Young men working less, video-gaming more

Young men working less, video-gaming more

Credit : Call of Duty: WWII Trailer by BagoGames is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Caption : Video games today deliver photo-realistic game play Credit : Flickr


According to research published in 2017 by four economists, young men are choosing to work less and play video games more. The paper titled 'Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men' describes how between 2000 and 2015, hours worked by young men in their 20s declined significantly more than hours worked by older men. In absolute terms, hours worked by young men dropped by 203 hours per year, a 12% decline. The authors suggest that a key cause of the trend has been the improvement in video-game quality.

The decline in hours worked by young men was paralleled by a decrease in the employment rate of young men without a college education, which declined from 82% to 72% over the same period. For each hour less worked by the group, leisure activities increased by an hour. Around 75% of the increase in leisure was spent playing video games. Over the same period inflation-adjusted hourly wages for the group fell, meaning it cost them less to not work.

More research is needed to determine whether higher-unemployment led young men to game more, or whether better games caused young men to work less. Over the same period the quality and sophistication of video games advanced significantly. It's possible that both factors played a role, though it's not clear in what proportion.

Video games now rival Hollywood for realism

What is clear is that video games have attained levels of visual, audio and story quality that rival or exceed their Hollywood counterparts, with budgets to match. 'Grand Theft Auto V', released in 2015, reportedly cost $265m to make and has sold more than 75 million copies. Games today compete with Hollywood for voiceover artists as well as for visual-effects creators, designers, writers and other talent. Storylines and fragments of game-play are tested on focus groups and sent back for re-design if found to be lacking. Such levels of sophistication are time consuming and expensive.

Game budgets reflect demand. Grand Theft Auto V took $800m in sales on its first day, three-times what it cost to make. In addition, game companies offer additional, related products such as downloadable add-in content and access to new features, often for online versions of their games. Today, a player can complete the game alone in solo-player mode, and then join thousands of other players online to play extended, interactive versions via online game networks.


Credit : Flashbacks arcade, Seaside Heights by goodrob13 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Caption : Video games have come a long way from the arcade Credit : Flickr


Games go online

Online networks such as Sony's PlayStation premium network, PlayStation Plus, charge premium subscription fees to access features such as online game play and access to downloadable materials. At March 2017, it's estimated that PlayStation Plus had nearly 27million subscribers. The annual subscription cost is around $60, not including the cost of feature content and credits which can be purchased to spend on in-game upgrades and to unlock new features. A player may spend multiples of their annual subscription price on such features.

The industry is booming

These factors explain why the video game industry has grown to become one of the world's largest entertainment industries, generating around $100bn in sales in 2017. While young men are at home playing games on their PC or dedicate gaming console, millions of commuters on-the-move are playing games on mobile. According to research by Newzoo, in 2017 mobile games accounted for 42% of all gaming revenue. Future growth in likely to be supplemented by new mediums such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. All factors point to continued investment in the sector and better games and gaming experiences for players.

Mum and dad bear the burden

The quality of the entertainment-experience afforded by video games has clearly risen substantially, as has value-for-money. These factors may be causing many young men to stay at home and play video games rather than work more. These men often live at home with their parents and have been shown to marry at lower rates than their peers. They are, as the authors of the study point out, 'insulated' by mum and dad from the economic effects of not working.

Long-term implications

Whether the decline of young men in the labour force is a good thing or a bad thing is not clear. Critics argue that it has negative long-term implications for the economy, although that perspective assumes that jobs are available for young men who are prepared to work. If jobs are not available, then video games may provide players with a cost-effective substitute for wellbeing. Unemployment among young men is associated with health-disorders such as depression and with unhealthy behaviours such as the consumption of drugs and alcohol and participation in crime.

The decline in hours worked may have flow-on impacts for the economy. Young men may lack the ability to purchase goods they have traditionally favoured such as cars and houses.

Whatever the impact on the economy, one thing is clear. As games continue to increase in sophistication, and prices continue to remain affordable, players will be attracted to them.

What role parents will play in forcing their sons out of their bedrooms remains to be seen.