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I don’t wanna work, I just wanna play Gears of War all day

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The crew of the Red Dwarf play Better than Life

Once upon a time the entertainment favored by the kidsthesedays was fraught with mundane risks: Drug use. Satan worship. Suicide.

Incredibly bad books and movies created to exploit the moral panic du jour.

Now, according to an article in Fortune, researchers have discovered that men aged 21-30 are choosing to live with their parents and play video games, rather than work a low wage job. Or two. Shocking, no?

A research team including faculty from Princeton and the University of Chicago now argues that “innovations in gaming/recreational computing”— and not, say, lower demand for less-skilled workers—explain as much as 79% of the difference in working rates between younger and older men.

From the outside, the lives of the young men in question may seem grim. The researchers found that 67% of non-working young men now live with a parent or close relative, compared to 46% of the same group in 2000, suggesting that many are relying on family to support them long-term. They average 520 hours a year on their computers, and 60% of that is spent on gaming.

But the paper further cites survey data showing that these men reported increased happiness overall despite their reduced circumstances, suggesting that advances in gaming are making imaginary worlds more enjoyable than the real one.

Or perhaps to the man aged 21-30, the real world is starting to stink so much that online ones are preferable? Table 5 on p. 19 of the study indicates that other people, such as women of the same age, are not succumbing to the alleged allure of eTopia. I haven’t had a chance to see if the researchers explored why – beyond a greater increase in leisure time compared to other groups – men in that age group have increased the amount of time they spend gaming.

That sense of satisfaction with giving up on work might be the paper’s scariest finding for those concerned about the health of the U.S. economy.

And that says not good things about capitalism. But those concerned will have to stay concerned. This country is not moving in the direction of entry-level jobs that are more attractive, or available. Perhaps they should go ahead and advance to anxious.

But the new research points to the possibility that it also reflects permanent lifestyle changes for some. Lower labor force participation is a serious headwind for the economy, meaning video games could ultimately cause a permanent downshift in U.S. growth—particularly since the advent of virtual reality is making permanent escape even more alluring.

And here I was thinking that the chain of corporate greed which results in outsourcing and stagnant wages, which in turn restricts people’s buying power, might be the problem.

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  • Murc

    They average 520 hours a year on their computers, and 60% of that is spent on gaming.

    This is a great example of lying with numbers.

    I’m sure this statistic is true. But it is worded in a way designed to mislead. 520 hours! That’s a huge amount of time to spend on the computar machine, am I right?

    Well… is it? That’s 520 hours a year. And only 60% of that time is spent gaming.

    Some back of the envelope math… 520 divided by 365 comes to about 1.4 hours a day, so these guys are averaging less than an hour and a half a day on their computers. Multiplying that by .60 comes up with about .85.

    So these guys are spending less than an hour a day on a perfectly normal leisure time activity. Watching a single episode of Law and Order a day would result in your spending more time doing that than these guys are spending gaming.

    If spending so little time gaming is really causing these guys to withdraw from the real world and increasing their overall satisfaction with life, then either these games must be REALLY FUCKING AMAZING or the real world must be really, really shitty.

    Or the guys behind this study are full of crap. I mean. If a guy walked down the park every day and spent an hour playing chess with another person, people would be all “what a nice, smart man.” If he spends an hour every day playing Starcraft II on the ladder against, again, other people, they’re all “nerd! shut-in!”

    In conclusion: screw these guys and their “study.”

    • aab84

      Yes, many white collar workers probably spend 520 hours a year goofing off on the internet at work.

      • liberalrob

        And posting on blogs.

        • aab84

          You say tomato . . .

        • ChrisS

          I’m doing research …

    • Gone2Ground

      Yeah. 10 hours a week on the computer? That’s probably A LOT LESS than POTUS’ TV consumption. I’d even be willing to bet he spends more time than that on Twitter.

      • JMP

        Hell, it’s probably less than the amount of time he spends playing golf; and at least some video games are fun rather than being the dullest “leisure” activity imaginable.

      • addicted4444

        “POTUS’s daily TV consumption”

        Fixed.

    • tsam100

      This is an aged piece of shit of an argument–you should be working 80 to 90 hours a week, and somehow you’ll become a one-percenter. That’s how good human capital acts, you’re a bad person for doing something you enjoy doing–especially being one of those weirdos that insists on spending time with your family.

    • JKTH

      As my other comment said, I’m skeptical of the conclusion (in addition to the fact that there’s not really much going on in general). It’s much more likely that more joblessness/underemployment leads to more time playing video games than vice versa.

      • tsam100

        Well, there’s an Occam’s element to a 20-something, single/no kids person who works a full time job racing home to play the shit out of a video game they really dig playing. Many other 20-somethings race to a case of beer or 1/8th of weed, so…yeah. It’s not worth unpacking the root causes or digging any further into it. Once your business is handled for the day, you’re free to do whatever the fuck you like and concern trolls will always concern troll–best to laugh them off and ignore them.

        • ToddTheVP

          My step-mom was loudly talking about me in the other room while I was visiting the other day (this is why I don’t visit more often) and saying “I would never have dated [my dad] if he played videogames all the time.” And it’s like uh… he watches sports all the time, how is that any different?

