Why more young men are choosing video games over a job

A growing number of young men without college degrees are choosing to live at home and play video games rather than working, according to a new study. 

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Visitors play 'Heroes of the Storm,' developed by video game producer Blizzard Entertainment, using PCs during the Gamescom fair in Cologne, Germany August 6, 2015.

They're less likely to have a job, more likely to live at home with their parents – and happier than ever. 

A recent unpublished study from researchers at Princeton University, the University of Rochester, and the University of Chicago found that more young men, particularly those who don't have college degrees, are living at home, working part-time or not at all, and regularly playing video games. But the prevalence of this lifestyle isn't due to a lack of jobs or difficult economy – rather, many young men are consciously choosing video games over work.

And, surveys show, rates of happiness among this demographic are rising. 

"[H]appiness surveys actually indicate that they are quite content compared to their peers, making it hard to argue that some sort of constraint, like they are miserable because they can’t find a job, is causing them to play video games," researcher Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, said in a university interview. 

One in five men between the ages of 21 and 30 with less than a bachelor's degree reported not working at all in 2014 – more than double than the 9.5 percent who reported not working in 2000. These young men have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly spent playing video games, the new study found. Between 2004 and 2007, this group spent an average of 3.4 hours a week playing video games. By 2014, that time had risen to 8.6 hours. 

Overall, the paper attributes one-third to one-fifth of the decline in working hours among these men to technology-based entertainment, such as video games. 

Much of the trend may have to do with the psychological effects of video games, which some of these young men say are more rewarding than work. 

"When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded," Danny Izquierdo, a 22-year-old who lives with his parents in Silver Spring, Md., explained to The Washington Post. "With a job, it's always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward." 

The rewards systems employed by video game creators are well-documented. And research shows that young men are particularly susceptible to video game addiction, as video games activate the reward circuits of males more so than those of females. 

Could similar rewards structures be applied to the business world to motivate more young men to get, and keep, a job? Some experts say yes. 

Technology theorist Tom Chatfield suggests that businesses set "calibrated targets" for employees, use "elements of uncertainty," employ "a grand, underlying reward and incentive system," and encourage collaboration in groups. Similar strategies, he explains in a TED talk, could also be used in education by breaking things down into smaller tasks, rewarding effort consistently, and offering opportunities for group interactions. 

"[I]f we can look at these things and learn from them and see how to turn them outwards, then I really think we have something quite revolutionary on our hands," he said. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why more young men are choosing video games over a job
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today