Young men: Video games instead of jobs?
“Is staging a heist in Grand Theft Auto V more interesting to men in their 20s than working an actual job?” asked Sean Higgins in WashingtonExaminer.com. Apparently so, according to a disturbing new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The hours worked by men ages 21 to 30 declined 12 percent between 2000 to 2015—and the report’s authors believe about a third of that decline is due to the increasingly immersive world of gaming. Many young men, researchers say, are finding they’d rather be avatars with magical abilities in the imaginary world of EverQuest than take a minimum- wage job. “Joblessness is usually a reliable predictor of misery,” said Tim Harford in the Financial Times, and so is living with relatives, as nearly 70 percent of young workforce dropouts do. Yet these “basement-dwelling videogamers” aren’t miserable. In fact, the proportion of men under 30 “saying they’re ‘very happy’ or ‘pretty happy’” has risen to 89 percent—even as they turn “their backs on reality.”
Behold “the great video game scare of 2017,” said James Pethokoukis in TheWeek.com. If young men are working less, it’s because the 2008 recession wiped out so many low-skill jobs. In our “Not So Great Recovery,” employers are demanding more education and/or experience in new hires, which many young workers lack. Young men are probably turning to gaming because of their joblessness, not the other way round. “America faces a massive array of daunting economic challenges” —but “Final Fantasy and Call of Duty are not among them.”
Don’t be so sure of that, said Peter Suderman in Reason.com. When I recently played Mass Effect: Andromeda, I led a mission to settle a galaxy, while dealing with resource shortages, “menacing aliens,” and other complex problems. When I succeeded, I earned clear rewards, such as points or virtual money. Today’s video games are not just vivid and engrossing; they’re “purpose generators,” offering “a sort of universal basic income for the soul” that many real jobs do not. That’s both sad and alarming, said Andrew Egger in WeeklyStandard.com. “When a gamer comes to the end of a long day of World of Warcraft, the monsters he’s slain, the nation he’s defended— they’re all fictions.” Of what use to society is an achievement that “doesn’t correspond to any actual reality?” ■