          • spencer_e9876

            Everyone knows it’s more manly to watch stuff than to do stuff.

    • bulbul

      I have a full-time corporate job plus I’m finishing my PhD (seriously, I’m submitting aaaany day now) and I play videogames. I don’t have much data for this year, but Steam tells me that in 2016, I spent 75 hours playing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, 172 hours playing Skyrim (again) and 105 hours playing Just Cause 3. Battlenet doesn’t have a similar statistic that I can find quickly, but I’m pretty sure I spent at least 100 hours combined on Starcraft II and Overwatch. So, yeah, what you said.

    • cpinva

      yeah, that was the first thing i noticed about this so-called “study”, it’s full of crap. 520 hours sounds like a lot until, like murc, you start actually breaking it down, and comparing it to other leisure time activities, and the time spent on them. these are the same kinds of “studies”, proving pot is a “gateway drug” to heroin. i could make the same assertion about snickers candy bars, that since most heroin users ate snickers bars, before they started using heroin, snickers bars must be a “gateway drug”, to heroin use. my conclusion would have the same level of authority, as the pot-to-heroin claim.

      i’m going out on a short limb, and betting this “study” wasn’t peer reviewed.

    • thebewilderness

      Mind you they are talking average which also is a way to lie with numbers.

    • Pete

      This is one example where I’ll bet averages are deceiving. I wonder what the mean number might be. I also wonder whether the figure includes console gaming like the PlayStation or X-Box, because 1.4 hours per 24 hour day for unemployed guys in their 20s seems to me like it might be low. No gamer hate here, BTW, I’ve been been doing it since it could be done.

      • Murc

        Do you mean median? Mean is a synonym for average.

  • aab84

    Many people prefer goofing off and having fun to working monotonous jobs: news at 11! I’m not saying this state of affairs is a good one, but it’s a sign of how deeply ingrained the protestant work ethic is in American culture that this is viewed as odd or shocking.

    • NewishLawyer

      I suspect another big issue is that a lot of people who do the pearl-clutching have never had a dull or monotonous job. They have always been lucky enough to do work that they find interesting for the most part.

      • Sentient AI From The Future

        Or, as is common in high status professions, “I suffered so I’m going to make damn sure you do, too”

  • NewishLawyer

    Related: Vox has a long article about the promises and overpromises of UBI with a prediction that mass unemployment because of AI is less than 10 years away.

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/17/15364546/universal-basic-income-review-stern-murray-automation

    What I suspect is the biggest problem of UBI so far is who it appeals to and how to sell it. DJW once noted that the modal supporter of UBI is a grad student and this matches up with my observations as well. Everyone I know who supports UBI has things they would rather be doing than working for a living but find themselves trapped under capitalism/business. This includes a lot of would-be scholars/academics who can’t even get into adjuncting and/or artist types who need to pay the bills by doing things from tending bar to selling real estate.

    • NeonTrotsky

      Also, there’s a serious problem in the logic of people like Zuckerburg who say that the UBI has support across the political spectrum, namely that the left sees it as an additional component of a welfare state whereas libertarians see it as a replacement or even a mechanism to slash the welfare state significantly. These differences can’t really be reconciled in any meaningful way.

      • David Allan Poe

        I mention this every time UBI gets brought up, but there are already not one but two versions of something like it in Alaska, with the Permanent Fund Dividend and Alaska Native Corporation dividends.

        Part of the reason they work is that people across the spectrum can fit them into their own ideological structure – for liberals, they can be redistributed wealth, for conservatives they can be dividends derived from public ownership of the oil resource, for socialists they can be a direct expression of collective ownership of state resources, for libertarians they can be money that bypasses the state structure and flows directly to the people.

        • NeonTrotsky

          Sure, but for states without a boatload of oil + a small population, even setting up such a fund would require taxing rich people more(probably a lot more) which is basically a nonstarter for half the country. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pursue something like the UBI, or that it’s necessarily a terrible idea, but it’s going to be a lot harder and require a lot more traditional political organizing methods than techbros seem to think it will. A successful UBI that does even a little bit of work to address poverty is going to look a lot more like the messy partisan process around Obamacare than some bipartisan lovefest, and I don’t think the Silicon valley types pushing it really understand that at all. And all this is leaving aside the issue of if there is even really a constituency for it outside a few lefty academics. It’s not going to be an easy task to convince people that their secure well paying job with good benefits isn’t coming back and that the best they can hope for is a sizable and steady check from the government. Even with advances in automation it could take decades to build any kind of support at all.

          • David Allan Poe

            I agree that it’s a considerable uphill battle and possibly not worth expending much energy on right now. I think, too, that it would have to be presented not as “taxation” but, as the Permanent Fund is currently structured, as “royalty payments on resources.” Convincing people to conceive of states as corporations and their being born in one as entitling them to a share of the state’s profits might be a bit of a lift.

            My primary point is largely one of marketing – the main reason many people dismiss the idea at the outset seems to be that “Americans won’t accept the idea of an income for not working.” Americans absolutely will, and do, as long as it is tied to the notion of ownership of a resource or income-generating collective body. Half the country will reject it out of hand if they think it’s a solution to poverty, but they absolutely will not if you can give them the slightest little reason to believe that they themselves deserve it.

