On gaming, addiction and working around the Cold Turkey blocker

Thoughts about gaming addiction, and a few ways to go around Cold Turkey Blocker

On gaming, addiction and working around the Cold Turkey blocker

TL;DR : I bought a software to block games and reduce the amount of hours I game per day. But I also found many ways to go around it and compiled a list

My relationship with gaming

I've always had a semi-healthy relationship with gaming. It is a HUGE part of my life. I total over 10k hours of gaming over the years. I like team games very much, and for example I total over 3k hours of DOTA2, and over 1k hours of Apex.

I accept it, because it's part of my life, and I also found many of my best friends online while gaming (like many of us those days) or doing LAN parties.

My main issue is that it is a complete automatism. After work and when everybody is in bed, I game. During nap time, I game. I used to work on side projects a lot but as a father of 2 kids now, I am always quite tired or low on energy and gaming has become the default option over reading / open-source / learning. . .

I am very happy about my life, so it's not that bad but this is something I see, and that I want to change. There are many things I want to do and that I used to do that I can't touch anymore now that I have a family. And the main reason is that I fill most of my free time with gaming.

It's also a vicious circle : I game because I don't have much energy, which leads to me being tired and having low energy.

"You could just stop says my girlfriend". Well thanks but it's not helpful for me. Or rather, it helps me just as much as "just eat healthy then if you want to lose weight" or "just go to the gym if you wanna look fit". There are bigger forces at play here.

Couple years ago, I bought Cold Turkey to help me reduce my gaming time. Cold Turkey is a very simple software that you install on your computer and that blocks certain applications from being run. You can go "cold turkey" (block everything) or set time ranges, time blocks, … Here is an example of my gaming list block :

Cold turkey interface with my games blocked

Once you start a block, you can't go back! If I set a week of Cold Turkey in the software, I will not be able to run the DOTA2 executable for a week. End of story. And there is no point killing the Cold Turkey windows process. It auto restarts itself :) What I want to share in this post is the cat and mouse game that has been going on for over a year now with the creator of that application.

Because just like when your mum used to hide your controllers back in the days when you were grounded, there is a large excitement in finding those controllers again :).

Just uninstall it

In the very early days, you could just uninstall Cold Turkey. First via the 'uninstall' dialog from Windows. Later via an uninstaller located in the installation folder

The hidden uninstaller tool

Of course, uninstalling under one minute makes the whole software quite useless isn't it. So after a while the creator removed those options. But in case people still wanted to uninstall, there used to be a hidden page on the website that would lead to the uninstaller file. Download and run

Let's just copy the game folder

Once the creator removed that uninstaller, another creative way to play I had was to simply copy the whole installation folder of the game in another location; that wouldn't be monitored by Cold Turkey.

Let's go to the future!

But that also got countered by the creator. So the next obvious option is clear : Let's change the computer date to after the block is finished so you can play! That worked for a long time, though some games like DOTA wouldn't let you run the game is your clock wasn't set at the correct time. So you would go ahead in time, disable the block and go back to the correct time.

Going to the registry

Once that also got patched by the creator (you are now prevented parts of the system settings when a block is active), the next option was to look for the registry keys of Cold Turkey when the settings were stored, and remove them... A technique well know for other software as well.

The SQLite database

Lately, those registry keys have been moved. So I had to investigate a bit deeper. Well, not that deep, it turns out. After fiddling around for a minute, I found out that settings for the software are stored in C:\ProgramData\Cold Turkey. Looking there shows a bunch of SQLite databases... Interesting :).

File explorer showing Cold Turkey's SQLite databases

Well, let's open those databases using a SQLite database viewer. The database data-app.db contains a single value called "settings". Let's have a look

  "blocks": {

    "games": {
      "enabled": "true",
      "type": "scheduled",
      "timer": "",
      "startTime": "2021,10,8,9,2",
      "lock": "none",
      "lockUnblock": "true",
      "restartUnblock": "true",
      "break": "none",
      "password": "",
      "randomTextLength": "30",
      "window": "lock@9,0@17,0",
      "users": "all",
      "web": [],
      "exceptions": [],
      "apps": [
        "folder:C:/Program Files (x86)/Origin Games/Apex",
        "folder:C:/Program Files (x86)/Origin Games/Battlefield V",
        "folder:C:/Program Files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/common",
        "folder:C:/Program Files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/common/dota 2 beta/game/bin",
        "file:C:/Program Files (x86)/Steam/steamapps/common/Hell Let Loose/HLL.exe"
      "schedule": [
          "id": "0",
          "startTime": "0,8,0",
          "endTime": "0,22,30",
          "break": "30"
          "id": "1",
          "startTime": "1,8,0",
          "endTime": "1,22,30",
          "break": "30"
          "id": "2",
          "startTime": "2,8,0",
          "endTime": "2,22,30",
          "break": "30"
          "id": "3",
          "startTime": "3,8,0",
          "endTime": "3,22,30",
          "break": "30"
          "id": "4",
          "startTime": "4,8,0",
          "endTime": "4,22,30",
          "break": "30"
          "id": "5",
          "startTime": "5,8,0",
          "endTime": "5,22,30",
          "break": "30"
          "id": "6",
          "startTime": "6,8,0",
          "endTime": "6,22,30",
          "break": "30"
      "customUsers": []

Hum.... Interesting, this JSON "games" section. What do you think happens if we change that value to "enabled": "true" and restart the computer? :)

Looks like I found the latest way to disable the Blocker.

A word of conclusion

As much as that software helped me, I find it has a vicious aspect to it : It makes a game out of "beating the system" and playing again. Can't blame the creator for it though, that sort of behavior is typical with addictions...

I realize that a tool won't fix that habit that's engraved for years in my routine now. I also learn to accept that I'm not perfect, and that gaming is a way to release steam and nobody can be productive 100% of the time.

I still think that I should reduce my exposure to gaming though. It's a process,  a work in progress, and it will take introspection.

Anyways, not sure if that resonates with anyone here. If not, maybe the reading was at least a bit fun. Take care of yourselves everyone!