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
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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