“The Youth Are Playing Videogames Instead Of Working!”

A response to The New York Times.

The New York Times released a small, “analysis” piece about the reasons why young men are playing videogames instead of working. The aptly named article, “Why Some Men Don’t Work: Video Games Have Gotten Really Good“, covers the topic of why young men are choosing to stay home instead of putting in their time at work.

Actually the article is about a trend forming that is resulting in people choosing gaming over more other forms of entertainment in their leisure time.

The author framed his piece around statistics from a journal paper (this is the link the author provided in his piece) you can’t access without paying for it, so anyone looking for more information on the subject will be limited to the abstract. Luckily, to help solidify his point, Quoctrung Bui (the author of The New York Times article) used data provided by one of the author’s of the journal paper I mentioned above.

I followed the cited information back to their sources, which provided me with another article that is basically a transcript of the aforementioned journal paper contributor’s commencement speech (hint: the piece I linked was written by the person giving the speech). The only other information is a set of statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Well, you may be wondering, “what does it all mean?”

It Means Nothing

The assertion supposition made in The New York Times piece is that young men aren’t working as much lately because videogames are better than ever. That they’re more immersive, time-consuming, and addictive than they’ve ever been. There’s little in the form of substantial evidence to point back to in an attempt to legitimize the claims made. Mr. Bui relied entirely on the claims of a professor’s work from 2016 to form a basis for the article, which the general public can’t access.

The article hinges on the words of Erik Hurst PhD, who spent his entire commencement speech lamenting the decline of the modern, unskilled labor force, and comparing them to his son whom apparently would rather play videogames in lieu of eating and bathing.

On the off-chance that you’re reading this, professor Hurst; perhaps you should take your son’s videogames away completely if you’re so worried about him not taking care of himself.

He uses the trite example of man-children living in their parent’s basement to help drive his point home, if you were wondering.

In his own speech, Mr. Hurst even admits that he hasn’t been able to determine if video games are the cause of the decline in employment rates for this category of potential workers, instead pointing to vague “suggestive signs in the data” to help support his claims. Keep in mind, you can’t actually look at his data without paying to read it.

The Heart Of The Matter

At the center of this matter is the question of why employment rates on on the decline, and if leisure time is increasing. If you are to believe Hurst, unskilled labor force decreases have much to do with us young folks staying home instead of earning a paycheck or attending college. He would tell you that Americans are working less and playing more, and that’s an all-around bad thing, though some may disagree.

Looking back at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data for 2016, watching television takes high precedence for leisure time spent over playing videogames. Hurst calculated that in 2014, 10% of unskilled, unemployed young people spent 42 hours a week (~6 hours a day) playing videogames. If the averages are anything to go off of, people in the US, on average, spend 11 times more hours a day watching television compared to playing games.

Now, I had a stint where I was unemployed last year before I got a job working at a clothing store while attending college. I will admit that I spent a large portion of my time a day playing videogames. I was part of that 10% that Hurst pointed out, and he’s right that spending over 40 hours a week playing videogames is a lot of time. However, there’s only so much time in the day that you can realistically spend applying for jobs before you want to bury a rubber mallet in your skull. Once you’ve applied for as many jobs as you can find that fit your needs, all you can do is wait. In my case, I spent multiple hours a day making phone calls and receiving rejections from potential employers. It’s a mentally exhausting process.

Now I’m not making the case that everyone who is sitting at home in their parents’ basement playing videogames is simultaneously looking for work, but I’d argue that the grand majority of those out of work aren’t playing videogames in lieu of trying to find stable employment. Sometimes you can’t find work that fits your needs, or employers might be looking for someone more qualified. Perhaps employers aren’t looking to give you a job working full time, or won’t work with your schedule to account for you trying to hold a secondary employment or to attend school. The reality isn’t as simple as people like Mr. Bui and professor Hurst are trying to make it out to be.

Furthermore, I’d venture a guess that folks in the 15-35 age groups play videogames more than others because they grew up around videogames. Games have become part of their stable of entertainment sources, where those in the higher ages groups are evidently more interested in staring at a television program because that’s what they enjoy.

Yes, videogames are becoming more immersive and elaborate, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that videogames are compelling us young people to exit the labor force. The cases made by Mr. Bui and professor Hurst reek of the old arguments that those dang youths wasting their time on newfangled video machines, instead of working and watching television or going out with friends, like older folks.