            It would, of course, be a lot simpler to just have a properly implemented progressive tax structure and a robust welfare state, but at this stage of the game I’m not sure that would be any easier to pull off.

      • I think UBI can be both an extension of the welfare state and a way to scale it back, at least in terms of oversight and administration.

    • I don’t think the UBI stands a chance in a country that can’t agree to raise the minimum wage to something that’s in the vicinity of a living wage.

      • liberalrob

        And where a significant fraction of the citizenry think being poor is a choice.

        • Or that 47%of said citizens are surplus population

        • Right. And a sin.

      • Jonathan Roth

        So what? Isn’t that why we talk about these things, to get support and enter it into the public dialog?

        We’re not going to get the NHS here anytime soon, but that doesn’t stop us from talking about alternatives to the US system. We fight where we can accept what we can get, and keep pushing towards a goal of affordable universal healthcare. This is why I consider myself a progressive, not a perfectionist.

        If people start attacking the minimum wage increase by saying we should be supporting UBI instead, then I agree; fuck that noise. But I do see it as more achievable, and frankly more desirable, than the marxist utopia.

        • And here’s me not saying this topic shouldn’t be discussed. :-/

      • nominal

        I think we as a country DO agree with that. Every time it comes up vast majorities support it. The problem is that a wealthy minority’s corrupted the system so that minority can ignore what most people want.

        We’ll see how long the Republicans can rely on gerrymandering, racism disinformation, ad-buying, and so on to maintain their anti-people policies. My guess is that once 30% of all men in their 20s are working 15 hours a week or less, it’ll be pretty hard to keep the Republican machine going.

    • That may be partially due to the circles you run in.

      Maybe I’m an outlier, but I’ve never been to grad school and I’ve been constantly employed since 1987. I have work that I like and for which I am reasonably well compensated. Given my tax bracket, I assume that any logical implementation of UBI would be a net negative for me financially.

      I just feel that, as much as I support the idea of capitalism, people should be able to opt out. They shouldn’t be held hostage where the only options are work for wages, scam the government, become a criminal or starve. There’s more than enough surplus in the system to provide people who don’t want to or can’t work with the basic necessities of life.

    • RovingYouthPastor

      Maybe only relevant to the first paragraph. But I think the unemployment due to AI is very overblown (and I work in the field).

      If demand is constrained, then increased productivity displaces workers. This was the case for agriculture, demand for potatoes couldn’t keep up with our potato producing prowess. This hasn’t been the case for most consumer goods– our demand for plastic thing-a-ma-jigs and doo-hickeys is insatiable.

      I tend to think the services that AI is capable of providing are more like the latter. I have a dishwasher now, I didn’t at my old apartment. I still probably spend 30 minutes a week washing dishes– now that means loading the dishwasher everyday and running it and unloading it every other day, before it meant rinsing everything off after every meal and only using a few plates/utensils, or just doing them for a half hour once a week. The washing machine just ended up making dishes get washed a lot more, not reducing the time spent washing them overall.

      As for self-driving cars, I’m more skeptical that its going to happen than I was a year or two ago, and I was damn skeptical then.

    • Gareth

      There’s three people you need to deal with before you introduce a UBI. Tony, who has billions in assets and lives a life of conspicuous consumption. Bruce, who has a dangerous chronic health condition and requires health care that’s far more expensive than the average person’s living costs. And Thanos, who’s an intelligent, able-bodied man who could easily get a job, but just sits around all day instead. Decide how much money each of them should get from the state, get everyone to agree with your decision, and there you go.

    • Justin Runia

      I think the AI / automation part is a bit of a red herring — a bit of synecdoche for the larger phenomenon of industry disruption that displaces people from careers that we haven’t quite gotten a hold on through promises of re-training. It’s just easier to position the argument in a kind of sci-fi trope instead of against the flesh-and-blood people making the moves that result in massive lay-offs.

      As far as the viability of UBI, I think the best argument for it is to point at all the wasted money that occurs when states are block granted welfare funds, dumped into neo-Jim Crow efforts to humiliate people, with things like mandatory drug testing and marriage seminars. Unfortunately that’s on the other side of federalism, so I think we’ll probably have to abolish the Senate before UBI happens in any meaningful way.

  • RovingYouthPastor

    Here’s an idea. What if we don’t furrow our brows and wring our hands about overall economic “growth” at all, but instead concentrate on median income growth, and see what comes. I have a feeling we’d be happier.

    *I’m gleefully aware that if the economy isn’t growing, and the median income is, that implies (gasp) the rich are losing money in the deal. I’m fine with that.

    • postmodulator

      It’s surprising how hard it is to push the idea “we think most of you should earn more money for the work you do.” Years of right-wing propaganda, I guess — this is still the country where Mitch McConnell can express, out loud and in public, a concern that his constituents might be paid too well and win reelection as opposed to being, say, chased from his house and savagely murdered.

      • rudolf schnaubelt

        Centuries. Burn down the Protestant work ethic!

