Pornography and gaming are, of course, two very different subjects. Ever Accountable – as always – advocates the dangers of pornography (not video games).
Today, however, we would like to look closely at how pornography recovery might be hindered by gaming habits.
Video games and pornography have much in common. For example, they both affect the brain and habits of a user. Here are a few more traits in common:
- Both access the same instant reward center of the brain, causing a demand for constant stimulation, which is addictive.
- Both promote isolation, which has been proven to cause many problems, from depression to poor physical health.
- According to a recent article in the Institute for Family Studies, both gaming and pornography can easily become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual. Just as pornography acts as a poor substitute for real intimacy, video games act as the same for social interactions.
- Both industries have been heavily criticized for promoting sexism, hyper-masculinity, and false gender expectations.
- Both industries are multi-billion dollar industries which promote and sell to youth (although not exclusively), operate in fantasy, and are highly controversial in social life.
What about when they work together? Does gaming promote pornography use? Does pornography consumption encourage gaming? The internet is full of articles arguing both sides. On the one hand, they do work together and on the other, many say there is no evidence supporting that one addiction feeds the other.
While there is no conclusive, peer-reviewed research evidence that gamers are more susceptible to pornography’s addictive grasp or vice versa, there is enough anecdotal evidence to strongly suggest that someone trying to quit pornography should stay away from gaming. Or, at least one should be very mindful of what it is doing to them.
Reddit’s NoFap : gamer generated insights
(trigger warning: since Reddit may be a porn trigger, we’ve removed the links in this updated article)
On Reddit’s NoFap forum, a resource for people who want to eliminate pornography from their lives, we found an interesting thread titled “Quit video games until you are on track with NoFap.”
Commenters left some great feedback about how gaming and pornography feed off one another. The initial post was from a person who said they found success in quitting gaming while also quitting fapping (i.e. masturbating–NoFap promotes the idea of rebooting or how staying away from masturbation while kicking a pornography habit really helps.)
Here is part of the original post:
“I quit video games about a week ago, and it is helping to turn this streak into a solid one. The reason I could not have a strong commitment to nofap before is that games are a sort of escape from the stress of regular life. When I get temporary stress relief and excitement from games, I learn to want that relief and excitement all the time.
Rather than being a substitute for masturbation, games perpetuate my habit of fapping. I plan to continue to totally abstain from video games until I am at least past my record of 15 days nofap, and will decide whether I want to resume after that point.
So far as a result of quitting, I have experienced
-improvement in time management
-decrease in laziness + better work ethic
-Less wanting to fap
I recommend that everyone on here, ESPECIALLY if you are a big gamer, avoid playing video games until you are satisfied with your current progress towards your goal.“
Interesting, right? According to this person, temporary stress relief from video games feeds into the stress relief he feels when fapping, which gets in the way of his primary goal of not looking at pornography.
What’s more, there are recent threads with similar accounts.
Digitally Rewired By Gaming and Pornography?
His thoughts align with those who argue that young people’s need for constant stimulation can be found both in gaming and pornography.
The Institute for Family Studies also notes that young men (the people who play video games and use porn the most) are being digitally rewired and: “are choosing to isolate themselves in a place where they have control over outcomes—where there is no fear of rejection and they are praised for their abilities.”
And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.
Another Reddit user agreed, commenting that video games and pornography are designed to cause addiction: ”They manipulate your reward system in an unnatural way just like porn does. Quick rewards for little effort.”
Clearly, at least some users of both pornography and video games see a connection between the two that are not healthy.
Another Reddit user had this to say in response to the original thread: “Games and porn are the worst addictions nowadays, only those don’t see it who dont want to. When I say this to my friends, they call me stupid, but when I tell them Ok, if it’s not an addiction, then quit it for only a week they instantly reply ’Why would I quit? It feels good.'”
Play in Freedom
Video games and pornography are addictive, and heavy users of both might have a harder time quitting pornography when they isolate themselves to play video games.
However, what we are doing here is advocating for mindful gaming, not against gaming, for people hoping to give up pornography.
We like the advice pastor Tim Challies gives on his blog, that it’s possible to play in freedom.
First off, Pastor Challies writes about how much he loves playing certain video games. He never seeks to demonize gaming itself, but instead encourages mindfulness and accountability when playing.
Also, he acknowledges that gaming bolsters addictive habits by engaging the reward system in the brain. He says that even when games don’t lead to total addiction they can become compulsive, isolating, and detrimental to a fulfilled and responsible life.
Pastor Challies says,“We need to be careful that we assuage the potential of addiction or out-of-control gaming with integrity, priorities, and self-control;
play your games in freedom, the freedom of moderation that comes through character, maturity, and a clean conscience.”
His advice sounds very similar to what we tell people about accountability. Ever Accountable advocates freedom through living life in the light of a clean conscience by staying away from pornography.
Live Life to the Fullest
Gaming and pornography are two extraordinarily different subjects. So the goal with this post is not to conflate them, but to shed light on how they might work together to hinder a persons recovery from addiction. Research (and everyday evidence) shows us that pornography is a massive distraction, usually done in secret, that causes guilt and shame.
Such negative emotions hinder living their lives to the fullest: getting out there in the world and seizing the day, making goals and sticking to them when they get difficult, and taking the time to listen, breathe, relax.
Another Reddit users’ reply to the original post parallels this idea with gaming:
“It’s the idea of not getting anything done. It’s the idea that there are a ton of things more gratifying and productive.
That shouldn’t be so hard to understand. Getting [stuff] done is better than not getting [stuff] done. Improving is better than not improving. Going outside/to the gym is better than not going outside or going to the gym.
Doesn’t mean video games are bad, it just means experiencing life to the fullest can be hindered by that. You can miss out on the outside world, less connected to it, become less creative, less hopeful. It should be balanced with things that make you feel good, fulfilled, and connected to people and the world out there.”
Any sort of addiction takes us away from feeling “good, fulfilled, and connected to people and the world out there.” It is our job as adults to examine our own impulses toward addictive materials.
If pornography recovery is on your radar, taking it easy on the gaming seems like a sensible solution. Instead of reaching for the controls, take a walk instead. Breathe some fresh air.
You can do it!
Scharrer, E., Kamau, G., Warren, S., & Zhang, C. (2018). Violent video games do contribute to aggression. In C. J. Ferguson (Ed.), Video game influences on aggression, cognition, and attention (pp. 5–21). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95495-0_2
“Online Platforms and Mental Health: A Policy Proposal” Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
September 15, 2022