Video Games Might Be Increasing Unemployment: Study

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a Vietnamese reporter based in Sydney and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
November 11, 2021 Updated: November 14, 2021

Ziggy “VjpPro” Nguyen did not stay unemployed because he could not get a job but because he had something more enjoyable to do. Almost every day from  August 2019 to January 2020, he woke up at 7 a.m., played video games, ate pizza, played video games, ate pizza, played video games, and slept at 12 a.m. When Nguyen was at his best, he skipped the pizza and played until 4 a.m.

“When you win, get a rare item or get a new skin [for your character], other players would notice. You can show off. And it feels amazing,” Nguyen, a 21-year-old from Sydney, said.

“The more I played, the higher my rank was. The higher my rank was, the happier I felt. The happier I felt, the more I played.”

“It’s all about boosting your ego,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Ziggy Nguyen on his table (supplied).

Nguyen is not the only one who found himself falling for the allure of the imaginary world.

In fact, video games have become so immersive that there is increasing evidence that they are luring young people away from the workforce. According to a study published in the Journal of Economic Studies in September this year, Russian and American economists suggested that the popularity of video games is increasing the rate of total and youth unemployment at the country level.

“In countries in which playing video games are more popular, especially to the point of becoming a source of income for some participants, unemployment is higher than in countries where gaming is less popular,” researchers said.

“Video games might be addictive and might raise the value of leisure and influence decisions about time allocation between work and leisure… An increase of time spent on video games may come at the expense of time spent working, resting time, or both.”

“It is more a wealthy country problem,” the study noted, “but it does not entirely disappear even for the poorest countries in the data.”

In another research in 2017, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester, and the University of Chicago found that 22 percent of men in their 20s without a college degree did not work at all during 2016, a 12.5 percent increase compared to 2000. Instead of working, these men now spend 75 percent of their “work time” on computers, mostly playing video games.

“The implications could be troubling for them as well as the economy.” wrote American doctor Kimberly Young, founder of The Center for Internet Addiction, “The young men aren’t gaining job experience that will better equip them to work in their 30s and 40s. That, in turn, could lead to a lifetime of decreased wages, limited opportunities and challenges such as depression and drug use.”

These findings have raised concerns as more people are turning to video games during the pandemic. Back when Australia first introduced social distancing measures, sales of game consoles skyrocketed by 285.6 percent. For the first time, video games ranked second in Australia’s top media preferences, beating Free-to-air TV and Youtube, according to Digital Australia 2022 by Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), Australia’s leading gaming body.

Australia is not alone, though, as the trend is global. Millennials and Gen Z worldwide are now spending more leisure time on games than any other pastimes, including TV, movies, or even listening to music, said the 2021 Global Games Market Report by Newzoo, the leading global provider of games and esports analytics.

“For a lot of young males, it’s actually more attractive to play video games and watch pornography than actually get a job and look for a partner,” Australian psychologist Dr Tanveer Ahmed told The Epoch Times.

“It’s almost becoming a competitive thing where what they compete in are playing video games and watching porn, rather than do the job that might seem low paid.”

For some, killing enemies and smashing towers actually seems less stressful than managing real-life relationships, Ahmed noted.

“This is one reason researchers are finding that marriage and partnership seem to be falling at the lower end of the labour market,” he said.

Australian child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Kim Le, who is also a video game specialist, said video games are designed to be addictive.

“Video games are designed so that the rewards are delivered in a very precise way to keep players coming back for more,” he told The Epoch Times. “You need people to physically program and make those rewards, and you have to produce quick and very fast.”

Le said gaming companies are spending more money marketing the games than developing them.

“You need to constantly bring out new stuff in the game to keep people interested,” he said. “And you need to get someone to play a game for 120 days in a row before they start spending a lot of money in the game. If you keep someone clicking every day on the game, after about three or four months, they’re going to spend more money.”

He also noted the Australian Government has given a 30 percent tax break for video game companies if they invest in video games in Australia, which “is going to bring a lot of investment to the video game industry here.”

“The kids are the future,” said Le. “Finishing high school, they’re going to be working in these workforces, and we need to make sure we protect them because the industry is so hungry for content, for the latest rewards.”

For Nguyen, his deep investment in his virtual life got him into Top 30 best gamers in Arena of Valor, but he noted that it came at the expense of his real life.

He could not remember the last time he took a shower, cut his parents off for two months, lost weight, had sleep deprivation, dark circles under his eyes and vestibular disorder. Purchasing in-game items also cost him $4,000. Then one morning in February, 2020, Nguyen felt like he had enough. He quit compulsive gaming, and got a job.

“It’s like drug addiction,” he sighed. “You lose your money, your time, your health, your relationships, but it makes you feel good, so you just keep going.”

Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a Vietnamese reporter based in Sydney and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.