Main content

From Spacewar to Pokemon Go, video games – aside from becoming a large industry in their own right – have influenced the modern economy in some surprising ways.

From Spacewar to Pokemon Go, video games – aside from becoming a large industry in their own right – have influenced the modern economy in some surprising ways. Here’s one. In 2016, four economists presented research into a puzzling fact about the US labour market. The economy was growing, unemployment rates were low, and yet a surprisingly large number of able-bodied young men were either working part-time or not working at all. More puzzling still, while most studies of unemployment find that it makes people thoroughly miserable, the happiness of these young men was rising. The researchers concluded that the explanation was simply that this cohort of young men were living at home, sponging off their parents and playing videogames. They were deciding, in the other words, not to join the modern economy in some low-paid job, because being a starship captain at home is far more appealing.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon

(Photo: Hands holding game pad and playing shooter game on TV screen. Credit: Getty Images)

Available now

9 minutes

Last on

Mon 8 May 2017 03:50GMT

Sources and related links

Steven Levy - Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (Cambridge: O'Reilly) 2010 p55

J.M. Graetz - “The Origin of Spacewar” Creative Computing magazine (Volume 7, Number 8) August, 1981 

Edward Castronova - “Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier,” CESifo Working Paper No. 618, December 2001 

Jane McGonigal - Reality is Broken (London: Vintage) 2011

Steven Johnson - Wonderland: How play made the modern world (New York: Riverhead 2016)

Stewart Brand - “Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums” Rolling Stone 1972

Vili Lehdonvirta - “Geographies of Gold Farming” Oxford Internet Institute blog post 29 October 2014  

“Virtual Gaming Worlds Overtake Namibia” BBC News August 19 2004 

“Virtual Kingdom Richer than Bulgaria” BBC News March 29 2002 

Ana Swanson - “Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America” The Washington Post 23 Sep 2016

Broadcasts

  • Sat 6 May 2017 02:50GMT
  • Sat 6 May 2017 19:50GMT
  • Mon 8 May 2017 03:50GMT

Podcast