My fiancée and I have been living together for exactly 4 years as of today.

She and I have always loved video games, we both own several consoles (PS4, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch etc), we actually met online on one of the official communities of one of these consoles.

She never played video games excessively, for instance, after no more than few hours she always stopped playing for the day.

It's already been a few months since she started playing one of those pay-to-win games on mobile (games where you are supposed to buy additional in-game items to proceed with the game), it's called Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, and it's basically a Travian-like game, where you have your own village, you can add new buildings, upgrade them, attack others, and have a guild.

The game has some pretty expensive add-ins, the average price is around 100 dollars, but they can go up to 200 or more. The minimum is usually 20 dollars or so.

So far she bought just 25 or so dollars worth of add-ins and that's not a problem to me, even if I don't agree with spending money in such a dumb and worthless game.

The problem is that (I guess), not spending as much as her other friends on the game to buy speed-ups and make the game easier to progress. She plays this game from the morning to late night continuously, she doesn't work so she plays all day.

Even when we hang out together for some romantic time in restaurants and so on she always has the smartphone with her, with the game on.

I thought to give her an ultimatum of the kind "stop with this game or I quit", but knowing her she wouldn't accept this and she'd only get upset and probably leave.

I tried to get involved in the situation to help her make the game easier, I set up a bot for her to automate some extremely time-consuming actions, but it didn't help.

I really care about her but I don't know how to stop this addiction.

How could I approach her about this problem, making her aware of it and potentially finding a solution together?
I'd like to get advice on how to modify my behavior to help to adjust the situation.

My objective would be to at least reduce the amount of hours spent on the game without compromising our relationship.


  • I have already tried to explain this actually but with little to no results. I probably wasn't clear enough about the gravity of the situation so I'd like to know how to make the situation crystal clear and then possibly get advices on how to modify my behavior to start a process of change.
  • I don't actually care about the money; I care about the behavior and the quality of our relationship.
  • She has been playing this game for seven months already.
  • 1
    Also is she not interested in your attention at all? What happens if you are on your phone all the time you spend time with her? How does she react to you "ignoring" her? Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 11:07
  • 1
    Related, it's a different point of view (parent instead of partner), but it might give some useful insights.
    – JAD
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 11:58
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    Is your partner dependent on you financially? Is she in a good mood or maybe a bit depressed about her not being employed and spending a lot of time at home without too much to do except playing games?
    – user1617
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:03
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    Related article, directly from a person who had a difficult experience with this particular game
    – Kos
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 21:20
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    @RaduMurzea the makers of the game seem to be ready to launch a new game. She acknowledged she spent way too much money and time on the game but doesn't want to stop for whatever reason, but she promised she'll not switch to the new game once the current one will be "deprecated" because she recognizes it's not a good influence to her. We'll see how it ends...
    – Fez Vrasta
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 15:41

12 Answers 12


Fact :

(Supercell) generated earnings before taxes and other items of $1 billion, up from $897 million a year earlier. That’s an enormous profit for a company with just 213 employees and only four games on the market.

First, a bit of background reading:

Compulsion loop (in game design)

Why Mobile Games Make You Their Slave and You Pay for the Privilege

Five tips on beating video game addiction

...And of course the famous Candy Crush Saga: The Science Behind Our Addiction.

Oldskool video games were only a bit addictive. Taking online FPS as an example, leaving during a game is rude but games are usually short, so you have an opportunity to leave after every game, and you can come back whenever you want. In this case, you keep playing because it's fun, and the biggest problem of these games is that they are too much fun.

Free to play (ie, pay to win) mobile games work on a completely different paradigm. They are designed to create addiction in order to turn the player into a cash cow. Letting the player have fun is only one of the tools in the toolbox to achieve this goal. Candy Crush is applied science (in this case, existing knowledge on gambling addiction).

A survey by Ask Your Target Market polled 1,000 players and found that 32% of them ignored friends or family to play the game, 28% played during work, 10% got into arguments with significant others over how long they played, and 30% said they were “addicted.”

