A collaborative study conducted by the University of Chicago, University of Rochester, and Princeton University shows that young men without college degrees are engaging in video games instead of having a job, and they are happier for it. Specifically, the study targeted “low-skilled” men between the ages of 21 and 30 who were unemployed all through 2014 and found that they spent on average 8.6 hours a week playing video games. Erik Hurst, one of the leading faculty members of the study, said the young men are “living with parents or relatives”, citing that the “obvious problem with [their] lifestyle occurs as they age [because they] haven’t accumulated any skills or experience”.
Of course, this isn’t the first time young men have been attached to video games. A previous study targeting young men and video games states that video games are more effective at “activating the reward regions” of the brain in men than in women. While some outlets have taken to blaming video games for this kind of addiction, Tom Chatfield gave a Ted Talk about how this reward region dynamic can be applied in the workplace. He references using “experience bars” that “[grade] people incrementally in little bits and pieces, [giving] them one profile character avatar which is constantly progressing in tiny, tiny, tiny little increments which they feel are their own” as an example of how employees will want to work because of the tangible reward.
Many articles reporting about the study bring up a man named Danny Izquierdo, who perfectly fits into the demographic of both studies. He says he prefers playing video games to working his low wage jobs, specifically that “I know if I have a few hours [playing a video game] I will be rewarded”, whereas “with a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.” I think we should consider the notion that many jobs, especially in the labor force, are not effectively rewarding their employees in a way that makes them enjoy working. The articles I read for research on this topic often blame video games for drawing young men away, but I think we should learn from video games and how they engage the reward region so we can apply them to the workplace. Chatfield’s suggestions are a great start because they are meant to stimulate and engage people while they are working, which is ultimately what makes video games–especially the grinding ones–so effective.