But hey, I guess the article worked, Mr. Bui. You got me to read the article, even if it was a huge waste of time.

What do you think, videogame enthusiasts? Are you quitting your job to play videogames in your parents’ basement? Do your parents even have a basement? Did you bathe today?

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31 thoughts on ““The Youth Are Playing Videogames Instead Of Working!”

  1. What is weird about the article and the data presented in it, is that they totally ignore that recreational computer time has increased even more than video game in the same demographic but we’re going to assume that the advancements in video games have caused whatever the perceived issue is? Seems like a stretch. But then again, most of this type of research founded on debunked stereotypes is a stretch.

    I also find it sketchy that the suppositions are founded on a moderate increase in free time vs. a reduction in work time across age groups over the course of a year. And using those figures to assume that video games are the culprit of why less work is happening. I think I’m more likely to side with the other experts that – globalization, technological changes, and the shift to service work – are more likely culprits of why there is more free time and that younger people are more likely to adapt to these changes thus creating more time for themselves. And maybe I missed it, although I did read it twice, but I’m not seeing any evidence supporting younger people choosing video games over work. And isn’t that the idea behind their headline?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. fuck this guy… I hate when people generalize and blame video games for the shortcomings of society. And I use that term loosely. As you said being in between jobs can be tough. I’ve never been in that situation, but working and trying to get another job, going to appliations, interviews etc. is exhausting at times. Sometimes certain jobs seem nice but then throw a curve ball of a requirement your way and you’re like WTF

    but seriously, fuck this guy

    Liked by 4 people

  3. dark raspy old-timer voice

    Well, just like when the letter on paper got better. And the durn television box. Colors changed urrthing. Kids don’t do nuthin’ but wastin time that could be spent don’t pranks on m’neigbours.

    People with an agenda aren’t usually very concerned about reading stats too carefully. Damn, dumb shits.
    Great article on your part though 🙂 keep’em coming 😀 I wanna see an update

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d be happy to provide an update, but I think the author of the piece is more than happy with the gaggle of baby boomers lauding his article as a success, claiming they know tons of unemployed people who only play videogames. Daggum vidya games! Stealin’ the youths from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes!

      Thank you for reading by the way!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a bit of a theory about unskilled workers in many “developed” countries. In education, teachers (myself included) are often pushed to ensure pupils get the best grades they can with the idea the pupils will go on to a higher paid job. We are essentially telling the pupils that they don’t want unskilled work because it’s lower paid and “beneath them”. In my opinion this leads to a lot of younger people leaving school with poorer grades not wanting to take just any old job as they see it in this light, instead turning to an alternative to pass the time, whatever that may be.

    Just a theory with no evidence to back it up, but that’s what people do these days isn’t it? 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The pushing of kids in a direction not suited for them is a huge issue with today’s educational policy and one my wife sees daily. Some kids aren’t suited to go on to higher education but we’ve stigmatized any job that doesn’t require you to have a college degree or higher. And never mind the fact that jobs in plumbing, auto repair, etc… are looked down upon because those jobs are beneath people. It’s gotten absurd.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Writing a response myself… You know the research is going to be bad when the researchers blatantly ignore important aspects of an issue, like globalization, increasing workforce numbers, and decreasing “low-skill” jobs.

    Nope. Just video games are to blame. Gosh-darn millenials!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I haven’t showered in 9 years. I live in a basement and quit my job because games are too important. Having friends and companionship is cool kinda, but EVE Online is the best thing in the world! I also only eat week-old pizza and lukewarm Mountain Dew, cause that’s just what gamers do!

    Oh wait, that stereotype is older than stereotyping itself, and this guy is a jackass. Never mind the legions of drooling mongoloids who watch reality TV for hours a day – better make some ad bucks by harassing the gamers again! While we’re at it, let’s blame war in the middle east on a Counterstrike match gone bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Articles like from the new York Times piss me off, firstly why just the sheer mention of men, women game too and probably just as much so hush up editors! Secondly, its poppycock, I agree with everything you’ve mentioned, there is no evidence that gaming is having bad effects, it improves your brain and problem solving etc…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’d like to know what the vetting procedures are before something like this gets published. How many junk articles touting “negative effects” of a behaviour need to come out before someone gets hurt from following this type of unsolicited advice? I bet you that reference article behind the paywall wasn’t even read by the person who published this abomination. He probably only read the abstract too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One quick look at the comments of the article itself will perfectly illustrate why the author chose to write the piece. It has gained a lot of attention from people like me, but it also garnered a ton of support from folks who think that videogames are stealing the youth from things that are more important; like TV, football, and paying taxes.