These games create addiction by:

  • Giving you some fun, then taking it away. The waiting part is essential. You have to wait while your troops train or your buildings upgrade, or your energy recharges. Waiting creates craving and anxiety, it builds up the tension, until you're allowed to have your fun again (or you pay).

  • Creating a rhythm: for example your energy bar fills up in two hours, and if you don't use it then it stops filling. This is designed to make you open the game every 1-2 hours, to reinforce the compulsion. Click on your gold mines! They're full! You're losing gold! The more evil the developer, the shorter the delay.

  • Random events with notifications: Oh noes! Someone is attacking your village! Open the game now!

  • Random loot: this is also essential (see: RPGs). If casino jackpot machines always returned 90% of the coins you put in, no-one would play. It's the randomness that makes it exciting. The machine will return some part of what you put in (on average), but it'll do it only when it wants. So you have to keep playing in the hopes of winning next time. Maybe the next loot box contains a rare item?

  • No end: Most games (except sandboxes) have an ending. In single player, it's the end of story, in multiplayer it's the end of the match. Endless games (like Clash of Clans) are specifically built for addiction. There is no reward at the end, and also you'll never get there as you either need to play every day for 5 years or spend $10k.

  • Social pressure: this one is the worst, as demonstrated by WoW zombies. If you can't be there for that 5 hour raid, your friends will hold a grudge!

Now to answer your question:

What's a good plan to make her at least reduce the amount of hours spent on the game without compromise our relationship?

Reducing the hours won't really work, the game is designed to be addictive, so it will creep back in. Complete cut off is required.

Now a possible solution:

1) Working on her defenses

Read up on the stuff, and watch her play, take note of the compulsive loops in the game, understand this game and figure out what makes it addictive, with an aim to find the weaknesses in the game in order to dissuade her. Then...

  • Ask if she's actually having fun while playing the game. Most likely not. These games hand out equal amounts of fun and frustration, and you have to pay to alter the balance in your favor.

  • After doing your research, explain the addiction mechanisms built into that game (see above, that's why I wrote this) and show her how it's designed to sucker her into wasting her time and money.

Explain how she's being manipulated. Your goal is to teach her how to recognize these mechanisms herself, so she will think for herself and come to the realization on her own that she's wasting her time.

  • Remind her the game has no end, therefore it's all pointless. She will get bored eventually, and will then switch to another game. The point above is also meant to prevent this.

  • Try to make her realize that her addiction is a problem. There may be evidence in the house, like piles of unwashed dishes, big messes everywhere, piles of unanswered job applications, her being dressed in pajamas all day, etc. If she stays home all day playing she might also get health problems. When you come home at night, and ask her how her day went, and she only talks about the game, you can ask "yeah, but what did you actually do?"

  • Make gentle fun of her (Are you there? Do I still have a girlfriend?)

2) Social engineering

Invite people (her friends) for dinner, board games, etc. Make sure it's something she likes and would love to participate in.

If she has fun without her phone, then she's on the right track.

If she spends the evening on her phone, someone will inevitably say something. Make sure this someone is not you. You will have more success in making her realize that her addiction is a problem if several people independently confirm, plus you don't have to be the annoying one who says it to her, it can be someone else. If this makes her think and she asks you "do you really think it's a problem" then yes, you should be sincere.

3) Don't be too harsh

If she gets into the game to escape from something (like stress) then you don't want to add more stress, which would cause her to retreat more into the game. Also, when stressed, an addict will turn to the drug (that's why it's called a fix), so avoid confrontation, be (or at least sound) understanding, etc.

Example: if you talk about cancer to a smoker until they freak out, they will have a cigarette to calm themselves down. So this doesn't work.

Perhaps her reason for escaping into a game is stress from not having a job, or your upcoming marriage, or boredom, unhappiness, lack of self-esteem, or any other reason. You should try to find out. If she tries to escape from unhappiness, giving her an ultimatum is pretty much guaranteed to backfire.

This also means no ultimatums, or blackmail, etc.

If this gentle approach fails, escalate to phase two:

Organize a week-long hike in an area without cell coverage. Or a boat cruise, whatever, anything you want. It has to be something she would enjoy. If you don't find an area without coverage, then make it a condition that she doesn't bring her cell.