      • mattmcirvin

        The usual response is that that would trigger ruinous inflation that would leave everyone worse off. The long shadow of the Ford/Carter years is always there–people are terrified of inflation, and I think by now they even imagine that that time was far worse than it was (worse than the post-2008 recession, which it definitely wasn’t).

        • postmodulator

          The crazy thing is how many people would actually have their bacon saved by inflation, as long as wages kept up. Point that out in public and brace yourself for some stares of total incomprehension, though — in the minds of the public inflation is always and everywhere a Bad Thing.

          One of the reasons the Greatest/Silent Generation ended up acquiring a lot of wealth is that if they made it through the 70s okay, their mortgage payment was basically their loose change.

          • RovingYouthPastor

            The real irony is all the inflation crazies/gold-bugs who loaded up on TIPS for the past 8 years under Kenyan-Muslim-Socialism would really make a killing on them if we got back up to even Bush years level inflation. They should be rooting for it.

          • mattmcirvin

            To be fair, if you’re a retiree already living on a fixed income from savings or a pension (remember pensions?), inflation is a real danger. And retirees have way more political power than young people struggling with student debt because they vote.

            Also, older people are perhaps more horrified by inflation than they even should be because they’re instinctively reacting to the difference in everyday prices from what they remember from 50 years ago– which is the more or less economically meaningless accumulated effect of inflation over a long time, rather than the effect of the rate of inflation now.

          • mattmcirvin

            …Another confounding factor is that there have been rising prices in some specific sectors of the economy that people confuse with across-the-board wage-price inflation. Some food prices are way up, for reasons that I don’t entirely understand but that seem to be specific to agriculture, and that really hurts people who are living paycheck to paycheck. Higher education and health insurance, of course, are exploding in price. Fancy gadgets get cheaper, which creates the illusion of Kids Today blowing vast wealth on electronic fripperies because they used to be much more expensive.

            • Deborah Bender

              When our manufacturing got off shored, stuff (clothing, furniture, appliances) got so cheap that for middle class people, they became throwaway items. Housing became much less expensive in the places where the manufacturing used to be, because so many people lost their jobs, and exponentially more expensive in the places where jobs still exist. Services (higher education and health care) also increased far above the rate of inflation. Automobile prices rose higher than base inflation, but that was offset by vehicles lasting longer.

          • Deborah Bender

            Offer not good for black people.

        • RovingYouthPastor

          It’s really interesting how shocked people are to learn that the biggest increase in minimum wage–an almost 90% hike in 1950– ever was followed by completely quiescent inflation (even several econ PhD’s I’ve pointed it out to). In fact there was deflation for the first 6 months after.

        • (((advocatethis)))

          Yeah, 1979-1981 seems to have really scarred a lot of people, including millions who weren’t working or even born yet. Inflation, along with it’s cousin, ” burgeoning national debt,” is the biggest economic bogeyman out there.

          • Deborah Bender

            It scarred me. I wasn’t long out of college. I did all right, but mostly for reasons out of my control. You can’t make long or even medium term plans when inflation is in double digits or worse.

        • liberalrob

          I wonder how many people realize that inflation is one answer to the ridiculous student loan debt problem. Of course we always hear about how horrible inflation is and how everybody’s money becomes worthless. Yeah, but if you got no money anyway it’s not so much of an issue. The people who squall the most are the rich, because they have the most to lose from their wealth declining in value. And since they control the media, we hear their voices loudest. 3 to 4% inflation isn’t a bad thing; but if it threatens to go above 1 or 2% you’d think the sky was falling.

          • RovingYouthPastor

            Aren’t the interest rates on student loans variable now?

            • Sentient AI From The Future

              They have a floor, installed during the bush ii years, so it can’t ever get below 6%ish. My loans from before the great fuckening are at like 2.1%

          • Gareth

            How much of their wealth is in cash, though?

            • applecor

              Not a lot, but a lot is in fixed-income debt instruments that decline in value if inflation accelerates.

    • liberalrob

      if the economy isn’t growing, and the median income is, that implies
      (gasp) the rich are losing money in the deal. I’m fine with that.

      The rich aren’t.

    • drdick52

      I would actually applaud that, but then I want to “euthanize the rentiers”.

      • BigHank53

        That sounds…painless. Are we fresh out of rivers of lava, pools of toxic waste, and industrial meat grinders?

      • Deborah Bender

        Nuts to you.

        I had one of the last good wage-and-benefits working class jobs, did without cable TV, new cars, fancy entertainment and travel to save every nickel I could for retirement, and now I have a higher standard of living and some security for my old age, in part because I invested instead of consuming.

        I don’t object to my taxes being raised for civilian purposes, because other people couldn’t do what I did, but I do object to being euthanized.

        • polyorchnid octopunch

          That doesn’t make you a rentier. Rent seeking behaviour in markets does.

