Are Video Games Keeping You Unemployed?

Are Video Games Keeping You Unemployed?

Video games keep getting more complex and visually appealing, so it’s no wonder more people are drawn to them nowadays. But this new era of compelling digital entertainment could have a dark side for unemployed young men.

Photo by AminaResheidat.

It might sound like something an old man shouts from his rocking chair, but kids these days appear to be more interested in escapism than diving into the job market. A preliminary report from economists at Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago suggests a strong link between electronic leisure activities and unemployment rates for men in their 20s.

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According to their data, the employment rate for young men without a university education has dropped considerably since 2000, and a lot of these unemployed men aren’t married and live with their parents or other family members. No work and no responsibility means they have more time for leisure activities, and gaming takes up 75 per cent of that time. In fact, the report suggests that up to 1/3 of the decline in work hours done by men in this group can be attributed to the increased use of technology for entertainment. Essentially, a lot of young, non-university educated men are living in their parents’ basement playing video games all day. But why?

For starters, the study points to video games getting more and more sophisticated as time goes on. Gaming is now a multi-billion dollar industry filled with beautiful, engaging games that can take upwards of 100 hours to complete. It’s much easier to get lost in an immersive, virtual world than it used to be. But it isn’t just about how amazing video games are now. As Erik Hurst, one of the report’s lead authors, explained in an interview with Econ Focus, living a leisure lifestyle is also a little easier than it was before:

In 1980, if you were in your 20s and you weren’t working, you were pretty isolated. You were sitting by yourself. You could watch a few channels on TV but no one else was out there. Now if you’re not working, you could be online on social media or you could be playing video games in an interactive way, things that make not working more attractive than before. And those video games and leisure goods generally are relatively cheap compared to what they were in 1980. So when you’re making your choice of working relative to your reservation wage, your reservation wage has gone up some because the outside option of not working is a lot more attractive.

You don’t require a workplace to interact with people any more, so there’s much less of a social drive when it comes to job searching. And gaming gives you instant gratification and a sense of reward every time you sit down to play. Everything you need is right at home — satisfaction, social interaction and purpose — and it’s cheap to boot. I mean, who wouldn’t honestly enjoy some extended, responsibility-free down time to play games, watch movies and read books? Heck, I know I’d disappear headfirst into Persona 5 for a few weeks if I wasn’t working right now.

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Still, it’s best not to jump to conclusions based on this data alone, especially since this study is preliminary and has yet to appear in a peer-reviewed journal. Despite the apparent link between the two, video games are certainly not the sole cause of unemployment for young men. They are more likely a side effect of the current economic state, as well as the ever-increasing popularity of gaming in our culture. Basically, video games are a fun way to pass the time and feel good about yourself when you have too much free time forced into your life.

That said, it’s not a bad idea to treat this as a cautionary tale. Escapism has it’s benefits, sure, but too much of it takes time and energy away from more productive ventures, like taking care of essentials and job searching. There’s no need to give up on gaming, but it couldn’t hurt to take a look at how much you actually play. If you aren’t getting any traction in your professional life, maybe it’s time to cut back and use that time for something more advantageous. After all, if you spend most of your time saving virtual worlds, you won’t have the time to aggressively pursue saving your own.

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Originally posted on Lifehacker.


    • Yeah. Seems less of a case of video games keep/make you unemployed and more unemployed people play more video games.

  • So this is the new angle is it…? Didnt really work out with the whole causing violence thing so now its unemployment….. Cant wait for this to fail and find out suddenly the correlation between video game popularity and global warming is a thing. gtfo.

  • In Australia there is at any given moment, an average of 150,000 jobs available, and 700,000 job seekers. Most of the jobs available go to people who are already employed. It is quite literally, mathematically impossible for most people to get a job, but sure, lets blame video games.

  • As someone who’s been long term unemployed in the not too distant past, I think there’s some truth to this. It’s a particular problem if you’re going to be going for jobs that require a portfolio, like, say, video games development.

    I think the study does need to look into the effect of unemployment on morale. It does horrible things to your self esteem the longer it takes to find work. Games make for degree of self-medication for this, but its pretty easy to use them as too much of a crutch and wind up spending all your time shooting pixel dudes to chase the blues away and never doing whats necessary to haul yourself to a less miserable life.

    • oh yeah the robots and AI industry is going to make most jobs obsolete…. 50-75% unemployment by 2030

      so yeah

  • This is conflicting: preliminary studies and preliminary results deserve to be talked about openly, but such discussion needs to be prefaced with disclosure that the results in question haven’t been peer-reviewed. Waiting until 7/8 of the way through an article before dumping that disclosure is terrible practice.

    It makes a tremendous difference to the framing of the discussion.

  • Summed up, the article is just saying that if there is a more enjoyable alternative, you will be more likely to engage in it than do something you feel less enthusiastic about. You did it as a child (unless you absolutely loved chores and homework) and you will do it as an adult for many reasons. Video games are just a modern alternative to the vices and distractions of the past. Can I get funding for “researching” obvious things too?

  • I came here to say that I have no idea how unemployed people can even afford video games these days. Then I remembered a story from a single mum

    After claiming single mother’s payments, disability pension and work compensation (apparently falling over on a wet floor), she was on around $1000 a week for doing nothing.
    For taking on even 10 hours of work she’d lose hundreds of dollars a week.

    She also played WoW about 8 hours a day while her mum looked after the kid.

    I don’t like her much >_>

    • That’s one of the annoying things about our welfare system, is that is penalises actually getting work. Once you start earning any money it quickly eats into the payments, and once you work long enough you get kicked off. If you quit or are let go from that job after the payments have stopped, you have to go through the whole damn process and queue up again – which encourages not taking full time work unless you’re 100% sure you want that job

  • Completely anecdotally I watch way too many of my Year 12 students (high school IT/tech teacher) play too much video games through Year 12 and then take good a year or two for their parents to get sick of them playing Xbox at home before commencing tafe/uni/work. I don’t think it’s ‘video games’ fault re: unemployment but they definitely don’t seem to help a not insignificant amount of young blokes.

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