Thus you give her a huge reward: the trip she's always been dreaming about! (she's probably been talking to you about something like that...) and you pay for everything! (if you plan to marry her, surely you can spare a couple thousand on curing her addiction)... in exchange for a small compromise on her part: her cellphone stays home. This is the enhanced version of the cosy social evening with friends.

If she says yes and you spend 2 weeks together in a tent and you don't murder each other, then you will end up a lot closer together...

If this fails (ie, she would rather stay with her phone than go on a cruise with you) then let's be honest, the outlook is bleak, and you're gonna have to escalate to stage 3: Dread, aka Cheating Simulator.

The point of this is not to cheat on her but rather to remind her that leaving her is a definite possibility if she keeps dating her phone more than you. It's quite simple to do: spend a nice evening with some friends or colleagues, leave her home with her phone, and mention in passing that you think Stacy has a crush on you.

This is a bit hardcore, so use only as a last resort. Not as bad as an ultimatum though.

Now some loose ends:

she plays this game from the morning to late night continuously, she doesn't work so she plays all the day.

...Is she at least looking for work?...

Even when we hang out together for some romantic time in restaurants and so on she always has the smartphone with her, with the game on.

That's a total lack of respect. I would walk out, even if I said to avoid confrontation before. The reason is simple: you can't help her out of this if she doesn't respect you, and she can't respect you if you don't respect yourself, and if you respect yourself, you're walking out of the restaurant.

We had the plan to marry in the next few months

You're using the past here, so you sound like it's canceled, at least in your mind. You can always reconsider if she comes out of it and wins you back.

I thought to give her an ultimatum of the kind "stop with this game or I quit", but knowing her she wouldn't accept this and she'd only get upset and probably leave.

Well if she values the game more than you, then you're in trouble...

I tried to get involved in the situation to help her make the game easier, I setup for her a bot to automate some extremely time spending actions, but it didn't help...

You're validating her addiction. When someone attempts to quit smoking, would you offer to buy them cigarettes? No! It's much better to offer alternatives (ie, social life, for example).

EDIT: Rat Park - excellent comic on addiction from LinuxBlanket.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 1:05
  • I marked your answer as correct because I think it's the most complete, but I'd love to see some info about the "social" aspect of these games, often the player gets involved in a community and starts to chat with people playing the game. They then play the game more to stay in touch with the friends than for the actual game. Being all addicted to the same game, they reinforce their addition talking all the day about it with each other...
    – Fez Vrasta
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 17:27

I agree with a bunch of the answers, but here are my two cents.

My money is on the problem stemming from the fact that she's unemployed. Back when I had a severe video-game dependency (namely RuneScape) I was a dropout from university, and I was using it as a way to cope with my problem. I had no aspirations, no wants, was socially isolated, depressed and un-employed. Tearing the games away from me wouldn't have solved the problems; they would have exacerbated them.

Now that I'm back at university, with life goals and aspirations, I don't need video games in my life like I used to (I play about 5% the amount that I used to, but I don't get the satisfaction that I used to).

Find the deeper cause:

To be frank, you should talk to an addictions specialist or a counselor. Find the root of the addiction, then solve it. If you really love this woman, you wouldn't just drop her an ultimatum and walk away.

Also, don't get effect and causality mixed up. Don't think the game is causing her problems with her life, when they're actually helping her cope. But don't think the opposite either, without any proof.

