Gaming and Unemployment
During my working life the job market has changed substantially. The concept of a job for life has been seriously eroded as has the sense of job stability. At present in the UK it is still very much an “employers market” and recruitment is definitely conducted on their terms. Periods of unemployment have therefore become increasingly common in comparison to my parent’s generation. I personally have endured times when contracts where not forthcoming and recollect 2009 and 2010 being particularly tough years. Although looking for work fills a lot of the time when unemployed, there is still a substantial void to fill. Unemployment also leaves you without a daily routine and clearly any defined goal to achieve. It is therefore not surprising that so many people fill these gaps by turning to gaming.
This post is not about those who do not to work and simply spend their time gaming through personal choice. Such people are a minority and should not define the debate over unemployment. Unemployment per se is a subject that has been hijacked in recent years and is now about blame, judgement and shame. The discussion needs to be far more intellectually and emotionally sophisticated than that. I am more interested in exploring how many who are out of work, after searching diligently for gainful employment, still find that they have a lot of time to fill without the daily routine of a job. It is worth considering exactly how much impact your job has upon your daily life, beyond the obvious fact that it pays the bills.
Over the years I’ve became aware how many writers, podcasters and live streamers mention that they are between jobs and that gaming has become a major aspect of their lifestyle as a result. Setting aside crass knee-jerk arguments such as “why are you wasting your time gaming, when you don’t have a job”, it has made me consider exactly what is the allure gaming during periods of unemployment and the potential benefits. Naturally I’ve drawn upon my own experiences of periods of unemployment and reflected upon how I spent my own time when not looking for work. I believe my conclusions are far from unique to me.
Gaming, especially MMOs, offer an interactive experience that is centred on goals and achievements. If you then take this a stage further and you blog, podcast or livestream about your gaming, then you have a further set of tasks to manage such as writing, publishing and communicating. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the games are supplying a degree of personal fulfilment, structure and self-discipline, in lieu of that gained from employment. This is a positive thing because unemployment has a terrible habit of leeching away self-worth and motivation. Gaming can offer challenges and impose a sense of order upon the day, similar to that of the working environment.
Being unemployed definitely has a tangible impact upon your social life. This often goes beyond the lack of money. The stigma of being jobless can also have an effect on friendships. It is not uncommon to find that after a lengthy period of unemployment that friends have either drifted away or actively ditched you, leaving you isolated. Gaming can offer a vital social lifeline and provide interaction, inclusion and an opportunity for genuine new friendships. Unemployed people sometimes find themselves exclusively in the company of others in a similar position. Although this can be supportive, it can also foster and reinforce a sense of negativity and despair. Therefore cultivating new friendships online via gaming can be a very positive and beneficial experience.
Many of the spinoff activities from gaming such as blogging, podcasting and livestreaming present a valuable opportunity in self-improvement. They can lead to learning new technical and writing skills, many of which are transferrable. Maintaining a forum or guild requires a lot of man management and “soft” skills. These can potentially be placed on a resume to illustrate the constructive use of time during a period without work. However there’s been a propensity of late towards inflated claims about gaming. Some seem to think that gamers are lateral thinking, problem solving savants. This is patently not the case as some time spent on a forums or world chat will succinctly verify. However this is not to say that gaming and its wider associated culture does not offer any positive benefits that can’t be quantified.
Now there are dangers associated with gaming during periods of unemployment. For some there is the risk that gaming itself becomes a surrogate job, in so far that it becomes the driving factor of the day. Patently this is not a good thing if it keeps you from finding the gainful employment you require. Having lots of spare time can lead to over indulgence. The structured hours that comes with most jobs bring simply cannot compete with this. Giving up ones indulgences can be hard to do and some people cannot or will not do it. Yet I feel such cases are a minority and most responsible gamers understand the restrictions and trade-off’s that employment demands.
Gaming is a useful support tool to the long term unemployed. It can be argued that the same benefits are applicable to several other groups of society; the disabled, the introverted and the agoraphobic. It also has the benefit of being an economical pastime, with F2P games offering a variety of options at no cost. As long as gaming not impeded the actual search for a job, then I believe it can be a positive force and influence during what is usually a very difficult period of someone’s life. However convincing an employer of such is another matter and prejudice and entrenched views are still common place. Therefore I would recommend exercising caution as to what you do and do not state in your resume.