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Video Games – Latest Scapegoat for Unemployment?

The 21st century has certainly been a divisive and worrisome era, from politics to social issues to finances. The best minds in the country have been working hard to explain the problems in society – one of those problems being the growing unemployment among today’s young adults. Well, one group claims to have found the culprit: video games.

According to a joint study involving economists from Princeton, the Universities of Chicago, and the University of Rochester, video games are the cause for  unemployment among millennial men. The study’s authors, Mark Aguiar, Kerwin Charles, and Erik Hurst, were concerned with the amount of men (age 21-30) who weren’t employed full-time despite increasing job markets. In fact, unemployed and part-time workers with minimal college education had increased 132% in the past 16 years, from 9.5% to 22%.

What could cause this increase in uneducated, unemployed young men? According to the study, these experts blame more immersive, attractive, and enjoyable video games! As technology has increased and gaming becomes a more rewarding pursuit, an entire generation are choosing video games over work. The study’s main evidence? Average playing times among the population, which showed a 75% increase in time spent on video games, from 3.4 hours per week to 8.6 hours. Thus the theory that Millennial males are forgoing work for video games, all because full-time employment has decreased and average game time has increased.

Wait, what? As some may have realized, there are some serious flaws with that reasoning.

The biggest problem is that this entire conclusion looks like one big leap. The authors appear to fall victim to a logical error known as “correlation does not equal causation”. In simpler terms, two things that occur at the same time aren’t necessarily related, let alone cause each other. If the weather grows warmer and we see more squirrels, we don’t claim that “squirrels increase global temperatures”; we know there are other factors (like it being Spring). Similarly, even though video games have grown in technology, design, and popularity, that doesn’t mean they are somehow causing millennials to not work. In fact, it’s just as likely that unemployed or underemployed people choose to use all that extra free time to play games! Especially since better technology means video games are cheaper and more accessible, even to those with limited income.

As for the study itself, the research has never been peer-reviewed or published in any academic journal. For those that don’t know, peer-review is when experts check each other’s data, research, and logic. Although not a guarantee, a peer-review goes a long way to ensure a study is valid. So far, the research has only been presented at several conferences and workshops, and there is no direct link for the public to confirm or analyze the work. The Washington Post claims that other economists believe the study might have some good points, but that’s not exactly proof of anything. You don’t present an idea you had with friends, no matter how well researched it is, as “fact”; other experts and professionals need to confirm what you came up with before writing it in stone.

I would also note that there has been a regular pattern for blaming hobbies for the woes of society. In the 70’s it was rock music, the 80’s had Dungeons & Dragons and pornography, and the 90’s accused television shows and movies. Now, with newer tech and pursuits, people blame the Internet and (of course) video games. Originally, games were blamed for violenceantisocial behavior. As they’ve spread from the home to mobile devices and everyday life? Now it’s unemployment among young adults. Given that almost every previous incident of blame was eventually dismissed, then it’s highly unlikely that this one is any more realistic.

Overall, the theory of this study is questionable at best, especially given the lack of any sort of oversight or review. Like every decade in modern history, hobbies appear to be the scapegoat for concerns about social, political, and economic issues. Video games are no more likely to be the cause of unemployment among young men as role-playing games are to cause cults and suicide.  The more likely explanation is that people without full-time jobs have extra free-time and, in a technologically saturated society, a video game is a fun way to use those hours. The technology is advancing faster than we can understand it, some gamer technology is actually aimed at health and poster, one company is making eye-conscious safety gaming monitors, visit their website to know more.

Perhaps, with more research (and transparency), the authors might have some valid points about millennials and employment… but until then, I say “game on!”

About Brook H. (257 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

1 Comment on Video Games – Latest Scapegoat for Unemployment?

  1. Reblogged this on Webster Style Magazine and commented:

    Our fun things are always the scapegoat


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