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Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.)

Video games, like work, are basically a series of quests comprised of mundane and repetitive tasks: Receive an assignment, travel to a location, overcome some obstacles, perform some sort of search, pick up an item, and then deliver it in exchange for a reward—and, usually, another quest, which starts the cycle all over again. You are not playing the game so much as following its orders. The game is your boss; to succeed, you have to do what it says.

This is especially true in the genre that has come to dominate much of big-budget game development, the open-world action role-playing game, which blends the hair-trigger violence of traditional shooters with the massive explorable landscapes of games like Grand Theft Auto and the intricate craft and character leveling systems of pen-and-paper tabletop fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons.

The games consist of a series of assignments combined with a progression of skills, awards, and accomplishments, in which you, the player, become more powerful and proficient as a result of your dedication. And dedication is what these games require. It is not uncommon for single-player games to take upward of 60 hours to complete. Online, multiplayer variants can easily chew up hundreds or even thousands of hours of time, with the most accomplished players putting in dozens of hours a week for months on end. Although these games are usually packaged in a veneer of fantasy, they work less like traditional entertainment and more like employment simulators.

So it is perhaps not surprising that for many young men, especially those with lower levels of educational attainment, video games are increasingly replacing work. Since 2000, men in their 20s without a bachelor's degree are working considerably less and spending far more time engaged in leisure activities, which overwhelmingly means playing video games. Over the same time frame, this group of men has also grown more likely to be single, to have no children, and to live with parents or other family members.

The surprising thing about the stereotypical aimless young man, detached from work and society, playing video games in his parents' basement: He's actually happier than ever.

I can relate.

In March, I spent a chilly weekend playing Mass Effect: Andromeda. This is the fourth installment in one of the gaming world's most popular franchises, and it represents something of a reboot for the science fiction series, with a new protagonist and a new galaxy to explore.

Joanna Andreasson (photo: Call of Duty, EA Games)Joanna Andreasson (photo: Call of Duty, EA Games)In the game, I played Ryder, a young woman—my choice—who, after the prologue, becomes a "pathfinder," the lead explorer on a joint human-alien mission to settle the Andromeda galaxy. That role came with considerable responsibilities. When I arrived in the new galaxy, I discovered that the mission had already gone awry: The life-sustaining planets that I expected to find had been made barren by a mysterious alien menace, colonist ships had gone missing, and the space station that was supposed to serve as the mission hub had been divided by cultural disputes, bureaucratic infighting, and resource shortages. In addition to shooting a predictably large quantity of menacing aliens and robots, my job—and it was most definitely a job—was to solve all of these problems.

That meant collecting basic resources from nearby planets and developing them into useful technologies. It meant setting up outposts for colonists and assigning them to various tasks. It meant resolving thorny personality disputes between various administrators and staffers on the space station, and assisting other staffers with their work.

In some ways I was playing sci-fi CEO, but in other ways it felt more like being an all-purpose flunky. Much of the game involves menial chores. My character was equipped with a handheld scanner that can catalog items and provide technical information about many of the objects she encounters. The game offers rewards for scanning just about everything, which means that the play frequently descends into a kind of cataloging and list making, hunting down items to scan, using the scanner to trace wires and connections and solve ancient alien relic puzzles that rather suspiciously resemble games of Sudoku. Land on any of the game's planets and pull up a map, and you'll see that it's covered with icons and markers, each of which represents a task to complete, a person to talk with, an item to acquire.

Completing all of these objectives would take dozens of hours. Most are not even directly related to the game's core storyline. Instead they are what gamers refer to as side-quests—secondary activities and sideline time wasters embedded inside a massive virtual time waster.

The multitude of priorities and objectives means that there is always someplace to go, something to do, someone to talk to, or some object to fetch. Like many games, Mass Effect: Andromeda is designed to entice the player with a cycle of discovery, frustration, achievement, and advancement that never fully resolves, because each in-game accomplishment leads to the discovery of more tasks and objectives, more upgrades and abilities, more work to be done. At its best, it was satisfying, distracting, and frustrating, all at once. I found myself feeling not only that I could play forever, but that I must.

Andromeda is not the most entertaining game I have ever played, but with its endless array of tasks to complete and objectives to achieve, it is among the most job-like in its approach to game design. At times it hit rather close to home.

The game boasts an intricate conversation system, and a substantial portion of the playtime is spent talking to in-game characters, quizzing them for information (much of which adds color but is ultimately irrelevant), asking them for assignments, relaying details of your progress, and then finding out what they would like you to do next.

At a certain point, it started to feel more than a little familiar. It wasn't just that it was a lot like work. It was that it was a lot like my own work as a journalist: interviewing subjects, attempting to figure out which one of the half-dozen questions they had just answered provided useful information, and then moving on to ask someone else about what I had just been told.

Eventually I quit playing. I already have a job, and though I enjoy it quite a bit, I didn't feel as if I needed another one.

But what about those who aren't employed? It's easy to imagine a game like Andromeda taking the place of work.

The economy has rebounded since the great recession, and national unemployment now sits below 5 percent. But that figure only counts people who are actively seeking work. Even as the unemployment rate has dropped, labor force participation—the number of people who either work or want to work—has dwindled. In particular, young men without college degrees have become increasingly detached from the labor market. And what they appear to be doing instead is playing video games.

In a September 2016 piece for Chicago Booth Magazine, adapted from a speech delivered the previous June, University of Chicago economist Erik Hurst described his 12-year-old son's fanatical devotion to gaming. "If it were up to him," Hurst wrote, "I have no doubt he would play video games 23 and a half hours per day. He told me so. If we didn't ration video games, I am not sure he would ever eat. I am positive he wouldn't shower."

For Hurst, the pull that games exerted on his son helped illustrate what's happening to young men in the broader economy. Between 2000 and 2015, he said, the percentage of lower-skilled men aged 21 to 55 who had a job dropped from 84 percent to 77 percent, "a massive change relative to historical levels." The decline is particularly acute among men in their 20s. Employment fell 10 points over the same period, from 82 percent to 72 percent. In 2015, he noted, 22 percent of men in their 20s who lacked a college degree had not worked a single day during the previous year—up from 10 percent in 2000.

In 2000, just 35 percent of lower-skilled young men lived with family. Now a slight majority of lower-skilled young men reside with their parents, whether they're employed or not. For those who lack employment, the figure is 70 percent. The vast majority of low-skilled young men—roughly 90 percent—have not built families. "If you're not working, as a man in your 20s with less than a bachelor's degree, you're pretty much single and childless," Hurst said last year on the podcast EconTalk.

In follow-up interviews, the economist has stressed that his research is preliminary and ongoing, and the particulars are subject to revision. Working papers released in the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017 told essentially the same story: Low-skilled men are working less and living at home more.

The surprising thing about the stereotypical aimless young man playing video games in his parents' basement: He's actually happier than ever.

Instead of working, they are playing video games. About three quarters of the increase in leisure time among men since 2000 has gone to gaming. Total time spent on computers, including game consoles, has nearly doubled.

You might think that this would be demoralizing. A life spent unemployed, living at home, without romantic prospects, playing digital time wasters does not sound particularly appealing on its face.

Yet this group reports far higher levels of overall happiness than low-skilled young men from the turn of the 21st century. In contrast, self-reported happiness for older workers without college degrees fell during the same period. For low-skilled young women and men with college degrees, it stayed basically the same. A significant part of the difference comes down to what Hurst has called "innovations in leisure computer activities for young men."

The problems come later.

A young life spent playing video games can lead to a middle age without marketable skills or connections. "There is some evidence," Hurst pointed out, "that these young, lower-skilled men who are happy in their 20s become much less happy in their 30s or 40s." So are these guys just wasting their lives, frittering away their time on anti-social activities?

Hurst describes his figures as "staggering" and "shocking"—a seismic shift in the relationship of young men to work. "Men in their 20s historically are a group with a strong attachment to the labor force," he writes. "The decline in employment rates for low-skilled men in their 20s was larger than it was for all other sex, age, and skill groups during this same time period."

But there's another way to think about the change: as a shift in their relationship to unemployment. Research has consistently found that long-term unemployment is one of the most dispiriting things that can happen to a person. Happiness levels tank and never recover. One 2010 study by a group of German researchers suggests that it's worse, over time, for life satisfaction than even the death of a spouse. What video games appear to do is ease the psychic pain of joblessness—and to do it in a way that is, if not permanent, at least long-lasting.

For low-skilled young men, what is the alternative to playing games? We might like to imagine that they would all become sociable and highly productive members of society, but that is not necessarily the case.

"Every society has a 'bad men' problem," says Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University. Cowen's 2013 book Average Is Over envisions a future in which high-productivity individuals create the vast majority of society's economic value, while lower-skilled individuals spend their days on increasingly inexpensive entertainment that helps order their lives and allow for a baseline level of daily happiness. Hurt's research suggests that we may be witnessing the beginnings of that world already.