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    Just a notice from someone that episodically has the same addiction pattern: It's probably not about the game. If the game is taken away the behavior itself won't vanish. I quit gaming as I became pregnant. I suddenly had the urge to change my life for the well-being of the baby. I replaced it with crocheting ~ 8-12 hours/day. - completely offline, not helpful at all. At least my baby has some crochet toys to play with now.
    – Kinaeh
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 8:09
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    When there isn't a big goal to work towards or even any smaller short term goals, the feeling of satisfaction comes from the game. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 9:46
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    @SomeoneElse Yes. I've often noticed that people who don't have any positive accomplishments in their lives -- they're unemployed or have a sucky job, failed marriage, etc -- find other things to be proud of. I may not be rich and successful or have a happy family, but I can put my ENTIRE FIST into my mouth and drink a PINT of beer without pausing for breath!! Yeah! I'm the MAN! I'm usually reluctant to point out the worthlessness of their achievements because ... that's all they have.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 20:04
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    Well put. I went through a similar situation about a decade ago. I had no direction, was in a job I hated, and WoW gave me a sense of achievement I was missing in my professional life, at the cost of my personal life. Once I went through the cycle of realising it never ends, I realised I should invest time in people, as well as things that would get me further in my professional life. It all worked out well, so excellent advice.
    – Reisclef
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 17:01
  • Summarizing a bit: This game has filled a void in her life. Curing her from the addiction to this game without figuring out what is this void (and filling it with something more sustainable) might only drive her into a different coping behavior.
    – skymningen
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 9:49

When something starts to interfere with your life, no doubt about it, it is an unhealthy addiction. There are several possibilities here and it may not be as serious as you think.

She may not realise how it is impacting her (and your) life.

So start small. Just say tell her how you feel about it. Perhaps say:

Have you thought about how much of a hold that game has on your life? You can't seem to do anything else for very long without checking on it. I'm worried about you. Do you think maybe it is having a negative impact on your life?

See how she responds. You are not placing any ultimatums on her here. You are just putting the seed in her mind that it might be an addition, and she may have the willpower to resolve it herself.

She may not see it as a problem

So this is the second possibility - she knows how much time it takes and how hooked she is, but she doesn't see it as a problem because it is "just a game" and she isn't hooked on crack. You may be able to reason with her and get her to see it in a different light. Perhaps say:

These games where you pay to play are a rip-off, don't you think? People don't have to win by skill, they can just pay for the boosts and upgrades. There is no fun playing that way and no point trying to compete with it.

Again, you're planting a seed in her mind. See if she reasons this out herself. She might think that one day the game will end like many games do, but paying to play this way is not the same as paying up front for a console game. These so-called "Freemium" games are designed to keep people playing and paying. They often never end. New levels and new upgrades are added all the time. I have tried to play games like this for free in the past and there eventually comes a point where no sane person can cope with the ads, or the hopeless odds stacked against you if you don't pay for upgrades.

It may just naturally come to an end.

You said her friends are playing and she is competing. Are they all addicted? Will they all play forever? If they stop, she may lose interest. If you've tried the previous suggestions and she continues, perhaps it won't last much longer.

Or... she's hopelessly addicted.

I think this is unlikely. Most apps and games are just a fad. But it is believed now that some people are genetically disposed to addiction. There may be other things in the future she gets hooked on. So try and help her to see how dumb this game is, but if you really can't deal with her behaviour then after all else has failed tell her how you feel. Perhaps say:

I have tried on a few occasions to tell you that I believe this game is having a negative effect on you, and on our relationship. I don't want to spend my life trying to get you to look away from your game.

And hopefully you'll find out which she considers most important. You, and her real life, or the game.

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    From how I understand it, her friends do pay for the game while she doesn't. Now she plays all day to compensate for not spending money Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 11:18
  • @XtremeBaumer that's how I understood it too, but I can see how my writing "you pay to win" could seem directed at her. My intention was actually to highlight what is wrong with the game in general. I've amended the wording to make that clearer.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:22
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    "It may just naturally come to an end". This would be the case for me, I pick up addictions and they last a month or two. I really enjoy obsessing, then its gone and I don't care for it anymore. But if that is her tendency, know that it will most likely happen again with something else.
    – user8282
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 16:53
  • Hopeless addiction isn't as unlikely as you think. These games are designed to get people addicted and many employ staff specifically tasked with making sure their top-paying addicts keep pumping in money.
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 22:07
  • @Erik I agree. I meant that it seems unlikely in this case. She was already a gamer, never been this addicted before. I could be wrong of course but it seems more like a fad.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 9:19

Addiction often takes root in something deeper. Maybe she feels socially isolated. Maybe she is desperate for attention, or depressed, or feels like her life lacks meaning, feels like there's nothing better to do than "wait it out", or is just stressed out. You mention she doesn't work - why is that? Does she have trouble finding work? Does she find work repulsive? Is there something she wants to do, but feels out of reach? Most people I know are completely lost without working. It just leaves you empty, and emptiness is something addiction of all sorts readily exploits.

