I consider myself a video gamer. I like video games, they are fun. More importantly they transport me to another world where I have some measure of self determination and a sense of accomplishment as well as camaraderie with other gamers. I talked about this in the Who Am I segment on Episode 9 of my podcasts right after I bought Mafia III. A game which offers a complex and interesting world to explore from 1968. That particular game and others like it are a great escapes for the overworked professional. So the next thought is, wouldn’t it be great if I could stay at home all day and play video games? Well, uh, no. Let me explain why, but first let me talk about the Washington Post article on how Video Games are destroying the up and coming workforce.
The general consensus of the article is that there is a group of traditional entrants into the workforce, males specifically aged 21 to 30 who are now happy to sit at home and play video games. The key word there is “Happy”. Happiness has gone up and according to studies and it’s a unique effect for gamers.
The article and related study makes the point that this group of mostly male gamers who are living at home and playing video games all day are losing out on job experience that is invaluable. I’m not so sure that’s true.
It’s not the video games, it’s the employers!
The thing is we have a confluence of a few things happening. The time we spend in the workforce is extended because people have to continue working longer. The reasons include the failure of the great retirement experiment with 401K’s, the greatest generation living longer and thus requiring support, and the fact that and we are healthier so we have the ability to work longer. Let’s not forget that everyone over age 65 right now has healthcare taken care of so they can go to employers and be ‘contractors’ which in effect displaces a regular full time job in a way that’s a net positive to the company bottom line.
I’ve talked to several employers, especially the ones who need larger groups of workers with the learned skills that are implied in the article. These recruiters at these employers understand that they are going to hit a wall with the older employees who are moving ever closer to ageing out. The problem, from my option, and this could be a whole article in and of itself, is that employers are handling the problem like the nation is handling the debt, or the social security/retirement issues. Everyone just wants to put it off for one more year.
How Employers currently handle the real workforce need:
So what would really happen if the workforce was needed? Step one is to continue to do the job with what you have available. This is where the burn and churn mentality comes in. Instead of taking a realistic assessment of the situation and realizing that something needs to change, managers ignore everything in pursuit of the stated metric. They purposefully avoid avoid heeding HR advice, deny systemic customers, and ignore reality. They just push for the impossible at the lowest possible wages. People burn out and leave, new people are recruited and they are pushed for the impossible. This is of course why so many business stall at a certain size or wind up in front of a senate committee.
If (and it’s a big if) they get through that piece, or there is some unavoidable requirement for a licensed credential, then it turns into a bidding war. The companies simply offer more money for what skills they actually need. This is the ‘cloud’ specialist, or the RN. If your lucky enough to be a professional with experience and a credential in this area then you are jumping from job to job or even position to position within a large organization every few years. I always feel bad for the HR professionals in this situation because their is a very limited pool of people to do the job and management always wants to pay less than what’s needed.
If step two is a bidding war, and that doesn’t work, then step three kicks in. When managers realize that it’s not money that’s going to get them the people they need so they have to try for something else. Typically the employers go for the benefits. Interestingly enough, this is where our employer paid health care system and personal time off came from. In the modern implementation of this phase organizations finally start to get creative. In the example of the wall street journal article, If employers wanted to attract a population of workers who were into video games, then there would be video game teams at work, there would be sponsorships to eSports, etc.. Friday would go from casual friday to LAN party Friday. The success of one company’s adoption to this approach would spawn imitators for competitive sake, it always does.
Finally, step four is what happens when the other three aren’t working. Basically employers take someone with a good attitude and pay for the education and life while the people skill up to what’s needed. Of course the employers need some sort of commitment for their investment. They usually ask potential employees to sign some sort of commitment. Some Apprenticeship programs are structured like this. Other examples include the US Army paying for someone to go to med school if they commit to 7 years in the service. Seven years in the service beats a $200,000 debt load. Generally though they want the risk to sit on the shoulders of the individual so the more popular version of this plan is student loan debt forgiveness if the employee offers to work a extremely hard to place position. You see this approach to recruiting for teachers in hard to staff areas.