Joanna Andreasson (photo: Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA Games)Joanna Andreasson (photo: Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA Games)In terms of behavior and performance, Cowen says, "Variance for men is always higher." That is, men are more likely to exhibit extremes of character and behavior, both positive and negative. A whole generation of men obsessively playing video games during their prime decades of life may not be ideal, but most would agree that it is preferable to riots.

Are riots a possibility? In his 2016 book The Wealth of Humans, journalist Ryan Avent writes about the evolution of the labor market from the industrial revolution through the coming era of automation and artificial intelligence, which he argues will make millions of jobs obsolete. Avent envisions a possible future in which wages for low-skilled individuals grow ever smaller, and in which many have a difficult time finding work at all. Even if we eventually adapt to the new labor market—finding, for example, work servicing the computers and machines that perform much of the world's labor—the economic disruption will be severe, and it's likely to produce political and social upheaval.

"In a very low-wage world," Avent writes, "more people will opt out of work. That will inevitably strain the social-safety net; societies will be ever more clearly divided into those who work and pay for social programmes and those who live off of them." If this dynamic is not handled with care, he worries that it could lead to "intense political conflict" between those two groups. Indeed, Avent raises the possibility that the global rise of populist movements on both the left and right may be an early signal that such tensions are already building.

Discussions about low-skilled unemployment and the future of work—or the lack of it—invariably turn to the prospect of reforming the welfare state by instituting a universal basic income. In many ways, the heart of the issue is not gaming but worklessness and its consequences.

Basic income proposals vary (see "The Indestructible Idea of the Universal Basic Income"), but the core idea is to provide everyone, rich or poor, with a guaranteed payment that would allow him or her to live without working, or at least significantly reduce the need to generate income. The goal would be to create a system in which everyone is entitled to a minimum standard of living, one that is sufficient but not very luxurious.

Left unanswered is the question of what happens after one's basic needs are provided for. Individuals vary, but virtually everyone seeks more out of life than low-level material subsistence. People whose survival needs are met seek power and growth, status and social connection—benefits even the most generous imaginable basic income cannot provide.

What, in other words, would people do with their time?

Hurst's research suggests that many people, or at least many low-skilled young men, would use it to play video games. Those living with and off of their parents are, in effect, already receiving a kind of basic income, administered privately at the family level. That is enough to survive, but for most people it is not enough to feel content.

That's where games come in. They don't put food on the table. But they do provide, at least in the short to medium term, a sense of focus and success, structure and direction, skill development and accomplishment. Spend any time reading video game reviews, and you'll find that two of the most common terms of praise are that a game made the reviewer "feel powerful" and that it provided a "sense of achievement." Games, with their endless task lists and character-leveling systems, their choice architectures and mission checklists, are purpose generators. They bring order to gamers' lives.

Even the most open-ended games tend to offer a sense of progress and direction, completion and commitment. In other words, they make people happy—or at least happier, serving as a buffer between the player and despair. Video games, you might say, offer a sort of universal basic income for the soul.

As with welfare and transfer programs, there are trade-offs: They can cushion individuals from life's difficulties and hardships, but they can also provide disincentives to work by making unemployment more pleasurable. In economists' terms, video games raise an individual's reservation wage—the amount of compensation it takes to make someone choose to work.

A crucial difference, of course, is that playing video games does not incur a direct burden on taxpayers. On the other hand, as Avent notes, a world in which prime-age workers are playing games rather than building employment skills and careers is one that is likely to see slower economic growth, and to strain the social safety net.

Yet games may also reduce the sort of political frictions that worry both Cowen and Avent: If such entertainments can make life more comfortable for the unemployed, they reduce the likelihood of anger and upheaval. Appealing, engaging games may raise the opportunity cost of both work and revolution.

What exactly does it mean for a game to be appealing and engaging? What does it mean for games to be fun—so much fun, in some cases, that players will devote hundreds or even thousands of hours a year to playing them?

The sheer amount of time that many players put into games is stunning to consider. A relatively modest single-player game like The Last of Us might take 10 to 20 hours to complete. A game like Mass Effect: Andromeda might take 60 hours to play through once, and 100 hours for a careful player to encounter all the content. The branching nature of the gameplay encourages multiple playthroughs. Online multiplayer games can take even more time. In 2015, Activision CEO Eric Hirschberg reported that Destiny, a complex mass-multiplayer shooter that mixes role-paying elements with squad-based action, counted 16 million players, and that daily players put in an average of three hours a day.

Video games, you might say, offer a sort of universal basic income for the soul.

One way of describing a game that has such pull on its players might be that it is fun. Another might be that it is addicting.

Questions about the effect of games on players and on society tend to omit a critical part of the equation: the people who make them. Erik Wolpaw is one such person. Until earlier this year, he worked as a writer for Valve, the company behind the online game distribution platform Steam as well as games such as Half-Life and Portal 2, which Wolpaw co-wrote.

Game designers, Wolpaw explains, tend to think in terms of making their products entertaining and, in many cases, replayable. Their goal, as straightforward as it may sound, is to make games that people want to play. Discussions about keeping players engaged happen, he says, but "not in a mustache-twirling, how-are-we-going-to-get-people-addicted way. There's a fine line between that psychology and good game design." This was true long before the rise of computer gaming. "People will never stop playing chess, because it's a great game. The discussions I hear are more about how can we keep these games interesting to keep playing."

One way to do that, it turns out, is to give people a sense of earned achievement. "What games are good at—what they are designed to do—is simulate being good at something," Wolpaw says.

A military shooter might offer a simulation of being a crack special forces soldier. A racing game might simulate learning to handle a performance sports car. A sci-fi role-playing game might simulate becoming an effective leader of a massive space colonization effort. But what you're really doing is training yourself to effectively identify on-screen visual cues and twitch your thumb at the right moment. You're learning to handle a controller, not a gun or a race car. You're learning to manage a game's hidden stats system, not a space station. A game provides the sensation of mastery without the actual ability.

"It's a simulation of being an expert," Wolpaw says. "It's a way to fulfill a fantasy." That fantasy, ultimately, is one of work, purpose, and social and professional success.

Discussions about the allure of video games are in some sense discussions of the idea that video games are too much fun, which is another way of saying that they are too well-made. The implication is that designers should place limits on themselves and their products.

"It seems like a dangerous path to go down," Wolpaw says, "that if you're just trying to make the best game that you possibly can, to say, well, we need to make it worse, because this might be too good."

Are video games too good? Do they make people happy? Should young men work more and play games less? What obligation do people have to work, raise families, or be conventionally productive in their lives? Questions about video games and work are in some ways just oblique ways of asking bigger questions about the relationship between the self and society. I won't try to answer them. I'm not sure anyone can.

But I can say something about the role that video games have played in my own life, and the imperfect comforts they've provided me.

As a child, I didn't spend much time playing video games, but I was fascinated by them all the same. I didn't have a console or a computer that could play games until high school, and I lacked the funds to play standalone boxes at length.

Because I did not have the opportunity to play regularly, I was never very good at video games—not like some of my more devoted friends, anyway. At arcades, I would die quickly, losing the quarters I had in just a few minutes. On friends' consoles, I would never get very far, and most games from that era lacked the capacity to save the gameplay at a particular point and return to it after a loss. On those occasions when I had opportunities to play, I found the experience both thrilling and vaguely disappointing. In part that's because the blocky, two-dimensional games of that primitive era never quite lived up to my imagination for what games could be. And in part it's because the appeal of the pastime, it seemed to me, was in the devotion of time and effort to the deep understanding of a game's challenges and systems. Video games created a space for intense concentration. Indeed, true mastery required it.

So mostly I looked on from afar, cheering friends as they made heroic runs through Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog, standing off to the side and watching with awe at the twitchy focus older teenagers brought to competitive arcade games like Street Fighter II. They sweated over their work with the anxiety and brow-furrowed determination of craftsmen and artists. I came to admire the way they shaped the games according to their whims and, equally, the way they had shaped themselves to the demands of the games. In the '80s and '90s, gaming was still the domain of losers and outcasts, nerds with no social skills. But at the arcade, or at home with a console, surrounded by friends, these gamers had found something that transcended the derision, something that made them feel accomplished and worthy. It was clear to me, even as an observer, that for the best players, games were a totalizing experience and also a significant personal accomplishment. It was something that they worked at—and, in the right setting, something they could be proud of.

It wasn't until I arrived at a small liberal arts college in 1999 that I started playing games seriously. By the late 1990s, most colleges had installed networks in dorms, which allowed students, nearly all of whom showed up with new computers, to play multiplayer games against each other. A classmate on my hall discovered an early version of Counter-Strike—at the time it was a fan-made modification of Valve's Half-Life—and soon we were devoting evenings and weekends to gunning each other down on the campus network.

A team-based shooter that rewards precision, fast reflexes, clever strategy, and highly coordinated teamwork, the game became an obsession. Over the next few years, we organized off-campus events in which dozens of players competed for entire weekends, drinking obscure caffeinated beverages, sleeping under tables strewn with cords and computers, and launching into volleys of profanity so artfully constructed that they ought to have counted as a form of literature.