Don't focus on the addiction itself. The game may be part of the problem, even a very large part of the problem, but it's also possible it's just the surface symptom of deeper issues. Do you talk about your feelings together? Does she visit friends and family? Have any hobbies besides "the game"? Did she lose all interest in things besides the game, or are there still things that you can talk about or do? A book she's reading, a show she's watching? Anything that would open a light-hearted talk can help. If she feels safe and comfortable, maybe she'll open up about what troubles her.

You said she started playing this game a few months ago. That sounds like quite a long time for simply "an addictive game". Ignoring everything for a few days, a week? That's "addictive game". Many months? It's probably not about the game. If you removed the game together, it would probably just open the way for some other addiction or problem. Now, this is of course why we have "mental health specialists"; depending on your culture, just referring her to one might be the best choice. But if that doesn't feel like something normal, try figuring out what her issues are - not by violently digging to the core, but by providing a secure environment for you two to talk about "stuff". Are you someone she trusts? If you're not sure, do you know someone she trusts? Don't try to manipulate her - just try to gently allow her to open up. There's not really anything you can do to force someone to do anything - escalating is something you do in total war, not with friends and family :)


(Warning: anecdotal response incoming)

I have been "addicted" to many, many (oh my god, far too many) games. Runescape, Candy Crush, Madden Mobile, Clash of Clans... If you can think of a game, I've probably had an unhealthy relationship with it. Even Cookie Clicker had me playing several hours a day for a few months. Here are a few insights I've picked up from the other side:

1) This isn't about the game.

Yes, I know the issue at hand is that she is playing her game far too often, but imagine she quits this game and starts playing another just as much. Have you actually solved anything? You aren't actually bothered that she's "wasting her time", you're bothered she's wasting so much of it (at the expense of your relationship, too).

My wife watches The Bachelor. In my opinion, that is a colossal waste of time, but if she wants to spend an hour a week watching it, whatever. She's an adult, she enjoys it, she should be able to watch it. If she watched shows like that 8 hours every day though, that would not be ok. What she's doing those 8 hours would be pretty much irrelevant; it's just unhealthy to spend so much of your day doing something which doesn't improve you at all. I think that's the issue at hand here.

2) I am fully aware I'm being manipulated. I don't care.

Astralbee addresses this in their answer, but I think misses a key point: I know the game requires no skill, but I'm still having fun playing it. I've been given the "you're not even doing anything" response many times before; it's not very compelling.

The way I see it, no game really matters. Sure, some give you more fulfilling experiences than others, but at the end of the day, does it really matter if I have a level 8 town hall in Clash of Clans instead of being level 40 in Skyrim? If you say it does, I get the impression you think some games are "real" games and some aren't, and that's not an easily defendable position. Even more difficult is convincing someone that their game isn't "real".

Honestly, trying to get her to stop playing the game by trying to convince her it's "such a dumb and worthless game" is never going to work, and it's actually kinda rude. I've always heard that as "the things you spend your time on don't matter as much as the things I think you should spend your time on". That would make me want to discount your opinion, which leaves you fighting an uphill battle right out of the gate.

3) How I would approach it

  • Address the actual issue at hand.

The thing is, you're bothered she's spending so much time absorbed in such an antisocial activity. That's the part you can address. Don't bring up that you think she's wasting her time, bring up that she's not spending time with you anymore. Or if it's a bigger concern to you that she's not spending time doing anything else at all, bring that up! Just don't say "that game is dumb and you're wasting your life". Unless she has a sudden change of heart after hearing this (she won't), she'll assume you guys just have different opinion on it. If that happens, you'll lose a lot of credibility on the issue in her eyes, and you can't really help after that.

  • Don't try to cut her off completely.

