Some Men Are Working Less and Playing More Video Games

A paper from economists Erik Hurst, Mark Aguiar, Mark Bils and Kerwin Charles at the National Bureau of Economic Research posits that video games are the reason that younger men are working fewer hours. The idea first gained attention last year when Hurst’s graduation speech at the University of Chicago revealed some preliminary findings. That report, says Hurst, is now ready for public consumption. Among the findings was that, by 2015, American men ages 31 to 55 worked 163 fewer hours a year than the same age group in 2000.

The New York Times reports that, further, “men 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a year,” showing that “the gap between the two groups grew by about 40 hours a year, or a full workweek on average.” Experts considered “globalization, technological change, the shift to service work” and even that “employers may not be hiring young men.” But Hurst and his team looked at the issue from the viewpoint of “why don’t young men want to work.”

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By examining the recession, they found that, “between 2004 and 2015, young men’s leisure time grew by 2.3 hours a week,” and that, according to government time use surveys, 60 percent of that time “was spent playing video games.”

The analysis, which didn’t count full-time students, also revealed that “the amount of time young men spent on household chores or child care was not going up.” Young women’s leisure time grew 1.4 hours per week, of which “a negligible amount” of that time was spent on video games. The Entertainment Software Association reports that, “41 percent of the American game-playing population are women.”

The study also pointed out that, “median wages for men have been stagnant for decades,” and, “over the same period, the quality of video games has grown significantly,” with the 2004 “World of Warcraft” signaling the advent of “large, social video games.”

“Games provide a sense of waking in the morning with one goal: I’m trying to improve this skill, teammates are counting on me, and my online community is relying on me,” said game scholar/designer Jane McGonigal. “There is a routine and daily progress that does a good job at replacing traditional work.”

New York University professor Adam Alter also points out that, “unlike TV shows or concerts, today’s video games don’t end.” Video games, he said, are “built to be endless or have long-range goals that we don’t like to abandon.”