2020 has been a cocktail of events and devastation, and for a lot of people, gaming has transformed into a larger source of escape and solace. Shoving away the hardships of the world for a couple of hours of gametime seems like a normal and healthy thing to do. However, what happens when video games turn into a source of stress?

What is Gaming Fatigue?

In a nutshell, gaming fatigue is another way to describe burnout. It’s a term many use in the workforce, particularly the healthcare industry. While gaming may not be a strenuous job (for some), it can still have the same effect as general burnout “symptoms” begin to emerge. Exhaustion is obviously common, but gaming fatigue can deliver a package of new stressors that can transform your escape into a listless nightmare.

Streamers often talk about gaming fatigue, particularly how the grind mentality plays a major role in burnout and other mental health issues. Streaming the same game for 8-12 hours every day can feel like a suffocating time loop for many. On top of that, add on posting clips to social media and editing longer videos for YouTube. Where does sleep come in?

Competitors also face severe gaming fatigue. While their focus might not revolve around creating content, most esports players livestream practices and scrimmages. Traveling to events and maintaining their top form over a tournament can feel like swimming with weights.

Tian “Meiko” Ye, League of Legends player for EDward Gaming, is no stranger to burnout. He knows that it’s a huge problem for other players in the industry.

“Burnout is something that happens to many professional players,” Meiko stated. “When I feel tired, I try to make some adjustments to my routine and do some activities that make me feel relaxed and happy.”

For teammate Park “Viper” Do-hyeon, it’s all about staying focused on the game: “To me, work always comes first. I try to pursue my hobbies and other interests without affecting my competitive state.”

Team Razer’s Xian is a Street Fighter World Champion, but even he gets hit with burnout. For him it’s about recognizing the signs and maintaining healthy time management.

“I recognize burnout when I do not feel like playing after waking up the next day,” Xian said. “My eyes may start to hurt, my back and neck feels sore, and I tend to lose more often at my matches. To prevent this, I make sure to take a break every two hours.”

For Xian, sometimes fixing it just means switching games for a bit or stepping away from gaming altogether for some fresh air. “I try to empty my brain of any thoughts and try to rest my eyes by looking at some greenery and breathing some fresh air outside my training room.”

What about the casual player trying to stay home during the pandemic? I turned to Skyrim to help manage my stress levels and interject a dose of relaxation, but eventually even turning on the console seemed like a heavy task. When your primary source of comfort and entertainment turns into stress or boredom, you’ll find yourself tumbling down a spiral of feelings that often define burnout.

Fighting Against It

A healthy lifestyle is all about balance, and fighting gaming fatigue requires discipline with a dose of time management. If you’re experiencing reduced performance and a loss of interest in your favorite games, it’s time to do something different.

The advice probably feels repetitive: Take breaks. Surprisingly for many, taking breaks can feel impossible. Stretching and drinking water every 30 minutes can help keep a long streaming session energetic, but it goes beyond that. Pulling away from gaming altogether is an absolute must.

Orthopedic Physical Therapist Dr. Jordan Tsai mirrored my thoughts: “True burnout usually means losing focus/enjoyment playing the game. It helps having other games in a different genre that you enjoy or even better: a non-gaming hobby to reset your mental.” He continued, “Cardio exercise is fantastic in between because it not only promotes health (always a good thing) but has been shown to increase endorphins which can help you feel happier the next time you log in!”

For me, it’s all about maintaining a healthy schedule. When you develop healthy patterns, it becomes easier to take care of yourself. Find something active to dive into, whether it’s running, hiking, or in my case, boxing. It’s crazy how a 45 minute boxing class every day can help me feel energetic and productive! Even if it’s scheduling a 30 minute walk outside, do it.

While exercising is important, sleep is also vital, and it’s one of the main things gamers neglect. Consistently streaming 12 hours overnight might initially pull in a wave of success, but burnout can end your career in an instant. And with a pandemic forcing people to stay isolated, it has become easier to succumb to negative mental health.

Imane “Pokimane” Anys took a break from streaming in August due to burnout. She stated, “Since quarantine began, it’s been hard for me to find the same joys and motivation for making content. The things I look forward to the most, like visiting my family, traveling, going to conventions, and meeting some of you, aren’t possible right now.”

She added: “This has led me to feeling burnt out for quite some time, and because of that, I’ve been planning to take a month off. I recognize that I’m very lucky to be able to work during a pandemic, however, I still need to do what’s best for my mental health.”

While doing the right thing for yourself may feel counterproductive, you’ll discover that maintaining a healthy schedule can open the doors to so many opportunities, both personally and professionally.

Now, go drink some water.