As before, I was never very good at the game—fast-twitch hand-eye coordination has never been a strength of mine—but I found great satisfaction in the social aspect, the way it bound us together. Other tight-knit groups on campus had intramural sports; we had Counter-Strike. It was our bond. We were unified by a communal purpose.

Today, all of us are gainfully employed, and most are married with kids. We don't play Counter-Strike or any other games together anymore, but despite having dispersed across the country, we remain a close-knit group, gathering together most years and emailing dozens of times a day. The email listserv we use to communicate is named after our Counter-Strike team. A video game helped me make some of the closest and longest-lasting friendships of my life.

After college, I quit playing video games for several years. I moved to Washington, D.C., took a series of jobs, and started dating the woman who I would eventually marry. In January 2009, we moved in together. One month later, the startup I was working at crashed, a victim of the financial crisis. My girlfriend's advice—I promise I am not making this up—was to play video games. (Like I said, we are now married.) Not to the exclusion of all else, but to reduce anxiety and fill the gaps between the hours I spent job hunting each day.

I discovered that video games had improved to the point where they could finally come close to competing with my imagination. Games had become bigger, more beautiful, more open, and less reliant on thumb-twitch reflexes. I spent a feverish week immersed in Fallout 3, an open-world role-playing game set in a vast and fully explorable post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., and another week playing the first Mass Effect. I played conventional sci-fi action games like Halo 3 and stealth adventure games like Assassin's Creed. Later, I dabbled in competitive multiplayer shooters like Call of Duty.

The best of these games overwhelmed my capacity to think about anything else at a time when more thinking wasn't terribly beneficial. They provided distraction, but also direction, and a sense of focused calm. I wanted a job, but I couldn't find one. Instead, I played video games. They weren't as good as a job. But they were better than nothing.

After about four months of unemployment, I was hired by a magazine called Reason. But I didn't stop playing. Since then, I have probably played somewhere in the range of 2,000 hours of video games—roughly the equivalent of a year's worth of work in a full-time position.

Did all those hours playing games make me feel fulfilled? Did they make me feel as if I had made good decisions in my life? Yes—and no. At times, I found video games an entertainment experience as smart and satisfying as any novel or movie or television show I have ever absorbed. At other times, I have let go of my controller late at night, overcome by existential emptiness and the realization that I have, yet again, just spent the better part of a day engaged in an activity of no practical value to me or anyone else. I enjoy games, but not without some reservation. Sometimes I go weeks without playing. And if I had to choose between gaming and work, I know I'd pick the latter.

But after long breaks, I have always made the choice to return to video games. And I suspect I always will. Because on the whole, they have made my life richer and better, more interesting and more tolerable.

I pose the question of whether video games offer actual happiness or just a pale simulacrum to Wolpaw, who describes himself as having grown up obsessed with games, and who turned that obsession into a job. "This is a philosophical question," he says. "They're certainly pleasurable." And then he pauses for a moment, as if to consider the question further. "I have spent a lot of time making games," he says, "but I have also spent more time playing games. And I don't regret it."

Neither, I think, do I.

Photo Credit: Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA Games

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  • Brian Dixon||

    My girlfriend's advice—I promise I am not making this up—was to play video games. (Like I said, we are now married.)

    Yes, yes, that's why I want to find one of those rationalistic honeys. They're so beautifully pragmatic.

  • oncefallendotcom||

    Personally, I find myself envious of this guy. All of my women nag me any time I pick up a controller.

  • bildungsroman||

    Any time I criticize my boyfriend for playing too much Titanfall, all he has to do is remind me of the two months I spent playing 4-8 hours of The Witcher 3 per day and I shut up...

  • ||

    Okay Reason Squirrelz - even subscribers need to construct their elaborate and well reasoned comments external to the fucking web site or waste their time.

    Thank you for saving me from play video games.

  • ||

    Please do not log me off again whilst I construct my response to this article, after all I have paid to be here! Pretty please; it is a Libertarian publication in it not?

  • mortiscrum||

    We all continue to come back and post anyway, despite the terrible comment technology. There is a revealed preference to put up with it. This is market forces at work.

  • ||

    At age 16 I started work in 1966 as an apprentice in the aerospace industry.

    In 1967 during my college education, our social sciences lecturer - a pastor - posed the discussion question 'Why do we work, surely our ambition should be to not work?'.

    For me the subsequent hour long class interchange was very enlightening and, possibly, character building. Rapidly the conversation focussed on how our living would be financed without employment. And if we were living happily without an employer's funding, what about those folks who were required to work; after all there will still be work that need to be done. Whatever the 'remuneration' mechanism human nature would require that those 'working' be remunerated differently than those otherwise occupied.

    With regard to the Suderman video game article from the July article, my view is that if the gamer in question has fulfilled life funded by their own resources - go for it. If that 'funding' comes from resources inherited from 'predecessors' or parents that wish to fund the lifestyle of their children from their personal efforts then my view also is - go for it.

    to be continued (5/28/2017)

  • gaoxiaen||

    If Six Were Nine.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Then 69 would mean something very different

  • Blargrifth||

    I don't understand the generally negative attitude that people (mostly over 40?) have toward video games. It seems odd that sports, movies, and music are considered socially acceptable leisure activities when video games are much more of an intellectual activity.

  • some guy||

    People have always been this way with new bits of culture. My grandparents didn't grow up with TV so they didn't like it at first. I'm sure their grandparents didn't grow up with radio and didn't like it at first. I think the only difference is that there is a larger learning curve for a lot of video gaming. If you don't pick it up as a kid, you never will. My grandma is now happy playing simple games like Angry Birds, but she'll never get into a shooter or platformer. She just doesn't have the hand-eye coordination at it would take too long to develop it.

  • Blargrifth||

    Yeah the steeper learning curve makes sense for why it seems like they are being more slowly accepted by people. I got some younger uncles who grew up with games like Pole Position and even they can't figure out how to play games from the last 20 years.

    @Zeb I don't mean that everyone under 40 likes video games. Everyone has a different idea of what to do for fun in their free time. I'm talking about how respectable people consider it as a leisure activity. I find it very strange how older people at work look at me like I am a child when they hear that I prefer to spend my weekends playing video games instead of watching football, which is something that I consider very boring and unproductive but at least I understand that it is something that some adults enjoy doing.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Who can dispute the awesomeness of Bruno San Martino? Just ask my great-grand mother. Apollo 11 was just a TV show according to her.

  • oncefallendotcom||

    To be fair, Bruno Sammartino didn't drop the title 16 times like Flair or Cena have, and held it longer than both.

    The women used to wrestle a lot better back then than most of the current WWE "Divas" of today.

  • oncefallendotcom||

    To be fair, Bruno Sammartino didn't drop the title 16 times like Flair or Cena have, and held it longer than both.

    The women used to wrestle a lot better back then than most of the current WWE "Divas" of today.

  • Brandybuck||

    I go home from work and plop myself in front of the PC screen to actively play games. My friend goes home from work to plop himself in front of the television to passively watch shows.

    Why is my form of entertainment bad but his is normal?

  • Don't look at me.||

    Video games are desensitizing a generation of young men to violence and death. This is a useful feature for the armed services.

  • DarrenM||

    Some games seems to encourage one's inner psychopath.

  • Blargrifth||

    That's quite a mighty assumption that everyone is playing first person shooters.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Seems to be missing the /sarc

    Because TV and movies in no-way make violence and death look cool. I mean in the 'Boy Scout' Superman snapped someone's neck. Hollywood wants gun control but most shows have gun violence.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    I vaguely remember plopping down for any of those things. I loved TV and video games. I just don't have the time. To me, I see my kid doing those same things and just think, I wish I had time for that! So part of me thinks it is sometimes driven by jealousy. I think others just think it's lazy and useless. But those folks don't see the hand eye coordination that playing games helped to give me. For example, the standard neurological tests my doctor gives me as part of a physical requires that I slow down so he can actually see my fingers move.

    Sometimes people are going to judge others for not being who they themselves are. People suck, in other words. Maybe that should be the libertarian motto.

  • Bill||

    So it's a super power?

  • mpercy||

    My friend goes home and plops himself in front of the PC to watch others play video games on YouTube.

  • ||

    Most of us in our 40s ARE the original video games generation (Gen X) and don't see it as a negative. Maybe you're referring to older boomers? But not not Gen-X.

    But I will say this. Maybe because it was in its infancy and not as developed as today but we didn't play games as a means to an end. It was part of our overall daily activities. We hung out, worked, played sports and so on. Some were gamers sure, but I think for the most part we knew our limits.

  • Zeb||

    I'm not quite 40 and I don't like video games. I just find them boring. There is a whole world out there where you can do things that produce actual results.

    If you like video games, good for you, I guess. I just can't bear to spend so much time on something so unproductive.