I'm disagreeing with the top answer here. Going from playing a game 40 hours a week to not at all is... well, it's mostly impossible. You're approaching it from the perspective of someone who realizes the game has no value; that's not her perspective. To her, that game has been providing a (deliberately) steady source of accomplishment and entertainment. Quitting it entirely is a daunting task that's difficult to approach.

  • Do approach it one instance at a time.

My wife is just as addicted to social media as I am to games. Neither of these tendencies are detrimental to our relationship though, because we're quick point out specific times it's bothering us. I've never said "I wish you didn't spend so much time on Instagram," because it doesn't really bother me that she instagrams. What might bother me is if we're watching a movie and she spends the whole time on her phone.

In that instance, I wouldn't ask her to get off instagram, I'd ask her to put her phone down while we watch a movie, and she would do the same were I on my phone. It's way easier for someone to stop playing their game during a movie than altogether. You aren't asking for any long term commitments or changes in habits, you're asking for a small temporary reprieve.

"But Lord Farquaad, I do want a change in habit!"

Yes, that's true. And I have good news for you: you'll probably see one anyway! If you successfully have her put her phone away every movie, eventually she'll stop trying to be on it during movies. If you ask her to put her phone away while you're eating together, she'll stop trying to take her phone out while you're eating together. It's possible she'll fight you on these things, but those conversations bleed out of the scope of this question. Instead, I'll direct you here: How can I politely ask my date to not use her phone unnecessarily during dinner, without ruining the night out?

This kinda brings me to my last point: if she stops playing her game during times that bother you, then there isn't a problem anymore; you really can't demand anything more from her. Even if you think the game's stupid, you don't get to say "playing that game doesn't impact our relationship anymore, but you should still stop." Also, I personally find that when I start spacing out my time in free-to-play games, I lose the immersion I was addicted to. They're just not as fun when you play a responsible amount; she may lose interest altogether anyway.


  • Address the actual issue: It's not that she's playing a "dumb" game, but that she's not spending time with you (I wouldn't even mention the game at all, but that's just me).

  • Shape behavior, don't demand it: Avoid large requests. Don't ask her to put her phone away during all movies forever, ask her to put her phone away during each movie. Large requests are daunting.

  • Pick your battles: I never really addressed this, but if you're doing your own thing and realize she's playing her game, let her. Telling her to stop every single time she's playing is the same as telling her to quit. Confining your requests to when it bothers you will be more effective.

  • There are peole in the world who could help her frame the current situation in a way that would make her quit in disgust, but they're rare. Although I can imagine a lot more captivating experiences and alternatives than movies. Being a couch potato is like inviting the boredom monster to watch along, suggesting the game. Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 7:24

I once had a similar problem to this with my partner. Luckily we too both share an avid interest in video games, which opened up some options.

In spending time together, instead of demanding she give up the game altogether, embrace it yourself to some degree. I'm not saying play it yourself, but show some kind of interest in it. Ask your partner more about it, how it plays, what the story or objective is, what makes the game rewarding, how she interacts with others on it. Even ask her to show you her taking part in some event or group mission. Showing some genuine interest will help her realise that you are not going to be so hostile about the situation when it comes up in conversation. It will also, down the line, make it easier to approach her with any concerns you have.

Another suggestion would be, seeing you are both gamers, would be to suggest spending time playing some local multiplayer games together yourself, even agreeing to set aside a specific evening each week for a few hours of Mario Kart or something. Again, among other benefits, instils confidence that you're not openly averse to spending too much time gaming, so long as your partner is not completely ignoring you.

Instead of directly addressing the financial stigma of pay-to-win mobile games, when you are actually at a restaurant or out a walk together, calmly and without any demeaning adjectives bring up that it would be nice to spend more time together when it's "just us". Let her know that you have no objection to playing games alone but that it's healthy for a growing relationship to spend time together without others intruding (i.e - her guild-mates). Avoid criticising her personally and suggest it as something you can both work on together.

Your partner will quickly catch on if she thinks she is being "rewarded" for spending time off the phone, which may make her think she is being looked down upon. Approach it as an objective you have to both work on. Hope it works out well for you both!

