It’s undeniable that summer is the perfect time to game. When the sun is blisteringly hot and the humidity makes you break out into a sweat as soon as you step outside, all you want to do is stay inside with the air conditioning on full blast and the curtains closed. School is out, meaning kids and teens have much more time on their hands to dedicate to beating the latest games. Summer is also the season of E3, when tons of exciting announcements and trailers get us hyped for releases in the years to come. All in all, staying inside and doing nothing but gaming is a pretty appealing prospect to many people during the summer months.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that there are a variety of other fun activities that can be taken advantage of in the heat. Summer is a great time to go swimming, stay out late in the warm air, go to outdoor concerts and other events, visit conventions, play sports, host barbeques and cookouts, and more. While it can be tempting to spend the vast majority of your summer indoors in front of a screen, it’s healthier and (oftentimes) more fun to participate in a wide variety of warm-weather activities. Injecting some variety into your summer routine will keep you busy, ward off summer boredom, improve mental and physical health, and help you explore the world post-COVID. Read on for ways you can find a balance between gaming and other great summer activities.

Schedule Your Gaming

When the days are long and work or school is slow, it’s easy to get lost in hours and hours of gaming, particularly in grind-heavy games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. While it’s fine to set aside a day or two for play if you have a specific goal or endpoint in mind, allowing gaming to consume the majority of your time every day generally isn’t healthy in the long run, particularly if you’re desperate for a way to get away from the real world. If you think you’re playing too much or your friends and family start to wonder where you’ve disappeared to, try setting a time limit on your gaming or only playing during a particular time of day. You can even try playing in bite-sized chunks – for example, play for 20 minutes, then take the dog for a walk, then play for another 10.

RELATED: Three Game Recommendations to Level Up Your In-Person Gaming Reunions

I know that if left unfettered, I would spend the entire day wandering from game to game, despite the fact that I have a large stack of unread books and an even larger stack of unfinished work. To prevent myself from falling victim to the allure of an ARAM round or a Battle Tower session, I only game in the evenings after all my work is finished. I also try to break up longer gaming sessions with something else, like reading a chapter of a book or stretching while I grab a snack. When it’s time to go to bed, I know I can’t play again until I get the following day’s work finished. Holding myself accountable and creating something to look forward to at the end of the day gives me more motivation to get my work done and ensures that I spend any free time during the day on other (equally fun!) summer activities.

Find Other Activities

This was a tough one for me. After all, what’s more comfortable than curling up in front of your PC with your favorite game and the A/C on full blast? At the same time, I knew I needed to get out more, particularly since I’m fully vaccinated and can experience all the world has to offer again. Like I mentioned earlier, there are tons of summer activities that can give you a break from gaming and improve your health – and the best part is that most of them probably aren’t far from where you live.

If you’re looking to actively boost your physical and mental health, look no further than summer sports. Amateur leagues are a great way to get involved with a fun activity and meet new people – some of whom might even become your new gaming buddies! If you’re not into organized sports, simply going for a walk in the evening when it’s cooler or hitting the pool during the heat of the day are great ways to raise your energy level and feel a little better. More into your dog than other people? Take them for more frequent walks or visit a dog park.

Other great ways to spend the summer are attending barbecues, parties, and other outdoor gatherings. It doesn’t have to be a blowout block party or a club night: even just cracking a drink with a few friends around someone’s fire pit is a fun way to spend an evening. Now that more people are getting vaccinated and COVID-19 is less of an issue in the US, concerts are returning and restaurants are opening again, providing more ways to get out and see the world. The lessening of COVID also means that many gaming conventions are reopening – if you live around a decently-sized metropolitan area, chances are that your city has some sort of anime or gaming meetup. These are a ton of fun to attend and are a great way to stay connected to the gaming world without playing for hours and hours every day.

Stay In Tune With Yourself

As fun as marathon gaming sessions can be, it’s important to recognize when your play is becoming a problem. If you find yourself skipping meals, falling behind in work or school, or cancelling meetups with friends so that you can play more, it’s time to examine your habits and get help from a mental health professional. In my experience, I’ve found that it’s never the game that’s the problem – it’s usually that people are playing to avoid something in their life that they can’t or don’t want to deal with. Play and fantasy are good ways to escape from reality for a little while, but when that escape becomes more and more frequent, it may be time to scale back and figure out what the problem is.

“Gaming addiction” is a highly contentious term. The condition doesn’t have any set-in-stone threshold, meaning that its parameters are different for everyone. Listen to your body and mind and learn to recognize when something is becoming a problem. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your support network, whether that’s your family, friends, SO, or even your gaming buddies. Someone out there will listen, I promise.

On a lighter note, sitting and staring at screens for long periods of time can be detrimental to your physical health. Even if you don’t work out, remember to get up and move every once in a while and to stay hydrated, especially during the hottest hours of the day. (If you’re looking for a good way to get moving, might I suggest our summer Animal Crossing sweat session?) Keeping a regular sleep schedule and getting enough rest each night will give you more energy for all of these activities, including gaming. Above all, listen to what your body is telling you and act accordingly – which includes getting help when something doesn’t feel right.

For many of us, gaming is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Sometimes there’s nothing better than sitting down with your friends at the end of the day and pouring your energy into your favorite game. At the same time, making sure you keep digital play in balance with other activities is an important part of being a responsible, healthy gamer. Keeping up with your mental and physical health, staying in touch with friends and family, and trying out new summer activities are great ways to keep gaming in balance with other areas of your life.

Stay cool and happy gaming from all of us at Ritual Motion!