  • NeonTrotsky

    Here’s the abstract of the actual study: “Younger men, ages 21 to 30, exhibited a larger decline in work hours over the last fifteen years than older men or women. Since 2004, time-use data show that younger men distinctly shifted their leisure to video gaming and other recreational computer activities. We propose a framework to answer whether improved leisure technology played a role in reducing younger men’s labor supply. The starting point is a leisure demand system that parallels that often estimated for consumption expenditures. We show that total leisure demand is especially sensitive to innovations in leisure luxuries, that is, activities that display a disproportionate response to changes in total leisure time. We estimate that gaming/recreational computer use is distinctly a leisure lux- ury for younger men. Moreover, we calculate that innovations to gaming/recreational computing since 2004 explain on the order of half the increase in leisure for younger men, and predict a decline in market hours of 1.5 to 3.0 percent, which is 38 and 79 percent of the differential decline relative to older men.”

    It strikes me that news articles are vastly overestimating the actual effect, unless I’m seriously misunderstanding the researchers conclusions, which is entirely possible. As I understand it the actual decline in worked hours( at least relative to other groups) is fairly small(1.5 to 3 percent decline doesn’t sound like much to me), but video games explain most of that small decline.

    • personwhoreadssometimes

      Vox’s “The Weeds” Podcast had an interesting discussion about this study. yes, the reporting is overblown.

  • JKTH

    The reporting on this study is pretty hysterical, and I’m skeptical of the conclusion of the study as well. Hours worked declined by the same amount for younger and older men between 2000 and 2008, then a huge gap opened up in 2009 that has since narrowed. Why, it’s almost as if there was a huge recession that year that would affect younger people more than older people.

  • applecor

    Well, business owners, whatever you do, be sure not to raise wages to the point where these young men could actually support themselves in a separate residence. Can’t have that.

    • NeonTrotsky

      Relevant: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/business/economy/labor-market-wages.html

      Anecdotal, but this is how most businesses seem to approach the labor market. If nobody will take the job at what they want to pay then it means there’s a “labor shortage”, god forbid they raise wages even slightly.

      • applecor

        Yes, I read about this roofing person over at Eschaton. The whining about prevailing wage, add-ons like insurance, and especially about the competition and downward price pressure from consumers are all plausible but until businesses like this really open their books, I am always going to suspect that the real answer is “The market will only provide me with X/2 dollars profit per roof to run this company and I am entitled to X dollars per roof for my hard work running the company, so I’m going on strike, and besides, we can’t have these workers believing they are entitled to higher wages FOREVER just because we have to pay them today”.

        • NeonTrotsky

          Yeah, like I get that the profit margin for most business can be pretty low, but its not like they’d have to actually raise their wages to $35 an hour or whatever number she gave… like maybe try raising them to like $18 and see if anyone bites? At the lower end of the economy in particular small differences can be huge in terms of the interest they generate, and its the exact same logic that goes into the pricing at the other end of her business. For all the whining that goes on about people on welfare, the most entitled people I’ve met have all been small business owners.

          • prognostication

            Yeah, my wife is in an industry with a lot of small businesses that can’t seem to grasp that if you pay people 14-16/hr, you are going to get a lot of bad employees and you’re going to have trouble keeping the ones who are any good. Lot of penny-wise, pound-foolishness in that attitude. Now, granted, some of these businesses actually do struggle to make payroll at certain times of the year, but if you won’t pay for talent in positions that directly affect how much money your business makes…

            • nemdam

              It’s also true that if you pay entry level people a little above market rate, you will easily find the best of that tier of worker and there will be less turnover two things that managers of those kinds of employees always complain about.

              • Drew

                It’s hard on everyone in the office. High turnover is absolutely poisonous for morale.

            • (((advocatethis)))

              They also seem not to grasp that while paying them minimum wage or slightly better while limiting them to part time work with irregular hours, you are all but guaranteeing that they are spending their off time looking for a better job.

          • nemdam

            I’m not sure I’d go with most entitled (Might have to go with high finance types, though they can often be classified as small business owners!), but boy are they just as pompous and smug as some of the most annoying hipsters and artistic types I’ve ever met. Because they filed some paperwork saying they technically run an LLC, the heavens must open up and everyone must bow down to them.

            Also, I don’t know about other’s experience, but I’ve gotten into some long debates online and watched/read too many others with small business owners who claim that things like a $2 increase in the minimum wage will destroy both their own business and the industry they work in. Inevitably, if you press them enough, they almost always admit their personal finances are doing fine, if not very well, and that a small increase in regulations or labor costs will at worst cause them to take a very small hit to their personal wealth. IOW, I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of small business owners who complain the most about this stuff are just like the corporate executive who complains that a 3% increase in taxes is tyranny i.e. the person is just a self-entitled whiner.

        • Sentient AI From The Future

          Which is why they are FORCED to hire undocumented workers so that they can then more easily steal their wages.

      • ChrisS

        I can’t get anyone to do this job! Kids these days are lazy.

        Alternative: Why I can’t I get anyone to do this job for 50% of what I earned at in the 1970s with full medical and a guaranteed pension.

  • Drew

    Hey, Skyrim special edition ain’t gonna play itself.

  • Drew

    For a second I thought this post was going to be about the “Blue Whale” suicide game hysteria.

    Next thing you’ll tell me is that subliminal messages in a Judas Priest song are driving kids to suicide…

    • liberalrob

      I thought it was Marilyn Manson.