  • 7
    I find the idea that "your partner will quickly catch on if she thinks she is being "rewarded" for spending time off the phone" extremely patronising to the partner. She's not a child or a pet.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:34
  • @Astralbee Agreed, hence my extra paragraph at the end. I'd seen the suggestion come up in comments and thought it worthwhile mentioning it.
    – user8671
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:49
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    @Astralbee FYI, the use of "reward" in the context of addictive behaviour is absolutely not patronizing, this is the correct word to use.
    – Aserre
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 15:04
  • 4
    Behavior that gets reinforced gets repeated. Perceived rewards of any kind are reinforcements. And I haven't seen a single adult that isn't part child, myself included. That's part of why people even consider playing these games. And I'm not pointing fingers. I made enough mistakes in my life. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 22:03

Your fiancée is filling her needs with the game. Her brain has found that it is easy and reliable to fill them with it.

These needs are:

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • significance
  • Love/Connection
  • Growth
  • Contribution

I explained them in more detail here. It might not be the end all and be all of models, but so far it has worked quite nicely.

So, in order to take that reliable source away, her brain better gets something to use instead or the game (or other games) stays attractive. Creating a vacuum turns it into an uphill battle.

Some people have found habitrpg to be a good substitute but you can just as easily invent your own quests and missions and rewards. It's the idea of substituting a bad addiction for a good one (using the term loosely). A life that is more attractive and more exciting than a game is usually a good way to go. Right now the game wins. Just remember: her brain makes the rules regarding what is exciting and what isn't, not yours. Study them, follow them.

Another trick is to ask her whether you can film her playing the game. She has no clue how boring she appears on the outside while she's playing. She just knows how immersive it feels when she's in her no good fantasy world.

A risky way to get her attention (and you should have a plan on how to use her attention in a positive way as soon as you have it) would be to mirror her. Play a game whenever she is interested in you. She wants something, you start playing an online game. Pick one you don't like or you might join her misery. Also, it's hard to not make that look like mockery, so be careful.

I fully agree with some of the others: making her wrong won't work well. You need to influence her opinion so that she decides there's better things to do with her time than that time sink. Never make her do something when you can make her want to do it instead.

Spend two or three hours a week to find out what both of you really need from each other. If she really gets what she needs, gaming will feel bland in comparison. And in order to perpetually give her what she needs, you need to get what you need. Design a life that beats the game in attractivity. Doesn't happen opver night, but it's possible and continuing improvements add up.

This suggestion is not a quick fix, I agree, but it's strategic and tackles the problem at its root.

One last word of warning: your fiancée's most precious resource is not money. It is lifetime. You never get it back once it's spent. Play 1000 hours of games and you get nothing back but artificial memories. Compare that to singing lessons, practicing drawing, dancing, muscle training, any skill building. Time you spent gaming rarely ever creates more freedom or makes your future more bright. I say that because you mentioned the money aspect of the game. It's minuscule compared with the loss of ability, freedom or, if you spend the time increasing income, money left on the table, that could have been gained in the same amount of time.


Games are addictive and that is bad, every gamer above the age of 13 should know this. But if you are honest with yourself how would you react if someone says to you: "Stop this game, I don't like it and you are spending to much time on it." no matter how you wrap it up. Thats not how your mom got you to stop playing games when you where younger.

I think the problem is that you want her to instantly stop playing this game at all. You should start with something less ultimatum like. Let her put down the phone for some time like 2 or 3 hours and then suggest doing something romantic. The next you can make in a situation like this is: give the game to much attention yourself it doesn't matter if positiv or negativ, best is to ignore the game and concentrate on the person.

A good approach could be to "reward" her for not playing the game or better for spending time with you (like @XtremeBaumer said). I know thats basically how you train dogs but well thats how my mom got me spending more time outside in my younger ages.

No matter how you approach this in the end: stay positiv don't get negativ with your actions, or at least try.


Suggest a Tech Sabbath to her, one day a week when you both agree to turn off all technology and do some activities together.

