continuing to game while limiting any social, academic, or work consequence
  • Setting a plan that you follow every time you play!
  • An opportunity to learn how much control you have over your gaming
  • Requires both a desire to change and a commitment to the process (successes & set backs)

Preparing for a Moderation Plan

  • You need a full and honest record of how much you are gaming
  • How many hours do you play in a typical day, week? On what device(s)?
  • How long is a typical interaction with the game including time when you are multi-tasking?
  • How long do you spend reading, researching, or posting on social media about the game?
  • How much time do you spend talking to people about strategy, previous games, etc.?
  • What times of the day are you most likely to play?
  • Which games do you think about most or are hardest to put down?

Tips for Tracking your Play

  • Use the in-game timer only to estimate gaming that occurred in the past.
  • Now and in the future use a cell phone timer, a watch with a timer, or similar device
  • Track non-gaming time spent on strategy, research, forums etc.
  • Keep a log of games played, how long, how hard was it to stop (very easy = 1 & very hard = 5)
  • If tracking gaming that often occur in short bursts, mark tallies every time you pick it up
  • Or put rubber bands around one wrist and move to the other each time you play in 30 minutes

Elements of a Basic Moderation Plan

  • You must use the plan every time you play in order to determine if it is working
  • Establish the total amount of time you will play per day
  • You can have one plan for weekdays (workdays/school days) & one for weekends (holidays)
  • But, don't have a different plan for every day of the week (it's too hard to be consistent)
  • Set maximum length of each individual gaming session (i.e. 30, 45, 60 minutes at a time).
  • Make plans that apply properly to each game type
  • Long format games (console, computer) = total time played
  • Short burst (cell phone, social media) = number of times/length of interactions in an hour
  • Limit all gaming to certain times of the day (no games before 4 pm or after 11 pm)
  • For mobile games limit locations/times(no games at work/school, when together with family/friends

Common problems in Sticking to the Plan

  • Not accurately tracking time played before starting or while using the plan
  • Not setting a strict enough plan to reduce/eliminate consequences
  • Having one bad day and giving up on the plan
  • Sticking to the plan during the week but letting things slide on the weekend
  • Not keeping to the plan during special occasions, vacations, school breaks, etc.
  • Participating in gaming gatherings (in person or online) that don’t align with your plan
  • When attending a gatherings: Determine if you need to plan to arrive late or leave early
  • Limiting less problematic gaming while making little change when playing favorite game

When do I need on-going Help from a Professional?      

  • Can’t figure out a good plan or can’t stick to your own plan
  • Problems with friends, work, or school start to occur or are getting worse
  • Other stressors are increasing & time spent gaming increases or stays the same
  • You have concerns that often co-occur with gaming problems: ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress , etc.

How can I tell if Someone I know needs Help?

  • They are denying or minimizing your genuine concerns about their gaming
  • They frequently displaying one or more of the four R’s: reluctant to change, rebellious, resigned to the problem, or rationalizing their behavior
  • They are self-shaming; “I’m stupid, lazy, can’t do things right, etc.”  
  • Note to parents/family: self-shaming might get you to let your child off the hook
  • You are often putting yourself out on a limb to protect the person from consequences
  • You are minimizing or misrepresenting their behavior to others
  • You are providing too much assistance in staying on task, completing tasks, etc
  • They displays intense anger or protectiveness of gaming and things related to gaming
  • They are lying or misleading important people about gaming behavior or consequences

If you are concerned about your own gaming or other technology use (internet, social media, online video, etc.) or you are concerned about someone you know: Contact Dr. Jason Hacker at 312.925.6330 or via email at