  • DaveSs||

    What makes you think that gaming is unproductive? Just because it doesn't produce value for you doesn't mean that it is not productive.

    It is no different than any other leisure activity in that it produces value in the form of enjoyment for the person engaging in said activity.

  • DarrenM||

    Video games *could* be an excellent form of education and training. I don't know of any currently that would do this apart from simulators (many of which are not that realistic). There are educational games for younger children, but not much for teens and adults.

  • Frito Bandito||

    It is unproductive if it inhibits a person from being self sufficient. I have personal experience with a person who delays doing meaningful things such as getting a job (unemployed), exercise (at least 50 pounds overweight), and socializing ( smelly).

    This person is quite capable but regularly spends hours and hours wasting time.. living off the dole.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I just can't bear to spend so much time on something so unproductive.
    As opposed to other hobbies?

    For most, "gaming" is a hobby. It doesn't replace work, it replaces other hobbies. So if you're complaining that it's unproductive, doesn't that also apply to most hobbies?

  • pan fried wylie||

    Paints, pastels, figurines, sculpture, woodworking, fly tying, just some examples of hobbies that do result in a "product".

  • DaveSs||

    a tangible "product" may in fact be the outcome of those hobbies, but for those of us who have no interest in such a "product" its basically time wasted that the hobbyist could have spent spent on doing something productive.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Unless you're turning around and selling those on Etsy or something, I'm not sure they're really products. If they're just for yourself (or possibly as gifts) then they're as much a "product" as your kid's finger-painted family scene you stuck on the fridge.

    And if you are actually selling your stuff on Etsy, is it really a hobby, or is it just work?

    That said, even if your version of "productive" is what Zeb had in mind... what about TV Watching? Reading? Going to a museum, theater, or other show? Heck, going to a bar and drinking with your friends and singing bad karaoke? Any experience-based hobby (rather then creation-based hobby) at all? All of those are hobbies that compete for the time/money that goes to gaming. None give "products" in your sense either.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Go argue with the dictionary, I didn't come up with the word.

  • EscherEnigma||

    ... to quote myself...
    "That said, even if your version of "productive" is what Zeb had in mind... what about TV Watching? Reading? Going to a museum, theater, or other show? Heck, going to a bar and drinking with your friends and singing bad karaoke? Any experience-based hobby (rather then creation-based hobby) at all? All of those are hobbies that compete for the time/money that goes to gaming. None give "products" in your sense either."

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Go argue with economics. Product is closer to how Escher described in these terms.

  • CooterBrown||

    Still, it's no less productive than watching TV/movies, or reading for pleasure.

  • CE||

    Not to mention reading or watching the news or debating politics. Most of it "accomplishes" nothing, but reading is practically revered (even though it's often just an escape from reality), and being informed is considered valuable (even though most news makes zero difference in your daily life).

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    I'm 59 and have been playing shooters since Halo 2. Right now I'm playing Destiny. I have a real good job in a STEM field, so I play for pleasure. Shooters also help ones spatial reasoning and decision making. They are no different than golf or tennis or cycling. I used to be a very good tennis player but I popped my achilles when I was 40. So I started playing golf, now I am into cycling. I have lots of different hobbies. Gaming is one of them.

    As a matter of fact, I'm gonna pop some domes tonight.

    Mass Effect: Andromeda sucked balls.

  • some guy||

    People always claim universal basic incomes will be necessary as robots take over more and more low-skill jobs. Otherwise, how will low-skill people survive? But doesn't that neglect the fact that goods and services will drop in price as robots take over more jobs, meaning people will have to work less to survive? I can envision a world where robots do most of the menial labor and low/no skill people get by on a few hours of work a week. No UBI is needed because the system balances itself, just as it has for decades.

  • Mithrandir||

    I wonder if it'll be like that episode of Black Mirror where people have to spend time on a stationary bicycle to generate electricity for compensation.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Warning: Ass-pulled Figures Ahead

    I found a stationary bike generator that claims up to 400w output. I have doubts that the average person can achieve that, if it's not complete bullshit. With each bike and space to get on/off it taking up say 2m^2, that's maybe a little better than a solar panel in good sun. Burning all those calories in a boiler might be more efficient.

    I don't see how the compensation part works when a person might generate 1-2kwhr per day, but they consume like 10-20 per day (looking at my bill, I averaged 15-20kwhr/day in May, moderate temps, didn't run the AC).

  • mortiscrum||

    Well each person in that world also lived in a single cubical room. The wall/TV screen probably took significant power compared to our TV's, but overall they were probably living much more energy-frugally.

    Point taken though. The energy-capture technology would have to be way, way better than what we have now. Maybe if the bikes were linked together with a series of gears to magnify the force and collectively turn a giant turbine or something. Generating electricity on each individual bike sounds like a losing proposition, considering the caloric expenditure.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Maybe if the bikes were linked together with a series of gears to magnify the force and collectively turn a giant turbine or something.

    Gears don't work like that. "Geared devices can change the speed, torque, and direction of a power source. " They don't change the power, except for loss due to friction etc.

  • pan fried wylie||

    to clarify "change the speed/torque" is just transforming the power of the "engine", exchanging speed for torque and vice versa. Hop on your bike for a bit and think about it.

  • CE||

    Why not just hook everyone's brains up to some sort of matrix so society can use the spare processing power for important massively parallel calculations?

  • pan fried wylie||

    Because the microprocessor already exists?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    What do you think video games are? MooHaHa (cough)

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    My FTP is 270 watts. So I could theoretically hold 270 watts for an hour before puking my guts out. 200 watts I can hold for 1.5-2hrs, 180 watts I can hold as long as I have food and drink.

  • Qsl||

    In a world of mandatory overtimes, have you tried getting a job where you only work a few hours a week? I'd love if my current work offered part time, but the hassle of paperwork involved to hire someone new means it is more economical to extract as much benefit from current staff than spread the wealth. The employed just save for their future heart attack.

    I question though if men are playing video games because they can or a lack of other opportunities. It is an argument against UBI that with options available, people don't do something more meaningful with their time (thinking of an interview with Rat Scabies that The Damned could not have formed without the dole).

  • Bubba Jones||

    That is why companies use contractors.

    But it illustrates that step one for UBI is single payer. I guess that is where Medicaid comes in.

  • Qsl||

    Contract work only has limited applications in limited circumstances. As it is, several companies cite training as a huge cost (not to mention employees need a degree of constant involvement or their skills get weak). Going through that break-in period several times a year may only be applicable to a few circumstances that can tolerate the costs, and mostly not available to low skilled workers (those jobs were already replaced by robots).

    And there is the issue of market coordination which current markets aren't sophisticated enough to utilize. And there is the uncertainty with contract work that keeps people from making large purchases which has reverberations throughout the rest of the market.

    In short, the gig economy isn't happening anytime soon unless most people live in vans parked outside Wal-mart.

    As an aside, the few people I know who are contractors work more hours than I do (hard to say no to a paycheck when you are uncertain if another one is coming). They are essentially full-time (and more) employees without the benefits package. They also eye the economy warily.

    The only way I can see single payer coming to fruition is if it is a very, very limited set of procedures administered through something like PHS (better than nothing, but nothing you'd choose if you had other options). As it is, the costs and abuse seem to make it a non-starter for the way healthcare is organized in the US.

  • ||

    How will low-skill people survive?

    If progressives had their way eugenics would make a comeback.

    Wouldn't surprise me if it did; it still exists in different forms. Min. wage, population control, etc.

    After all, the DNC is the anti-deplorables party.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    A: Business owners don't invest in robots just for the pleasure of firing humans. They do it because it's cheaper than hiring and training humans. That implies human labor has gotten more expensive, which implies there is a scarcity of human labor driving up the price, which implies the people laid off should have little problem finding jobs, and is in fact what allows other entrepreneurs to hire the displaced workers to populate new industries.

    B: The dystopia of a few rich people and everybody else unemployed and poor is impossible; how could teh few rich factory owners make any money if no one can buy their product?

    C: Automation has been replacing workers since the first flint tools and knowledge of how to start fires on demand. More recent examples are the drop in agriculture jobs -- in subsistence days, 90% of the population was farmers, not it's 2% and they grow more food than ever. The idea that we live in special times where robots will replace all human employment is the typical short-sighted arrogance common to all times.

    It doesn't take much to refute the nonsense.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Hmmm. It might be that robots have gotten cheaper or that tolerances have become tighter.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Robots will get cheaper same as cars. How much do you think it would cost to manufacture Model Ts nowadays? Yet we don't, because nobody wants such simplicity. Even if federal regulations allowed them, few people would buy them.

    Same with robots. The cheaper they get, the more features will be added to handle more complex jobs.

