Some Young Men Choose Video Games Over Work

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Some Young Men Choose Video Games Over Work

by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News


In rural America every young person who can be filling a job vacancy at a local business is considered a valuable asset. Businesses advertise far and wide seeking workers. They conduct job fairs hoping to draw in new employees. But even in western Minnesota hundreds of jobs go unfilled because employers can’t find the people to fill them.

It is hard enough to get young people to move to rural Minnesota, leaving the big cities where there is a lot more action and other young people to socialize with, to fill job vacancies. Who knew that a growing challenge for employers would be that potential employees are being stolen away by video games?

 “As of last year, 22 percent of men between the ages of 21 and 30 with less than a bachelor’s degree reported not working at all in the previous year — up from only 9.5 percent in 2000,” Ana Swanson writes in The Washington Post. That is nearly one-fifth of the eligible workers in this age group who aren’t working. Why aren’t they employed?

“Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to the study, which is based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys,” Swanson writes.

How can these young men afford to not work and instead just sit around playing video games all day? It is because they are living at home. Consider these two facts Swanson points out:

1. For the first time since the 1930s more U.S. men aged 18-34 are living with their parents than with romantic partners, according to the Pew Research Center.

2. Nearly two-thirds of nonworking, less-educated young men live with parents or other family members, up from about one-third before the recession of 2007 to 2009.

Too many young men are finding more satisfaction, and happiness, in playing video games than they do in bringing home a paycheck and living on their own. These are young men who are perfectly capable of working, but who choose to sit home playing a video game instead.

Some have argued that the reason these non-college-educated young men haven’t entered the workforce is that there is a “lingering weakness in the economy” and that the jobs they would usually take aren’t available. We know in rural Minnesota that isn’t true. There are plenty of jobs available for these young men.

That young working age men are sitting out of the workforce creates a troublesome scenario for employers in the near future. As more and more of the Baby Boom generation retire a significant labor shortage is developing not just in rural Minnesota, but also across the nation.

These same young men are also missing out on the crucial job experience and training that will advance their careers later in life. It will be difficult for them to find better, head-of-household jobs when they start having families. This means they are more likely to rely on social programs to support themselves and their families.

Young women in this age group are not nearly as prone to sit home in front of a video screen playing a game. In fact, they express a growing frustration with these “men-children” who are failing to take responsibility for themselves and in relationships. Swanson points that young women are more likely to go back to school when they leave the labor force rather than sit around.

In some ways, these young men who become hooked on video games as young kids and teens are victims, Swanson says. Increasingly sophisticated video games are getting better and better at manipulating the reward receptors in our brains that make us want to stay engaged and not walk away. When we do finally walk away, we can’t wait to get back in front of the screen.

Enticing players back has become increasingly easy for the video game programmers because today’s games are long passed the stage of an individual sitting in front of a screen isolated in his lonely electronic contest. Now you are pitted against people playing the same game all around the world. You can be adversaries and allies with people you’ve never met. You interact, get encouragement, and build a social network around the game. League of Legends has 27 million players a day.

At some point, the reward of playing the video game becomes more important than the reward of performing well at a job and earning a paycheck. The same characteristics are attributed to people suffering from addictions.

Playing the games is virtually free making it an easy addiction to fall into – if you don’t count that your parents or someone else might be paying for your lodging, food and electricity. There is also plenty of encouragement, even status, that goes with playing video games. These days colleges recognize some video games as a sanctioned sport and give out scholarships. There is a hall of fame for video games.

There is a strong incentive for the video game makers to build the most entertaining, addictive games their genius programmers can imagine – there is an immense financial reward. Video game makers earned $30.4 billion last year.

There is one popular voice urging young people to break away from their video games – Pope Francis. “We didn’t come into this world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on,” he told a group of young people in Poland. He urged them to become socially and politically active in an effort to make a difference in their corner of the world. He could have also urged them to get out of the house and get a job.

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