      The thing is… news media companies actually have vetting processes for their articles, but apparently it’s common practice to let things slide. Just look at what CNN has been doing lately, like when they ended up having to fire people for not following procedure, but only after it was found that they failed to gather enough evidence to support their claim.

      Of course, Mr. Bui’s article isn’t about anything important, like potential collusion between a politician and foreign countries to influence an election. Apparently that means he can write whatever he wants, regardless of the truth behind it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That…. is completely idiotic. Oh my goodness. That takes certain assumptions and just because someone games does not mean they do not work. And like you said, you can only do so many applications before you pound your head into the table in front of you. (I hit that point a lot, and I HAVE a job. Dear Lord….)
    But an interesting read. Thank you. Now I go rant? No, no, you took care of the important stuff. I am just going to ignore the article and be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m really tired of correlation being conflated with causation and believe me…I know how detrimental that can be. I’m a fat woman so people are constantly like “OMG you must have high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.” and I’m like “Yeah, my blood pressure is so low I pass out if I stand too quickly, and I’m not even pre-diabetic.” The reason there’s less manual labor is because most of those jobs are automated now, and we’ve moved to a more service based and COMPUTER based society. Computers…those same things you play video games on, which (along with robots) are pretty much taking a lot of the high intensity labor jobs.

    Someone recently made an excellent point about why video games receive the brunt of vitriol, and it’s because they’re the newest form of media. It’s similar to how smartphones are blamed for the breakdown of society and “real” conversation/discourse, and I just roll my eyes so hard I see the past. Humans have been finding ways to ignore each other since the beginning of time, and I can’t even say that social anxiety and other mental health concerns are higher, because it’s more than likely the people who had such before smartphones and long(er) distance communication had to suffer through it, because they didn’t have a choice. Now we do. Humans aren’t more neurotic; we’re just more aware of it…which could arguably make us more neurotic. Not the point, ignore me.

    Unemployed young men are playing video games more, not because they don’t want to work, but more than likely because it’s the form of leisure they turn to during the job hunting process. If games didn’t exist, they’d watch TV more or read more, but because games are out there, and our generation plays them, and our generation is more likely to be underemployed/unemployed possibly moving back in with our parents (where boomerang generation came from) due to many forces outside our control, of course it’s going to be higher rates of playing.

    That article is just poor research, and I’m glad you decided to tackle it. It infuriates me that drivel like this can be written and published, and many people will read it and let it confirm their already present biases when it holds as much weight as feather.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole “back in my day” argument is tired, and has been going on for decades. Before videogames, it was TV. Before TV, it was radio. Before radio, it was magazines. It goes on, and on, all the way back. I’m sure that there were elderly cavemen lamenting the youth playing with fire, saying “back in my day, we banged rocks together and spent time with our mates instead of playing with that dang fire.”

      I linked a video in the post from Vsauce that explains pretty well how I feel about that subject.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly. People have always found ways to ignore each other and we always will. The internet and smartphones just make it easier lol.

        I love Vsauce. I’ll have to add that to my watch later list!

        My husband was in the same situation you were in when he was unemployed. You can’t spend 24 hours a day looking for a job. He’d get up, hop online, do the job search thing, follow up, make phone calls, etc. then play video games or watch stuff. Then he’d make dinner when I came home from work. The authors of articles such as this just throw information together, point out a correlation, and don’t bother to research the why.


  11. Also as usual this professor doesn’t seem to realise that maybe education is too expensive but it’s not that his College charges too much it’s all video games “fault”. Not to mention you get a degree and there aren’t any jobs in the field left by the time your done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. His whole point seems to be the usual bogeyman argument. Every generation seems to have a justification for why the job market is stagnant, whether it’s automation or immigration. Now it’s just that people don’t want to work supposedly. In a decade or two, it’ll be something else I’m sure. Doesn’t change the fact that this professor and others like him are full of crap though.


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