    And this doesn't mean that more and more people will be displaced and unemployable. When textile factories put so many women out of work spinning thread and weaving cloth, the women found other things to do, like make better fancier clothes. Did you know that window curtains were such a waste of expensive hand-made cloth that they weren't common until textile factories made store-bought cloth available? Farmers used to have wooden plows, then added iron strips for wear, and eventually fully metal plows, because they didn't want to make their own wooden plows any more and could do better things with their time, like grow cash crops which had been luxuries.

    Just as then, so with today's automation. Robots will make luxuries ordinary and new products will become luxuries in their place, things we can't even imagine now. The people who used to labor over hand made luxuries will still labor over hand made luxuries, but instead of using a machine shop, they will direct robotic machine shops.

    Life goes on in the same big picture.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I really hate my steering column accelerator.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    How dare you use the whole of human history to refute a popular claim of " 'dey [robots] terk er jerbs!"

  • EscherEnigma||

    Well, men's labor force participation has been on a long-term decline for over a hundred years†, so I'm not sure it's entirely unfair to anticipate the long-term trend continuing.
    ________
    †Pretty sure the number is closer to 200, but labor force participation rates from the 1800s aren't easy to find quickly.

  • Microaggressor||

    Yup, it's the same regurgitated Karl Marx that just doesn't ever seem to die in the face of new evidence. It was wrong in the industrial revolution, it was wrong in the computer age, and it will continue to be wrong as long as there exist human needs that haven't been fully met, because there will be a job to meet that. In other words, the rest of eternity. I'm optimistic for the future of AI, but even then there will always be a market for old fashioned, human-made artisinal widgets, and god knows what else.

  • mortiscrum||

    I agree with you that the common idea of robots replacing all the jobs is probably overblown, but I don't think it's an entirely unwarranted fear either. For example, it's perfectly plausible to me that the ever-increasing pace of technological advancements creates a job market that humans are largely unable to keep up with. I.e., skills only remain relevant for a few years before being replaced by something else. In a market like that, it'd become incredibly difficult for someone to continually redefine and update their skills to remain employed. We just aren't fast enough learners.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    If you could bring a Rip van Winkle forward from 1750 to today, he'd be lost at sea, helpless and hopeless. It would be incredibly hard to train him even in manning a McDonalds cash register.

    So it will be with new work tools. The people who grow up with the changes will have no problem.

    In theory, you could have such fantastic progress that very few people could cope with new jobs, but not in practice. Anyone who dreamed up a new productivity enhancer which was usable by only 1% of the population would find no market; what business would want a tool which hardly anyone could use? How many biotech lab workers actually understand any of the inner workings of DNA sequencers? Very few, I bet. Who cares? The reason they are lab machines is to make that complicated tech available to the masses. Such masses are only lab techs for now, but eventually there may be home biotech analyzers in every bathroom, ready to analyze toilet waste before flushing it. How many users will understand it?

    Hell, how many people have any idea how radios work, or cell phones? How many even know what radio waves are, or the mathematical relation between frequency and wavelength and why specific bands are chosen for different uses?

  • gaoxiaen||

    Not very many. It just happens/magic. Just like meat comes from a supermarket.

  • mortiscrum||

    I think you're underselling this a bit. For example, I'm a prosthetic and orthotic technician. I spent 1-2 years becoming proficient, and another 3 years after that becoming good. Potentially, 3-D printing could change my field and make the skill set I would need to do my job significantly different. If that kind of dynamic was playing out every few years in enough fields? It'd be tough to keep up.

    As to your point about companies not implementing tech no one can use, it's not like a company is obligated to keep the same workers. There's always hot new prospects, fresh out of school or whatever that can fill the rolls. It's probably cheaper in fact; older workers tend to require more money.

    I'm really not at the level of being alarmist about this, but I do think it's a possibility worth keeping in mind. Potential advances in AI alone over the next 20 years could radically shift how businesses operate, and that creates upheaval in employment. Hopefully it's good upheaval, but it might not be.

  • Gadfly||

    For example, it's perfectly plausible to me that the ever-increasing pace of technological advancements creates a job market that humans are largely unable to keep up with.

    But is the pace of technological advancements actually increasing? I know for computers, the pace is decreasing: things keep getting better, but the leaps and bounds of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s are behind us. It's quite possible that a lot of technological fields will reach a plateau, where significant further innovation is either impossible (due to reaching physical limits) or uneconomical (the additional costs outweigh the additional benefits). Automobiles, airplanes, and electrical power generation, revolutionary technologies of the early 20th century, have basically plateaued in their development; there are still marginal improvements but nothing like what was seen earlier. Robotics is still in its infancy, so who knows where it will go, but it may plateau before delivering everything that is promised and feared (we never got flying cars, after all).

  • gaoxiaen||

    We haven't yet gotten...

  • EscherEnigma||

    The problem with "flying cars" is the people who dreamed them up never bothered to think about where the lift was coming from and just put a black box in their sci-fi fantasy.

    Which is why we don't have any carries-four personal flying vehicles with the footprint of a car. But we do have carries-one flying vehicles with the footprint of a car. They just aren't economically viable yet.

  • EscherEnigma||

    B: The dystopia of a few rich people and everybody else unemployed and poor is impossible; how could teh few rich factory owners make any money if no one can buy their product?
    Depends on which dystopia you're looking at and how you define wealth.

    Consider a "Dystopian Baron" built around automation. He has robots running his mines that produce the minerals that he either directly uses, or trades with other Dystopian Barons for minerals he can't produce. he has robots running his farm, cleaning his house, and educating his children. He has robots that man his walls and shoot the peasants that try to get inside.

    Mr. Dystopian Baron doesn't really care about the unwashed masses. He only cares about other Dystopian Barons.

    So yes, in a conventional modern economy, you generally needs lots of people to buy your stuff. But there's plenty of possible dystopian futures where the economy doesn't work like that.

  • DarrenM||

    I'm a little uncomfortable for now on UBI. It sounds too much like subsidizing unemployment. I can't think of a good alternative, though. One thing about UBI is that politicians would most certainly keep increasing it to buy more votes until the country is broke.

  • The Last American Hero||

    UBI is silly. Not only will it encourage sloth - see the impact of disability, welfare, unemployment benefits and how people suddenly become productive again when government tightens the requirements - but it assumes that it will replace other forms of welfare.

    So when some idiot welfare queen (or king) blows their UBI on booze, cigarettes, and lottery tickets and now can't feed their 3 kids it presumes that government won't re-institute some form of welfare to cover her. It's for the children, why do you hate the children?

    UBI has problems without this scenario but in a world not made up of New Randian Men, it has even more problems.

  • Glide||

    Good article!

    I definitely agree that video games are a buffer that makes life a little more pleasurable when you can devote time to them, whether you are working or not. As with any pleasure, they have the potential to make the other parts of life less desirable by comparison; and they can be cheap enough that they're a more common outlet than, say, muscle car collecting or mountain climbing.

    I'm not sure I would attribute their connections with joblessness to how similar they can get to a job - more that they are cheap, varied, widely available, and more fun than a job.

    (Personal note: I play a lot of videogames, and they don't take away from my work, but they do fill a lot of time that society says should be my social life. Not that I would develop a social life if video games disappeared - there are other obstacles in the way there.)

  • gaoxiaen||

    I prefer sex and violence IRL. Just wait until I get hip surgery.

  • Silverleaf||

    I truely do not care if someone sits around all day playing video games. If that's what they want to do, they can have at it. What I *do* care about is being required, in any way, to subsidize that lifestyle. I'm a Gen Xer who grew up playing a *lot* of Yar's Revenge, and still fire up the XBox if I need to play some Dark Souls to take myself down a peg, but to someone else's point, I know there's a limit.

  • ||

    What I *do* care about is being required, in any way, to subsidize that lifestyle.

    This is the real problem (or at least part of it);

    Eventually I quit playing. I already have a job, and though I enjoy it quite a bit, I didn't feel as if I needed another one.

    But what about those who aren't employed? It's easy to imagine a game like Andromeda taking the place of work.

    My 10-yr.-old trimmed the hedges this Sat. and my 8-yr.-old sharpened the blade on the mower simply because I asked and they wanted to. If either one could legally work for a couple hours a day, they would. Fucking retarded UBI'ers ignore the fact that we effectively do subsidize everyone nearly 100% up to the age of 16-18.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Dark Souls is it's own kind of a punishment (I've played them all)

  • Loss of Reason||

    Dark Souls is it's own kind of a punishment (I've played them all)

  • Loss of Reason||

    Dark Souls is it's own kind of a punishment (I've played them all)

  • Longtobefree||

    "that these young, lower-skilled men who are happy in their 20s become much less happy in their 30s or 40s."
    Not in states that have legalized the devil weed marijuana.

    (On the other side, I notice it was a liberal arts college that turned him to the dark side.)

    Real gamers started on mainframe computers playing Adventure.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    There is nothing like waiting to see if the axe connects when the results are printing out on an insanely raucous line printer connected via a 110 baud modem.

