NES ControllerWould you like to be able to get your child or spouse to stop playing that darned video game for just a moment so you can talk to them? While nothing works 100% of the time, these three simple steps can help you:

  1. Gain more respect
  2. Have more peace of mind
  3. Get them to stop playing without a fight

If those benefits sound worthwhile, then read on. These techniques are ones I use with my own children and are techniques we use in our business to help manage the play of millions of gamers every year.

Step 1: Know why you want them to quit

Oddly enough, this starts with you. You need to know what your objective is. Being clear why you want them to stop will make it easier for you to counter calmly and smoothly when they ask (usually in a shrill or demeaning tone) “Why!?”

“Because I said so is an answer,” but hardly the most effective. It is better if you can be sincere and clear why you want them to stop playing. Surprisingly most kids do want to help out around the house or spend time with you. However, it will also help you manage your own expectations for how long you will need their attention before they are allowed to return playing. Whether they are done for the rest of the day, or just until they get their chores done being clear and sincere will is where you have to start.

Step 2: Ask if they can pause, know how they save.

Games are different from every other media. Because you must participate players invest themselves into their games. It’s not just an activity; it is a reflection of their hard work, creativity, and passion. That is why games are so hard to walk away from.

If they can pause their game without losing their investment you will have achieved an important victory – the incremental stop. Your goal here is to gain their attention. It is extremely difficult to converse with someone who is not paying attention to you.

Once you have their attention, ask them how they save. Understanding the amount of effort required to return to their current point in the game will do two things. First, it will show respect for your gamer, and people who feel valued generally want to do things for you. Secondly, you will learn for the future, which games are easily saved and which ones are not. Some games cannot be saved in the middle of a race, or a level, or mission.

There is a huge emotional difference between quitting and stopping. If a player quits you may be asking them to abandon their investment, their work, their time their passion. They will strongly resist this. Stopping implies no loss of progress – most gamers can wrap their head around this.

Your goal is to be flexible enough to allow them to get to a place where they can stop – without quitting.

Step 3: If they cannot pause and cannot save – use ground rules.

Some very popular games cannot be paused because they are played online with other people. The game world will continue without them even though their computer or console is paused and they may even lose progress.

Further, some games cannot be saved. Some Zombie games come to mind. Once you are in you must finish it or die trying (the character, not the player).

What’s more these kinds of games are usually played with friends so leaving in the middle of a match not only feels like quitting, there is a social hit among their peers for leaving early. It can carry the same level of stigma as walking off the baseball diamond in the middle of the 4th inning with 3 innings left to play, or packing up in the middle of the second quarter of a football game. You just don’t do it.

Your strategy here is to come up with ground rules for your gamer – when they play one of these games – such as a Massively Multiplayer Online games, let them know they need to check with you to make sure they can commit to finish what they start. If they don’t they run the risk of being pulled early.

Here consistency is the key. If you say they can have the afternoon to play and finish, then you have to give them the afternoon and the chance to play and finish. Other times, when they have to stop, they have to stop. The key is that if they sense you are being fair and consistent you will get a much lower level of resistance when they need to stop.


No system works one hundred percent when a gamer is intensely focused on a brain pleasing activities.  Look video game consoles are some of the most sophisticated technology ever created by our species and they do one thing exceedingly well – stimulate your brain in ways it likes to learn.  Who would willingly walk away from that?

Game Designers furthermore are wizards at creating experiences to capture our imagination, passion, and attention.  So don’t take it out on your gamer if they find it hard to break way.  A twenty billion dollar industry makes a living trying to do just that – make it hard to break way.

However, if you try these techniques

  1. Be clear and sincere – why you want them to stop
  2. Understand how **Pause** and **Save** so they can pay attention to you.
  3. Have **ground rules** for games that can’t be stopped.

You just might be able to get your gamer to stop playing without a fight.

About the writer:

Scott NovisScott Novis is founder and CEO of Game Truck, the leading mobile video game business in the country. Scott has been coaching boys baseball for more than a decade.