Have you ever seen one of those movies, set far in the future where there seems to be some subset of the population that has left society in favor of an online community? That future may be closer than we think. In 2016, four economists made an interesting discovery about 20 something men. Without a college degree, many of them were turning away from the workforce, instead, they were staying at home playing video games.
So what is causing this? A few options are presented by the Economist article, such as college degree holders crowding out those without degrees from jobs, and the fact that the recession was harder on younger people. Now I would like to expand upon that idea a little through a new lens; addiction, and what we have learned about addiction.
So what about addiction can show us what is happening here? Well, as talked about in this Ted-Talk, what causes addiction may have less to do with the drug, and more with a person's environment. They talk about two different studies, one giving rats drug-laced water and regular water while they are in metal cages, and the rats drank the drug-laced water till they died. In the second study instead of having the rats in metal cages, they gave them a rat-paradise to live in, and they choose to drink the regular water. I would say that for many 20 something men, without college degrees, we are forcing them to live in "metal cages".
To really show how this has affected young men, as is talked about in this Slate article, a study has shown that men in this age group have shown increased levels of happiness. The article goes on to compare the slow progression of "leveling up" in real life, to the fast and fun promotions given to gamers as they play games, and are given more amazing abilities and gadgets.
Now don't mistake what I am saying for trying to diagnose these men with video game addiction, I am not trying to say that at all. What I am saying is that our current economic condition has left many men looking at their options, and they feel trapped, and so they choose not to be apart of our society and instead choose other, more fulfilling activities - video games.
This will have repercussions, having people leave the workforce is not good for the economy, and if many are living with their parents now, as the Economist article above said they were, then what will happen when their parents retire, and can't support them? There is also something to say about the more immeasurable loss here, loss to culture, to innovation.
We are forcing these young men out of the economy, and out of our society by making real-life unfulfilling, video games are more rewarding by default. In short, we have made video games more rewarding than real life, and that should give us some serious pause.