  • ||

    It seems pretty obvious to me that the article was worked backwards from UBI to video games and it's pretty shitty.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I defend your right to be a pencil-neck geek.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    The surprising thing about the stereotypical aimless young man playing video games in his parents' basement: He's actually happier than ever.

    That's really great and all, but a happy worthless loser is still a worthless loser.

    What would happen to humanity if every boy on earth decided to live his "life" this way? The parents bear a lot of blame for this crap. The best thing they could do for their worthless son would be to kick his sorry ass out of the house.

  • ||

    The parents bear a lot of blame for this crap.

    While I don't disagree exactly. The State is as much to blame. We take from people who don't have kids and until age 16-18 make kids ineligible as laborers and/or offer grades as incentive/capital. Then, despite the sub-par and/or sub-motivational education expect kids to suddenly develop productivity or work ethic.

  • Harpua||

    As a card carrying baby boomer who remembers when Pong was new, I've played video games nearly all my life. Back in 2003, I ditched my cable tv. At the time, I was spending more time playing games than watching TV. In my mind, at least it was interactive and therefore more engaging.

    While sometimes I shudder at the number of hours I spend on World of Warcraft, I wonder how many hours people log on Gilligan's Island or Seinfeld. No one really complains about TV being a waste of time. But is passively sitting on your couch watching a show about nothing better than slaying dragons with your friends?

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Almost anything in balance and moderation is fine. If this article was just saying that, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

    But that isn't what the schmuck MacAdoodle is saying. He's trying to argue with a straight face that there's no problem at all with these 30 year old losers who have no job, are still living off their parents, and spend 16 hours a day playing games and jerking off to porn while never talking to a real live girl face to face. Because hey, they're cool with living this way!

    As is almost always the case, MacAdoodle is completely full of shit. These man-children are losers. They are literally wasting the one life they'll ever have. The best you can say about them is at least they're committing crimes and hurting others. But that's way too low a bar to set for a human being.

    And the parents who enable their kids to waste their lives this way are crazy, and aren't doing them any favors at all.

  • DaveSs||

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with people not having a job, living off their parents, spending 16 hours a day gaming, and jerking off to porn while never talking to a girl face to face...so long as the parents are freely willing to subsidize this lifestyle.

    It is only a problem when someone is forced to subsidize this lifestyle.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    On an individual level, I agree. But societally, I don't. This isn't the kind of behavior we want to encourage among an entire generation.

  • ||

    so long as the parents are freely willing to subsidize this lifestyle.

    It is only a problem when someone is forced to subsidize this lifestyle.

    I'm betting the percentage of parents 'freely' subsidizing this lifestyle increases with it's likelihood and/or decreases with proximity or involvement.

    Like abortion debate turned on its head a bit; where parents feel familial or social pressure to take care of their children despite the child's independence. Their parenting should've been aborted well before the 72nd trimester.

  • DarrenM||

    I play video games way too much. I sit all day at work, then come home and sit in front of the computer. I *should* get out and exercise. Short term, I'm happier. Long term, I'm going to regret becoming a fat slug with a shortened life-span.

  • JustFine||

    This article seems a missed opportunity to include some moderating commentary and perspective. Turn it around: in what ways are video games succeeding that the rest of the world is failing? Education and apprenticeship, both of which are a caricature of what they could be.

    Video games are actually fantastic teaching tools, so much that we don't even realize how much they were nudging us along until much later. Instead of eyeing games suspiciously or looking on fatalistically, we should be taking copious notes and try to reintroduce what they offer into greater society. The demand is clearly there. The only problem is you'd have to make sure the imagination-free idiots who run the current system would have nothing to do with it.

    Even more, the technology of games itself is a god-send for physics and mathematics teachers everywhere: finally here's a concrete, very near application of all those things they've insisted you will need later in life, but actually don't. Video games are literally made out of linear algebra, kinematics, logic and statistics and those bored teenagers in your class love them!

    The current situation is quite absurd. It's like linguists complaining that the study of books and languages has never been more in crisis, because kids are spending all their time speaking fluent Elvish and Orkish to each other after reading The Lord of The Rings. The kids aren't the problem, it's the teachers, unable to distill the essence of their field from the trappings.

  • Microaggressor||

    It can be easily overstated, but there's something to this. I learned a lot about resource management from strategy games. And other hard-to-measure skills like snap decision making, the value of time, and knowing what to expect when coordinating plans with other human beings.

    Also, the only real world application of trigonometry and vector arithmetic I've ever used was for developing a physics engine. I think something like that is a wonderful education opportunity that isn't being very well utilized.

  • Brandybuck||

    You are not playing the game so much as following its orders. The game is your boss; to succeed, you have to do what it says.


    Well, for some games yes. But for open world immersive RPGs like Fallout 4 and Skryim, it's not true. You COULD play them that way, but you can also say "screw you" and take a left turn at Albuquerque. And a massive number of players do indeed play them that way. I know one player that only managed to get to the final main story quest of Skyrim after 2000 hours. Two! Thousand! Hours! There are not a lot of games like this, and Bethesda titles dominate, but "total player freedom" is one reason they are so popular. Also note that the most successful game of all time, has no quests or anyone telling you what to do: Minecraft. People mock it because there is no blood or gore, but not being constantly told what to do is part of its attraction.

  • pan fried wylie||

    I've had the same save game going in Skyrim since 2011, and I still haven't picked between the Stormcloaks/Imperials.

  • ||

    There are not a lot of games like this, and Bethesda titles dominate, but "total player freedom" is one reason they are so popular.

    By this I presume you mean not a lot of 'between genre' or 'modern, kinda open world' or similarly 'FPS-OWI-MMORPG' games? There are loads of flight sims, dungeon crawlers, incredible machines, space colonization games spanning decades that might issue you orders to put your lander down successfully on the moon, but freely allow you to attempt a bell tailslide in a Messerschmitt 323.

  • abilli4||

    As a female in my mid-20s, this article highlights what I already know about video games and the current 20-something year old males of the world. But, as my mother likes to say, "decisions aren't made in a vacuum." Though 20-something males today may be happy playing video games instead of advancing their social lives and careers (for now), how happy are the parents still supporting them?

    This article tends to focus more on the low-skilled male without a job, but I know many 20-something men you do have a job (though not aggressively pursuing promotion) and are living away from home, but are still in many ways supported by their parents, and definitely not pursuing a family. Instead these young men do spend their leisure time after work playing video games.

    Further, how is this effecting the 20-something women of the world; women who are working and looking to start a family before the age of 30-35? If 20-something men are playing video games, what are 20-something women doing with their time?

    I agree that men in their 20s today find great joy in their video games, I don't doubt that. But how is this effecting other demographics?

  • ||

    As a result of this post, I half-expect an ENB article that highlights UBI's positive effects on the sex toy market and empowering women choosing to delay reproduction.

  • Brandybuck||

    I really don't think a significant number of males are choosing to stay home and play games rather than getting a job. Some yes, and more in Japan where it's actually an accepted subculture, but I seriously dout it's as common as the article makes out.

    What 20-something women need to worry about are all the 20-something men that won't date because they're afraid of getting their lives ruined. That's what college is teaching males these days.

  • ||

    What 20-something women need to worry about are all the 20-something men that won't date because they're afraid of getting their lives ruined.

    I'd say the tri-fecta (or quadra-fecta, depending) of games and increasingly complicated heterosexual interactions, combined with increasingly available alternatives (be they porn or homosexuality) are the more exact concern.

    I think women can get involved with or overcome games and have it within their power to simplify heterosexual interactions, the real question is more whether they can do it faster/easier/better/cheaper than the alternatives.

  • DarrenM||

    When they find the need to get a job to support their gaming habit, they'll get a job. Much of this depends on the parents, though.

  • Agnes||

    Thank you for bringing this up because I think that this article does touch on a related issue. As a woman in my late 20's...I'm wondering how the hell I am going to get married. My girlfriends and I are hardworking, seek promotions, better opportunities, good benefits, paying off debts, saving up...etc. And I can name you 5+ couples, easily, where the woman is already the breadwinner in the relationship and takes on more responsibilities which should be shared. And almost every single one of those women wants to put off having children NOT necessarily because they want to wait, but because they don't see their SO being able to provide more so they feel like they don't have a choice. And to be honest, the guys are nice, funny, smart, fully capable guys. They really do make good couples which is what's so oddly frustrating...but damn if not every single one of them is 'anxious.' If I hear one more good girlfriend tell me her boyfriend or SO has anxiety...my head is going to explode. They're content with partying and gaming like they're still 22. Making sacrifices or taking on any task which isn't 100% fun all of the time gives them anxiety. It's NOT any easier being a woman this day and age under the EXACT same circumstances as these men. Gaming for fun/watching too many episodes on Netflix every once in a while....sure. But gaming is definitely filling a generational void.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I've seen this too from that age cohort. It used to be that you busted your hump as a man in your 20's to get established. You gunned for partner/president/big shot/whatever until you got married and reality - like a wife that didn't like you working 80 hours a week and kids sad that you missed their dance recitals - kicked in and you settled more comfortably into middle management and a slower pace of progression.