But we haven’t seen this, why?
Going back to the article and our video game playing men. 22% between ages of 21 and 30 w/o bachelor’s degree aren’t working. Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to the study, which is based on the Census.
So they are staying at home, or a big chunk anyway. Why don’t they get job? The article talks about the perspective of the job seeker. The big answer employers like to point to is that these young men don’t have the skills and that’s true. But that’s also too convenient of an answer because what is implied by the employer is that they have complex jobs that need to be filled and it’s someone else’s, i.e. the higher education systems, job to train them. The reasons why this isn’t the case are way to numerous to go into now but the bottom line is that it doesn’t really go over the whole picture. That’s what i’m exploring here.
Since the point of the article was to say that this part of the population isn’t working because they are happy, then I I suggest we take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to really explain what’s going on.
You can read all you want about Maslow’s with a quick web search. To simplify things for the purpose of this missive it’s a foundational theory in psychology that orders the needs of the human psyche into ever more complex layers and shows what our motivations are as we ascend each layer. Simply put: meeting needs = happiness. The employer used to be able meet or at least have input into all the tiers. The two bottom levels are basic needs. Employers provided money for food and housing etc.. The middle levels were more psychological needs. Employers provided both a community and the chance for accomplishment with the jobs they put people into. The top layers are self-fulfillment, and that’s really more beyond a job and is career related. Is it any wonder why losing a job is well known to be one of the most traumatic things an individual can experience? So where did video games come in?
This is what is really happening with video games:
Looking again, we can see that either social safety nets, family, or video games have replaced many of the areas that employers were able to fill. As Scooby-Doo says: Ruh-Ro.
The bottom levels of basic needs are met by societal safety nets and family. FYI, this is why it’s not a good idea for parents to allow boomerang kids back into your home. If you meet their basic needs, then what is their motivation to go out and figure out how to meet them without you? The middle tiers that are related to belonging and Esteem as well as the highest tear for self-actualization are all met by Family, Peers, or Gaming.
Really who’s to blame, and should we blame anyone?
Virtually all employers, public and private, exist in a world where there is competition. If video games had to compete with television and movies, they had to be less expensive and more engaging. They clearly have done this. So Employers need to compete with the happiness created by the video game industry if they want that 20% of the workforce that’s in a early life stasis, right? I don’t think so. I think the problem will take care of itself.
At the beginning of my article I said it wouldn’t be great to stay at home and just play video games all day forever. For me it’s because I have an eye for what my needs will be as I get to the latter stages of my life and I want to be as best prepared as possible. This reality will hit employers and workers alike.
Parents will not be able to fulfill the roles they are: Parents will get older, and they will eventually be physically forced to leave the workforce, this is true no matter how good medicine gets. Unless we do something insane, like the guaranteed basic income, eventually someone is going to have to pay the bills and it won’t be mommy and daddy.
Employers needs will continue to grow till they have to do something about it. Automation and belt-tightening will only get us so far. We will eventually figure out this Algorithmic Management, grow past it and eventually new jobs will be created. It may take a couple decades longer than a tech based workforce displacement historically has needed but the economy will eventually do it.
Society will not be able to support everyone without them having to work. Things like expanding medicare to everyone, the Guaranteed Minimum Income, and expansion of other services is a nice idea, but you simply can’t tax the population enough to pay for it all. No matter how you look at it there isn’t enough revenue to give everyone the basics and still maintain the capital needed to continue to grow.
We are human beings. And here is the simplest answer, something that most people just ignore. Young adults will eventually get bored with video games, they will move onto something else. I believe that something else will be jobs. I’ve seen it time and time again with kids… every generation has something they are obsessed with. They grow up and put down the footballs, they put down the game controllers, and if you live in rural North Carolina they put down the fishing poles and hunting rifles and park the four wheeler.
Video games will not be the apocalypse of the emerging professional workforce, or any other workforce. But they are a great distraction and a fun way to spend some time. Especially the ones with novel concepts. Hey, now that I think about it, someone should make a video game about how video games are destroying the workforce. That would be cool to play.
Inspiration and Source:
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