      • every generation has their pied piper.

    • I wonder what the backwards masking weirdos freak out about these days?

      • hey so

        Extremely mild and uncontroversial labor studies, apparently.

      • tsam100

        Miley Cyrus. And she’s playing them like a cheap fiddle and winning all the things.

  • kmeyer57

    Man, I wish we could tell all these guys how hard it is to get a good job once you’re over 40 without any kind of CV. They are in for a world of hurt.

  • JMP

    Of course a magazine dedicated to the defense of capitalism would complete reverse cause and effect like that.

  • Warren Terra

    Leaving aside a precise assessment of the merits of computer activity, gaming and otherwise (as I comment on this blog), isn’t this not only the dream of a generation or two ago but also the reality of a century ago, for the leading industrial superpower?

    We were told in the 60s (or so I’ve been told) that in the 21st century cheap power, technological development, extended lifespans, and robot labor would mean a life of idle luxury for an increasing proportion of people in America and the first world, that with their needs provided for and their labor unnecessary they’d divert themselves in hobbies and family life. That the hobby may turn out to be blowing up virtual space aliens and their family a chosen clan of similarly minded online gamers hardly seems like an important distinction.

    And, of course, this prediction only promised to replicate the lifestyle of Victorian gentry a half-century or more earlier, people whose labor was not needed and indeed for whom wage labor or commerce was often seen as disreputable, and whose every need was seen to by inherited wealth and a much-oppressed servant class.

    Indeed, the only real problem is that rather than realize the shining robotized vision of the future we are far closer to the Victorian model of the past, with an elegant and entitled upper class wafting serenely about upon a tide of blood and oppression; instead of benefiting from power almost too cheap to meter and automated labor, we’re enjoying the profits of labor almost too cheap to pay and autocratic repression.

    • Alex

      That’s my usual reaction to “OMG ROBOTS ARE GOING TO TAKE ALL THE JAAAAAHHHHBS (at a faster rate than over the last 2 centuries).” Like, wasn’t that the point?

      Of course there are distributional implications. But the issue isn’t the technology, it’s the policy. We can’t prevent technology from being invented, but we can tax the people who make money off of it!

      Or to put it another way, if the rich get richer because the return on capital is greater than productivity growth (r>g, according to that book that was popular on the left a few years ago), then reducing productivity growth is probably not the best course of action.

      Anyway, left out of this discussion is that video games are super-cheap forms of entertainment. You can play hundreds of hours on a game that costs $40, but going to the movies is 2 hours entertainment for $15. Never before has entertainment been so cheap. Not surprising that people with little money choose it over more expensive activities.

      • Drew

        There’s also a large market for used games so it can get even cheaper.

  • Owlbear1

    The researchers found that 67% of non-working young men now live with a parent or close relative, compared to 46% of the same group in 2000, suggesting that many are relying on family to support them long-term. They average 520 hours a year on their computers, and 60% of that is spent on gaming.

    Gosh, maybe that has more to do with young women being far less willing or able to put up with dead beat boyfriends than improvements in video games?

    • twbb

      Yes, not working is always a sign of laziness. They should pull themselves up by their bootstraps or something.

      • Owlbear1

        You caught me, I totally meant to include every man who has ever played a video game as a “Deadbeat Boyfriend”

        • twbb

          Look at what you wrote and stop pretending I’m strawmanning you.

    • Anna in PDX

      My sons are rooming together (they both work so they don’t count here but still). They spend a lot of time video gaming, I am sure. Does living with siblings as roommates count as “close relative”?
      Also, if they are unemployed what are they supposed to do other than live with a relative who has some sort of income? What are the other 33% of them doing, sleeping in the street? I imagine that friends/non-related roommates would not keep someone on who was not contributing to the rent, very long.

      • Owlbear1

        I presume most of that 33% are living with a spouse or partner.

  • how_bout_never

    Rejected article titles:
    Why won’t these suckers continue to let us exploit them for our benefit?
    Happy Walmart employee gets 3rd job can stop eating out of dumpsters and pay for food unlike you lazy gamers
    Having fun is less rewarding than working a low paid, dead end job or two. No, really! Come back.
    Hey, who funded this research anyway?
    This yacht isn’t going to pay for itself
    The beatings will continue until morale improves

  • Tracy Lightcap

    Suffice it perhaps to say that the “researchers” who put this paper together could use:

    • An introduction to basic causal reasoning and

    • An introduction to how to parse out causal sequences with observational data.

    I might add that all of us, myself included, could use more work on these questions before we start screwing around with survey data.

  • encephalopath

    To the extent that video games DO replace work (let’s assume this is true for a moment) it’s not all that hard to see why.

    The video games provide a reward system that gives players the feeling of doing something. You explore a thing; you successfully accomplish missions or the daily tasks; your characters make money or accumulate items.

    In an employment environment where young people struggle to find work that pays well enough to be independent, is meaningful, or uses their skills, video games serve as an emotional stop gap measure against the repeated struggles and failures of a hostile work market. I’m not sure I would call that a bad thing.

    • Alex

      If this is the case, then the solution is for entry-level jobs to be less awful or pay more.