    Now, I see new starts with much lower ambitions and don't see how any good can come of it.

  • Agnes||

    Absolutely. I see this happen pretty often and it's amazing to me how many people quit a job before having a back up simply because they don't want to do that job any more. How nice to have that option.

    I became happier once I got used to doing crap which was mundane and didn't need to bitch to someone every day about it in order to get through it. I think it's called growing up. I've quickly worked my way up and got paid more just from showing up and being dependable. It's amazing. My father always told me, if you like your job 75% of the time, you're doing well.

    Back to the article, it isn't that video games/gamers and tv are the devil...it's moreso that it's an easy distraction and an easy form of pleasure that I think people need to be cautious of. One of my favorite quotes from the Glass Menagerie is that, "People go to the movies instead of moving." I think that always needing to be entertained creates a false sense of happiness which is why so many people still feel lost. Seeing a generation of men (and I'm sure some women, too) relying on this kind of entertainment as a source of happiness or self esteem is what's disturbing. Just look at all of the studies on children with developmental issues from too much ipad time.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Forget video games, I'm thrilled that we have two women on here, providing almost back to back comments! That's promising for libertarianism.

  • ||

    Is there such a thing as a non-veteran male 20 something year old that isn't a fucking pussy? Three. A dozen?

  • Loss of Reason||

    Abilli and Agnes - well I'm old so I can only give the dad view.

    It's tough overall being a man today honestly. The world is our fault. So when you state 20 yr old men would rather play video games than date or anything. I'm not surprised. You state women are working and looking to start a family which is great. Men in their 20s are being told they are not needed. So what are they supposed to do?

    Btw - some of my guy friends met their wives on games (Everquest, World of Warcraft). Some have been married 20 years with multiple kids.

  • Agnes||

    Haha good for them, that's cute.

    And you make a solid point. The screaming left really is screwing us women over and giving us a harsh edge, making it seem like every woman's point of view revolves around having their social ideology worshiped and creating beaten down, puppy dogs of men in doing so. I'm going to put out there what I want from men and by no means, am representing all of women. But I do feel like this opinion may be a little more common than not.*

    1) solid work ethic
    2) funny
    3)supportive/ inspires me to be better
    4) to be direct and manhandle me on occasion (don't get upset, it's consensual)
    5) for me to not feel a bad woman for wanting to potentially be a stay at home mom and at least having an open dialogue about it.
    6) hanging out with my family, calling my parents mom and dad, and helping out.
    7) Enjoys making the holidays fun.
    8) is okay with the fact that I more often than not, undercook rice.

  • ||

    And all u have to do, honey, is stay hot and not be a cunt. Jesus, women and their fucking lists.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Abilli and Agnes - well I'm old so I can only give the dad view.

    It's tough overall being a man today honestly. The world is our fault. So when you state 20 yr old men would rather play video games than date or anything. I'm not surprised. You state women are working and looking to start a family which is great. Men in their 20s are being told they are not needed. So what are they supposed to do?

    Btw - some of my guy friends met their wives on games (Everquest, World of Warcraft). Some have been married 20 years with multiple kids.

  • Lester224||

    I can see where video games are better pastimes than taking drugs or committing crimes for unemployed youth. That's good. I also know that they are addicting for young people with tendencies like ADHD or addictive personalities. The time has to go somewhere and searching for a job takes time away from games which are much more fun. This is painful to watch.

    If you have a job and also a gaming hobby that's great. If you don't have a job and spend all your time gaming, then you are a burden to your parents or society.

  • CE||

    ...the core idea (of Universal Basic Income) is to provide everyone, rich or poor, with a guaranteed payment that would allow him or her to live without working, or at least significantly reduce the need to generate income. The goal would be to create a system in which everyone is entitled to a minimum standard of living, one that is sufficient but not very luxurious.

    Left unanswered is the question of what happens after one's basic needs are provided for. who the money will be stolen from to fund the UBI, and why that's okay.

  • DarrenM||

    They need to check the game "Entropia". I believe you can earn money there in-game and convert it into real-world cash. Work and play at the same time.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Eve Online also had a real exchange rate.

    600.000.000 ISK = 20 USD

    World of Warcraft had Chinese Gold Farmers. Basically they played 24/7 or used bots to get items resources that they would sell for real US money.

    Diablo III had an Auction House were players could buy off of other players items for cash.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I just spend a goodly chunk of time reading these comments, and what made it a productive endeavor instead of worthless like playing video games is that I did it on company time.

  • Loss of Reason||

    First great article Peter.

    My story - I'm 46...yeap I'm ancient. I was outcast young as you mentioned. I played video games (Note I was on the swim team 8 years, did baseball, and football at pee-wee). I played Atari 2600, Intellavision, you named it. I spend all my money in arcades growing up. I played video games in college and grad school actually too. It was an escape from life.

    Some people smoke, some do drugs, some drink and pass out, people like me play video games. I have a good job (Work at NASA), good family life but still everyone needs something to unwind. I think, honestly, because the games back in the old old days were challenge in a lot of ways it helped me better at problem solving in my job today. There was a lot of trial and error in old games. Pattern reconation was a must (unlike spelling). So I do think it helped me in life and to think like a scientist/engineer

    For people unhappy in life, there is a sense of accomplishment. Take World of Warcraft. Everything gave you a reward. So if you weren't progressing in real life, you were progressing in the game. You felt you accomplished something even if it wasn't lasting. People do use it to escape. I'm not judging if that's good or bad.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Something not mentioned...you think people are a-holes on the Internet, try playing an first person shooter online like call of duty. You haven't lived until you were called gay by an 8 year old.

    One more thing - no-one mentioned smart phone games. My daughter, who is 23, and her friends are glued to those. Those are more designed to addict you and cost you money. At least buying a big AAA game you knew what you were getting - X hrs, bugs, and maybe DLC.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Something not mentioned...you think people are a-holes on the Internet, try playing an first person shooter online like call of duty. You haven't lived until you were called gay by an 8 year old.

    One more thing - no-one mentioned smart phone games. My daughter, who is 23, and her friends are glued to those. Those are more designed to addict you and cost you money. At least buying a big AAA game you knew what you were getting - X hrs, bugs, and maybe DLC.

  • Bruce 6225||

    Through out history there are examples of tribes, groups who have selected themselves out of the gene pool. So what? Frankly, I think they know what they're doing. They have been raised by single moms and know in the back of their minds that they are broken and can't imagine a fix.

    BER

  • Nihle65, hillary for pris||

    Young kids need to get off there lazy a$$es and GET A JOB!!!!! Video games are for losers and morons... Grow the fk up...

  • EscherEnigma||

    A significant part of why young men's labor force participation has been going down for decades is because the labor force participation of old men has been going up.

    In 1994, men 65 and older has 16.9% labor force participation. In 2014 that was 25.7%.
    Just for men 65-69, it was 26.8% in 1994 and 40.0% in 2014.

    Fact is, in a lot of places old folks are living and working longer. And not quitting or retiring. And this is true among low-skilled and high-skilled jobs.

    So you want "young kids" to go out and get jobs? Then convince all the old folks holding onto theirs to retire or quit.

  • NEET||

    I have a confession: I'm a libertarian, but I'm also a NEET (Someone who is Not in Education, Employment, or Training.) too. I spend my days waking and going to bed at weird hours. During the time that I'm awake, I browse shit forums, read some news, read Reason articles, and play video games; I haven't been happier in my life. Real life is shit; working is shit; and people are, generally, shit. While I and my brethren are society's refuge, I don't feel bad in anyway because I'm simply the byproduct of the existing culture and environment. We are too stupid, ugly, and/or gauche to exist in the framework that our existing society is built upon. So we try to hide away from normal people's sight and live in our own, better, world. And yes, one way to do this is through video games. But I've talked to others that have done so with music, reading, TV, lurking and participating on forums, etc. Video games get extra scrutiny because it's what normal people see as a childish and pathetic thing. While popular culture appears to be accepting of geeks and nerds, it only does so superficially. If any normal person met with a real geek dweeb like myself, then they'd run for the hills. (And thank god because I don't like normal people in my "hobbies.") But I digress, video games aren't the problem; it's a people problem. One that exists thanks to the climate normal people have created and cultivated.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Oh man I missed a fun article!

    Why did I miss this you ask?

    Stayed home from work and ended up played video games. Love games in all forms, chess to football, but video games are my bread and butter. That said I struggle with the endless fun grinding up against 'advancing my life' in a classical sense, also mixed with being at odds with societal standards and obligations.

    I could game all day, my friends could game all day, the weed and soda pop coursing through me could keep me up all night into the dawn (note I'm up til dawn regardless of stimuli), and I'd still find away to power through the dawn and get a nice noon sleep. If only I still had summer vacations :(

  • EscherEnigma||

    I gotta say, as fun as it is to poke at video games as being this horrible thing, this article is actually ignoring a very illuminating part of the data.

