Video games have become the hot rods, ice cream parlors, and cave art of our generation; more people would rather be playing them than working. It’s no surprise that many people have started to worry about whether the fate of our youth is being harmed by an unexplainable need to spend countless hours killing countless hordes of creatures.
On the surface, it all seems obvious. Jobs are hard to find. More people are playing games these days. One plus one should equal two in this case, right?
Many people certainly think so. A good number of people believe that video games are the sole source of our unemployment woes. If we could simply throw out the games altogether, the economy would magically get better and everyone would have a job.
Obviously, this issue is more complex than that, but I wonder if this is really a case where video games have a direct connection to the unemployment rate. Should we assume that, because people are playing more games, they aren’t out getting the jobs that are readily available?
Let’s look at some basic information.
The Increase of Unemployment
It is true that the unemployment rate is still relatively high, especially among millennials. While this rate has dropped since 2008, there still is a lot of room for improvement.
As a millennial myself, I can speak with firsthand experience to the challenge of finding a job in this economy. It’s not that jobs aren’t out there. There are plenty of job ads posted all over the Internet and local job boards.
The main issue is the competition. If I was the only millennial out there, I would have my pick of any number of jobs, whether I was qualified or not. Unfortunately, I’m one of 80 something million millennials, many who are searching for their first full-time job.
Millennials make up 40% of the current unemployment rate. It’s hard to argue with these numbers.
But, it’s also hard to claim that this is something unique. Over the past century, the unemployment rate has fluctuated. In the 20th century, it went from a major low during the Great Depression to a high after World War II. This happened all when video gaming wasn’t even a concept yet.
The Rise of Video Games
Since the first electronics, transistors and circuits have been used to have some fun. Video gaming has continued to grow into a major industry all across the globe. In the past few decades, they even gained a social acceptance as the children who grew up on these games have become adults.
In the 21st century, the video gaming industry has exploded. Now it has become a $100 billion industry where numerous genres and platforms have popped up. It seems it’s become so important that economists are now seeing how the industry can improve the economy.
More importantly, it’s easy to see that more people are playing games. 63% of US households include at least one frequent gamer, with over half of these gamers being between the ages of 18 to 49 years old.
If you assume that all these gamers must be on the younger side, think again. The average male is 35 years old, while the average female is 44.
With more people playing, it’s only natural that the technology has had to keep up with the demand. New consoles are rolling out every few years. Computers are always getting smarter on a monthly basis.
The introduction of smartphones and tablets only made things worse with new mobile games using gyroscopes, multitouch features and augmented reality to take gaming to a different level.
How else could we go from black and white Pokémon on a Game Boy to Pokémon Go having 20 million daily users?
This doesn’t necessarily mean everything is the latest and greatest. With the rise of games has also come an unfortunate drop in creative content. While indie games continue to be a source of many unique ideas, the main industry has seen a rise in blockbuster content with lackluster results.
None of this explains how or why video games may be influencing the unemployment rate, but it does give you a sense of just how massive the growth of the video gaming industry has been over the past few years.
The real question is, how can we know if the rise of video games and the unemployment rate are connected?
Is There a Connection?
Before my parents call me up with a big fat “I told you so” about the dangers of gaming, let’s analyze this connection a bit more.
Many sources are railing on about the connection between video gaming and unemployment, from top-notch sources like the Washington Post to “manly” niche blogs that complain about the “feeble grip strength” of today’s young men. Come on gamers! Have you been forgetting your pre-Call of Duty hand and arm warm ups?
It’s hard to argue that there isn’t something going on. Even the boys and girls in the white lab coats have taken an interest in how these things are related. One study even tracked unemployment and gaming trends between 2000 – 2015 and basically confirmed that something was up.
However, before we round up all the gaming consoles for an epic and toxic global bonfire, let’s remember the words of my influential AP Psych teacher, “Austin, wake the hell up.” Wait… wrong quote.
“Correlation is not causation.”
Trying to find causes to large trends is like trying to create an explanation each time you’re stopped at a train crossing. The first time it was obviously because of the rain, but that second time there was a frog, and that third time was no doubt because of the kid giving you the bird from the car in front.
Unemployment has always been an issue. In the 20th century, the unemployment rate fluctuated at several points, including that little point known as the “Great Depression.”
Even when the unemployment rate was low, jobs were still hard to come by. At the start of the 20th century, it was increased immigration. Near the end, it was a larger population and more college degrees.
Basically, we can see that history often repeats itself when it comes to unemployment. Even when jobs are available, there may be too much competition to successfully provide a position to everyone.
What’s different today, however, is the presence of video games. The only games people during the Great Depression had was the Russian roulette-like game of Do-We-Eat-Tonight-Or-Not.
The popularity of video gaming isn’t even necessarily a global thing. Different countries and regions have different gaming rates. The US and China alone make up over half of the video gaming market. Unemployment, on the other hand, is, unfortunately, a global trend in most areas of the world.
Unemployment is a complex issue that can’t simply be explained by one factor. The connection between unemployment and video games has several possibilities. Video gaming may be a cause of the issue, but it could also be a mere symptom. How else are we expected to pass the time if not with games?
Am I really expected to pick up a book?
Unemployment has risen and fallen long before video games became a thing. To say that video gaming is the main reason or even a large reason, for the unemployment of youth today is an oversimplification. More importantly, it’s a claim that’s hard to prove.
It may seem unimportant on the surface, but deep down this is an important claim to avoid without some hard evidence. Unemployment among any age group is a serious issue to tackle.
In order to solve this kind of issue, a realistic and long look must be made at the potential causes. I encourage scientists and economists to continue to look at the connection between unemployment and video games, but let’s withhold judgment until the information is clear.
Until then, the only true solution for any amount of unemployment is personal perseverance. For the people, young and old, who truly are spending more time clicking away at their sweaty, cheese stained controllers instead of finding jobs to apply for, maybe it’s time for a priority shift.