      Can’t have that.

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        Median starting salary for law school grads is STILL down 20% in real dollars from 2008.

    • Drew

      I think that’s why I’ve gotten so into RPGs. Granted I’ve loved them since junior high.

      It really is a dreadful feeling, even if you’re sitting in a comfy air conditioned office, to feel no control over your schedule. And to feel like you’re not using your intellect.

  • Machine Earning

    “They average 520 hours a year on their computers” What kind of limp-wristed technophobes are we talking about here? That’s 10 hours a working week. I have never once, in 19 years, met a professional with numbers that low. Christ most of the people I work with now can hit 10 hours a day easy between home and work, and these people are about as well-educated and well-positioned as it gets. That just doesn’t buy you a life of leisure and good health, as it turns out.

    Meanwhile, as much as I lament the decision-making process of people I’ve met and friends I’ve lost who opted out of the workforce for unconvincing reasons, it’s not hard to understand why people are desperate to escape it. I have a job that allows me incredible freedom in most day-to-day tasks and involves a lot of interesting problem solving and communication with pretty interesting people and groups (cancer research), and even that is something I would never voluntarily do given any real choice. Most entry level jobs are the kind of crap we haven’t spent the money to automate yet and offer less variety than a gas station kiosk sees on an average day. It’s basically paying next to nothing to turn a human into next to nothing. It’s even hard to make that kind of sacrifice “for the children” since let’s be honest, the children of people in that rung of the economy are going to have an even worse time, the way things are going now.

    • Alex

      “limp-wristed technophobes”

      Um wait what

      • njorl

        Workin’ the mouse 12 hours a day builds up manly wrists. Well one manly wrist, anyway.

        • Pete

          And if you plan things right, you can take care of the other wrist too…

    • Drew

      “They average 520 hours a year on their computers”

      I guess they only studied the “PC master race” type of gamers, and erased the experiences of filthy console plebes such as myself (PS4, natch).

    • Drew

      “who opted out of the workforce for unconvincing reasons”

      How do you even do this? I’d love to opt out of the workforce and play more video games (I’ve got the new Zelda waiting for me) but I’ve got those pesky bills.

      “Most entry level jobs are . . . . basically paying next to nothing to turn a human into next to nothing.”

      This is a good point. They’re never really discussing that in these articles, are they? Young adults are wasting away playing video games! Instead of…wasting away at a dead end job? At least video games are fun.

      • Machine Earning

        “How do you even do this?”
        A lot of them started out with a genuine disgust for sitting at a desk or working a regular schedule, which I don’t share but understand and respect. I don’t think it’s reasonable that society has determined that a healthy, intelligent adult best contributes to the world by being shaped like the letter C and clicking at perfect nonsense for decades at a time. But some of their motivation is also a disrespect for authority, I think without realizing that it is possible to escape undue authority through serious commitment. In any case, they turn that quasi-moral viewpoint into justification for downgrading elements in life and living off of whoever they can as long as they can. One of them got lucky and is turning a hobby into a career, which is interesting to watch. But he was born to wealthy parents so maybe that had something to do with it.

      • Machine Earning

        “At least video games are fun.”

        Yeah they are. I could write a book about this but the weird thing about games is that many of them offer the meritocracy that people want in the world and can’t find. Games reward persistence and skill enough that while some players may excel through exploits or clever mechanics abuse, others that just play well can still reach the same rewards. And here I mean that rewards are always just conditional on effort, not that we all have the same small chance to be rewarded for effort. This is pretty far from true in the larger economy.

        I spent a long time playing games and a long time working at a game company as an engine developer and I do know that they can inspire creativity for sure, but they also cost some amount of creativity in a weird sense. They grant a sense of progress and action leading to rewards but largely by heavily restricting what the player can actually do compared to the theoretical list of things a person might do in that world. I think it’s the structure and general linearity and rationality of the experience that people are so desperate for, and good luck finding any of that in this economy.

  • Joe_Bob_the_III

    According to AC Neilsen and other outfits that study these sorts of things the average American watches somewhere between 1250 and 1500 hours of television per year.

    60% of 520 hours = 312 hours. Less than one hour per day gaming over a year. That’s not a lot of gaming.

  • smittywerbenmanjensen

    Make work rewarding, and people will work.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Hell, actually fucking pay them a useful amount of money, even if it otherwise isn’t.

    • Drew

      You some kinda kom ah nist?

  • Harkov311

    I mean, I’ll admit I’d rather play a pretty difficult game, like Dark Souls or Hearts of Iron, than do my job on some days. But as Murc notes, 1.4 hours a day isn’t all that much. And I probably get more than that much in a day, because I have a son who’s only 2, and still goes to bed early.

    Really, I think Boomers grouse about this because they still don’t get what’s fun about video games. I can sort of give them a pass on that, since they got to be a popular thing when most Boomers we’re already 30 or so, but I find the idea that playing golf or listening to cable news to be pretty awful, and apparently old people can’t get enough of that shit. It’s generational, is kind of what I think.