    (if the link works) Here, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: link

    Now, the part I want you to look at is how men 16-54 have seen a slow decline in labor force participation rates, as this article talks about. But men 55 and older? Have seen increases.

    Women, meanwhile, have seen little change from 16-54, with minor ups and downs. But above 54 they see participation go up, just like men.

    Oh, and women never hit the same numbers as men.

    Now, this doesn't include a education cross-tab, so I can't specifically look at what uneducated 65 year old men are doing. But as a cross-racial cross-educational group? Yeah, young men are working less. And old men are working more.

    So sure, us young guys play video games. Because you old guys freaked about your 401ks shrinking and didn't retire, which meant the guys beneath you didn't get promoted, which meant the guys beneath them didn't get promoted, and so-on until we're at 20-something guys looking at shrinking prospects because there's diminished need for entry-level jobs.

  • Galane||

    Was expecting an article on esports and how people are making money playing videogames.

  • frankone||

    Men are just playing 'Call of Duty' whereas in previous generations they played more 'Call of booty', drinking and going to nightclubs.

    Maybe not all men WANT to be a tradcon breadwinner, marry, and have 2.2 children? I don't blame video games for this, and indeed, it is an expression of individualism, which supposedly libertarians cherish. Maybe these men have seen fathers and aquaintenances financially annihilated by divorce through family law that is unfair to men; they've opted out of a rigged game. They do not want to live by 'Happy wife, happy life'. Instead, they elect to live by 'Happy Man, doesn't give a damn'.

    Not too many women want a stay-at-home husband, and ridicule these men for not growing up, yet they themselves aspire to stay at home, and marry up -- perhaps men are seeing this for the rigged game it is. Indeed, the article should discuss game theory itself, male disposability, and the concept of sexual marketplace value, and how it varies for men and women.

    I do not agree with UBI, it just encourages sloth. We already have UBI in SSDI, section 8, EBT (eating better than you), WIC (like candle wax, you could burn the fatties accepting this benny), etc ad infinitum.

  • Mark22||

    Maybe not all men WANT to be a tradcon breadwinner, marry, and have 2.2 children?

    That desire is nothing new. However, the way this used to work is that if you were a heterosexual male and you wanted regular sex, you needed to get married. And in order to get married, you needed to get a job because women required that for their own comfort and for raising the kids. These days, women don't need to marry because, worst case, they will always be supported by the state. Hence, men aren't needed anymore. Well, except for the fools who still work to support single mothers and out of work video gamers, while not getting much sex or having children themselves.

    I don't blame video games for this, and indeed, it is an expression of individualism, which supposedly libertarians cherish.

    What libertarians don't cherish is being forced to pay for other people's expressions of individualism.

  • frankone||

    The ultimate outcome of this game, is there are not enough Mr. Biggs to go around. So women will either stay single, or marry down to blue collar men. Since that is anathema to them, many will become spinsters. We are already seeing this in college enrollment as women have eclipsed men. Our educational system itself is designed for girls by women. Boys that can't behave are designated ADHD and fed drugs. The ultimate outcome of such trends, will continue to be fewer high-earning men relative to women.

    We also have a culture that degrades men, calling them stupid and useless. We exist in a misandric, not misogynistic, culture.

    Men and women may also have different wants. He may want a 'fun' relationship. She may want a 'serious' relationshit, framed within a Modern Marriage 2.0 contract with no-fault divorce and male financial crucifixion in case of divorce with children, instead of default 50/50 custody and no money transfers.

    The article did touch on some truths, such as the wider variation in men's intelligence. That cuts both ways; more male geniuses, but also more male dullards.

    As for video games, I stopped playing them about 15 years ago. But I played a lot of them in the 1980's, indeed it got me interested in computers, programming, and mathematics.

  • Mark22||

    So women will either stay single, or marry down to blue collar men. Since that is anathema to them, many will become spinsters.

    First of all, these aren't "blue collar men". Blue collar men implies physical labor and skill, not joblessness and video games.

    Second, why should women marry? They can sleep with these men and then raise their kids as single moms,, subsidized by taxpayers and businesses.

  • Mark22||

    In 2000, just 35 percent of lower-skilled young men lived with family. Now a slight majority of lower-skilled young men reside with their parents, whether they're employed or not. For those who lack employment, the figure is 70 percent. The vast majority of low-skilled young men—roughly 90 percent—have not built families.

    Why should they? They simply inseminate a single woman. The woman and her child go on to live on government welfare and the man isn't needed anymore and can go back to playing video games.

    All the while, the people who actually work and have to pay taxes avoid having children because they don't see how they can make ends meet without moving back into their parents' basement themselves.

    This is not a good long-term plan for US society.

  • flashgordon||

    Video games, TV, Movies, Books, somebody else's fantasy. Use sparingly and live your own life.

  • borabosna||

    Yet another article that completely misses the point. Young men are playing video games because of MISANDRY and DISCRIMINATION. Why should they bother working? They can't get married, 60% of marriages end in divorce, 96% of the time favorable to the woman. Men and boys are discriminated against starting at elementary school going all the way up to employment, even in STEM. Everywhere you look, men are hated, vilified and discriminated against. I am glad that they are playing video games instead of killing themselves.

  • CZmacure||

    Video games are entertainment options that have finally become dazzling enough to override the existential ennui arising from lack of occupation or productive endeavor. Never before in human history has any form of entertainment appealed so strongly and universally. The answer is not to condemn them or impose restrictions in their development, but to educate people about how to use them responsibly... kinda like drugs and alcohol.

    People need to want to grow as individuals and as societies, and it is the job of education and culture to inculcate them with a desire to do so, one that is strong enough to override their impulse to distract themselves with drugs, alcohol, or video games.

  • True Neutral Paladin||

    The comparison of games to work is interesting. One key difference is that 'low-skilled' work is not satisfying for a variety of reasons.

    Part of it is lack of challenge. We are most happy when we are challenged at our skill level, the task at hand being neither too easy (boring or tedious) nor too hard (frustrating and dispiriting).

    But part of it is due to business and social attitudes toward low-skill work. That forklift driver loading trailers? The guy working the production line? They're the engine that makes the business run, but they're treated like disposable cogs. At one place I worked, it was common for Operations to be training a dozen new-hires every couple weeks. The company wasn't building a team of workers who could be proud of being a part of a successful business, who could be happy enough sticking around in the long-term making a decent but not extravagant wage. No, it was simply grinding through people, hoping to find enough who were willing to put up with being treated like shit and worked to death with never-ending mandatory overtime.

    Does that sound preferable to a video game? In a game, even if you aren't the most important person in the plot, your efforts are at least usually appreciated. And well-compensated. I lean libertarian, but I tell ya what, I find it pretty fucking despicable when corporations forgo cost-of-living raises and whatnot while paying CEOs and other executives a hundred times what the people actually doing the work are earning.

  • True Neutral Paladin||

    Society shares part of the blame, too. We no longer consider labor dignified. And what's worse is that we bleed the working man dry with taxes to pay for a generation of students getting mostly useless degrees. Working Joe pays for Suzy Q to get her Fine Arts or Women's Studies degree - and then we look down on Joe because he doesn't have a degree to let us know he's oh-so-special and educated?

    I read an article a while back that cited government statistics that only about a quarter of jobs actually require an associate degree or better, but upwards of forty percent of job-seekers have a degree. Yet we still have to spend billions of tax dollars every year to put more and more people through college? And there's still a shortage of 'qualified' applicants - presumably because we're paying for degrees the market doesn't value? How many people do you know working jobs that have nothing to do with their degree?

    Again, does that sound preferable to a video game? Doing the work that makes our society function while being held in contempt by that society?

    I think the fix is changing our perception and treatment of laborers. A good start would be getting the government out of higher education and letting the market reshape it. Beyond that, I don't know. Maybe we just need some trendsetters in the business world doing things a better way.

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  • Stanllow||

    The world of young men and teenagers is becoming of gaming in isolation. Something needs to be done.

  • Bill Gaede||

    This article is on the money. And youth joblessness only reinforces that we are the last humans on Earth. The employment bottleneck takes us from the Service Economy to the Unemployment Economy and this to our inevitable end.
    .
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    www.academia.edu/28866480/We_a.....ague_2016_
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    www.academia.edu/29310494/Unsu.....Kong_2010_
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    .

  • CZmacure||

    I don't understand the generally negative attitude that people (mostly over 40?) have toward video games. It seems odd that sports, movies, and music are considered socially acceptable leisure activities when video games are much more of an intellectual activity.

    My recent post: Pinflux Review
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  • CollAndrews||

    I like video games, and this comparison in the article is funny. There's also a type of job now like a cyber sports coach or pro gamer, people combined both, game and job. There's also a lot of new jobs appeared nowadays. I know that recently some college essay writers became a really popular alternative to the hard work of the students. So there are no limits now between common job and a hobby or game.