It may come across as less hostile and one-sided to her if you both agree to do this together for your relationship. And if the activities on the off day are enjoyable enough it might encourage her to put the game down more.

On the other hand, if she can't make it through even one day a week without the game, it may help her realize the extent of her addiction.

  • 5
    The problem is that these games often feature severe penalties for missing the play windows - imagine if someone asked you to ignore your dog "just one day in a week". Yeah, it's just one day out of seven, but a single day of neglect can cause you to lose days of progress (or in more severe cases, almost all your progress).
    – Luaan
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 11:21

If she really has an addiction, you should seek professional help. Addiction is a very serious disease, it cannot be fixed with a power of will or any kind of "distractions", meditation, etc. (But certainly these things can help, if used along with psychotherapy.)

Maybe there are some self-help groups for gaming addicts, similar to those using the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, or something else.

How could I approach her about this problem, making her aware of it and potentially finding a solution together?

There is a process called intervention:

  1. Learn about the disease of addiction yourself: symptoms, possible causes, negative effects, etc. Consulting a psychologist is the best way.

  2. Make up your mind if she is truly addicted, based on what you've learned.

  3. For a certain period of time (e.g. 1 month), collect the proofs of her having an addiction. Typically, in case of gaming addiction, that would be time she spends playing each day, amount of money she spends, negative consequences of that (e.g., "You were supposed to do X, but you've played all day, and now we have to deal with a problem Y caused by that.") Dont forget about your own emotional harm, because it hurts you when she spends more time in the game than with you. Write it all down carefully, count total time, money, etc.

  4. Confront her with collected proofs. This is where a psychologist should help you. Convincing your significant other can be really tricky, but you have to remember one principle called tough love: no matter how she feels about it, you should do what is right for her, not what she likes.

  5. After successfully convincing her she has a problem, you need to convince her to seek professional help.

Once you manage to do that, your journey of recovery begins, for both of you.

My objective would be to at least reduce the amount of hours spent on the game

Personally, I don't believe in moderation. Of course, for problems such as bulimia moderation is the only option (because one has to eat), but in cases when you can stop the activity altogether (drugs, alcohol, gambling, video games), I think 100% abstinence is the way to go, I suggest that as a default option.

  • 1
    Soooo…do you believe that one shouldn’t engage in any activity that isn’t necessary for survival? No drugs, no sex, no gambling, no video games, no reading…? Or do you think that certain enjoyable activities are bad in moderation, but not others? I’m sorry, but I’m downvoting.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 4:52
  • 1
    @Obie2.0 if one is addicted to games, they should quit games. They may continue with reading and having sex, of course. Avoid whatever is harmful, the rest is irrelevant.
    – scriptin
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 8:47

For me, the more recently I played videogames, the more quickly I will think to play them again when bored. Do that a few times in a row and it's becoming a habit. I don't know how to break an addiction but it only takes about a month to break a habit. When I no longer had as many big blocks of time to play videogames in, my desire to play videogames decreased. Try talking with her so the two of you can come up with something that will keep her busy for a month and break the habit. I think it's much easier to plan a schedule that will keep you busy every day for a month then to stop doing something.

However, first an foremost: remember that you need to come up with a plan together. People are far, far more likely to succeed with a crappy plan that they believe in fully then with the best plan in the world that is forced upon them. I do mediation in custody disputes and our guiding principle is that our participants always have a chance to get heard and are never forced to agree on anything. The best way to understand someone's feelings and desires is to ask them.


Stopping only after "no more than a few hours" already sounds quite excessive to me. Gaming all day definitively is. Now that also money is involved, her addiction is becoming similar to a gambling addiction.

Your relationship is already suffering. Unfortunately, strangers on the internet can't help you to cope with this.

More importantly, we can't help you to help her either. That's because you can't cure her addiction. In particular, you won't be able to "lecture" her out of it. No matter how rational your arguments are, they will only be met with resentment.

Please seek help from a professional councilor. Contact your local health board and ask for the number of a gambling or addiction helpline.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Online Gamers Anonymous have collected information for spouses of excessive gamers.

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