    • applecor

      Objection, from a Boomer. I don’t play golf and don’t have any friends that do. Video games did exist and were wildly popular when I was in my 20s – the difference was, since there were no personal computers, you had to go to an arcade and pay a per-game fee, which could start to add up. But we had all kinds of other activities that OUR parents thought were a waste of time in addition, which have fallen out of favor – pinball, card games, board games, pool, bowling – the list is endless.
      What SOME Boomers may not understand is that (a) getting leisure out of a smartphone/computer is incredibly CHEAP compared to the leisure activities of yesteryear and (b) young adults today generally have it much tougher economically than Boomers had.

      • NeonTrotsky

        My grandfather still complains about people who would play pinochle instead of studying while he was in law school. There’s always something I guess.

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          I’ll admit it; I spent too much time betting on the Triceratops Triple Crown back in the day.

          • applecor

            For me it was mostly bridge. i didn’t get my law degree until I was 36.

      • Deborah Bender

        As someone who has played many hands of solitaire with a physical deck, I’m in no position to scold other people for their leisure time activities. I do have some criteria for distinguishing pure timewasters from activities that have some value. I deduct points for pastimes that ruin your health or that you can’t afford (e.g. heavy drinking and gambling).

        I award points if the activity involves physical exercise, is social, is creative, is mentally stimulating and/or produces something you can give or sell that other people want. Television watching is a flat zero, unless you are involved with a fandom. Some computer games are social, but very few of them are creative and almost none exercise the body or produce anything. Playing music, taking up a sport, gardening or making owl boxes in your home workshop are more all round fulfilling leisure time activities.

      • notthelogos

        Point of order: there is a resurgence of board games, which started about 10 or so years ago. So much so that in some areas, board game bars are becoming the new video arcades. I have several friends who have collections of games. Some with 30-40, some with hundreds. All of those like to invite people over at least once a month to play.

    • nemdam

      This is thing about video games. I think they are pretty silly, and I play them more than I want to. But lots of things people do are silly wastes of time, so who cares if people spend it on video games? People have been “wasting” their time on frivolous activities as long as humans have been around and video games are simply the latest way to do that.

    • Drew

      My father is on the tail end of the Boomers and grouses about video games. I don’t think it’s because he’s a Boomer, he’s just kind of smug, as much as I love him. Good on him for watching documentaries but I don’t see why playing an RPG is any less worthy of my time.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Pundits whose paychecks depend on it will try any angle to avoid confronting the truth about the job market and about the obscene avarice of the 1%.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      I was disappointed that the faculty at Princeton and Chicago didn’t take note of the bountiful jobs available at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs as evidence of how lazy young people are today: if Chadworth Pennyfarthing Saltonstall VII can ride his legacy ticket and rowing prowess from Princeton to Wall Street, obviously the nation's poor rural and urban kids borrowing their way through community college can too!

  • Cheap Wino

    I think I spent 520 hours playing Destiny last weekend alone.

    There’s surely something to the fact that more and more young people are staying at home and how that relates to steadily decreasing worthy employment opportunity. Outside of that the numbers presented are most likely meaningless. I remember all the scare research about how much tv us lazy, good for nothing Americans were watching 30 years ago. I suspect the x of X = PC time + tv time gives pretty much the same result as those studies were warning us about.

  • liberalrob

    I want to play Better Than Life.

    That Jamiroquai video is very cool. Watching the “making of” video is also fascinating.

  • gocart mozart
  • I figure all the hours I’ve spent playing Fallout are helping to prepare me for life in our post-apocalyptic future (probably sometime during the second Trump administration).

    • Harkov311

      I played the first 20 or so hours of Fallout 4 when my son was about 6 months old…big mistake

    • Drew

      If you’re gonna do a second playthrough, I recommend choosing the female character. The voice actor is so much better.

  • Bri2k

    “Perhaps they should go ahead and advance to anxious.”

    Pure gold, Shakezula. I always enjoy your posts.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    The researchers found that 67% of non-working young men now live with a parent or close relative, compared to 46% of the same group in 2000, suggesting that many are relying on family to support them long-term.

    Okay, but since the same group is also non-working young men, it’s hard to see why living with a parent or close relative makes things any worse. If anything, it’s a far wiser financial strategy than paying your own rent.

    • applecor

      However it is a way worse getting-laid strategy, so there’s that.

  • Sentient AI From The Future

    Gaming may be cheap these days, but I still like getting my entertainment the old fashioned way: media piracy.

    Heading to the GoT thread now….

  • Resistance Fighter Astraea

    But how do we get these young men to vote for Hillary in 2016?

  • alexceres

    Well, back in the old days when the economy failed, hopeless unemployed peasants had to while the hours away with pitch forks and torches.

    Sorry, capitalism can’t fail the economy, it can only be failed by lazy youngins

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      I knew I was lazy only getting a few college degrees; I should have borrowed even more money to get several degrees! That's totally the solution to employers not wanting to hire or train new employees!

  • Latverian Diplomat

    IIRC, from studies earlier in this trend, woman work because they prefer not to live with their parents.

    The root cause being parents treat their adult sons and daughters differently, in terms of what they are willing to do for them (laundry, food preparation, etc.) and what rules they feel entitled to set.

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