Humanity's end: the time we waste on virtual lives

Video gaming, it's something that most people have done at least once in their life and many do with regularity. I myself am guilty, in 1989 I received my first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. 

Sure, we'd already had an Atari 2600 in the house from my older half-brother but I never used it much, the NES though was mine. All mine, if it was raining or too cold to go out and play there I sat before this glorious computer tapping my thumbs away to the point of occasional blisters (I'm looking at you Ice Hockey!) and I will admit, as some of my regular readers know, I still play Atari stuff a lot (my daily driver is an 800xl, I also 2600 occasionally). Sadly, I also play freemium games (never pay of course) on my phone and have a Playstation 4 which I fire up every month or so for a weekend. I got to thinking, 'how much time do we waste annually on video games' and I quickly found answers. The average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013. Wow, but what about globally? Could I find an estimate? Wel I did, on TED no less. We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it? How could it be MORE worth it? Wait, what?! Surely I misread that, let me clean my glasses off. 3 billion hours a week. Pinch me, I'm dreaming! It can't be so.

Let's look at that for a year... 156 billion hours a year.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX BILLION HOURS A YEAR.

That's 17,808,219 man-YEARS spent on video games annually. 17 million years wasted every year playing video games. Seventeen MILLION.

One estimate puts 6,700 workers as required to build Khufu's pyramid.

If we take Herodotus' claim of 20 years being required to construct the pyramid and assume 12 hours of labor from every worker, every day for those 20 years we come up with 613,200 man-hours per year. Multiplying our estimate times the 6,700 workers we get an estimate that 4,108,440,000 man-hours were required to construct Khufu's pyramid. Video gamers could provide enough man-hours to build Khufu's pyramid THIRTEEN times every year and still have 295,000 man-YEARS of labor left over every year.

The Hoover Damn had an average of 3,500 workers daily and construction took just shy of 5 years. Again, for ease, let's assume that 3,500 daily workers x 12 hours x 7 days x 5 years. That gives us 536,550,000 man-hours for constructing the Hoover dam. Video gamers could build 290 structures equivalent to the Hoover damn annually. 

Hoover Dam

This is just insanity. I imagine people watch television than those that video game, and likely for longer periods. Just imagine if we took 10% of that time we waste on such pursuits and applied it to service projects in our communities, or furthering our education, or anything remotely productive?!

Not only is this a massive waste of time, but it is using a considerable amount of electricity at the same time. If we just consider console and computer gaming hours from the figure from the TED talk we need to come up with some average kWh number. If we look at figures on this page, we see that consoles are using 50w to almost 200w and we know that computer gaming rigs can easily use 500w-1000w depending on what kind of GPU (and how many GPU's are present) is being used. We also have to factor in monitor or television power consumption... LCD's can use 20-25w and there are plasma displays that will happily use 400w or more. For our power usage lets take a very conservative figure, 125w for both the system and the display.

125w multiplied by the 1.56 billion hours gives us 1,560,000 kWh of power usage a year. Again, this is a very conservative estimate. The Hoover Dam generates, on average, about 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power each year... the Hoover Dam, that required all of those man hours mentioned above in this post, takes nearly THREE AND A HALF hours to generate that very conservative kWh figure.

Let's assume the average bachelor's degree requires 40 hours a week for 4 years. That's 8320 hours over 4 years while we have the average U.S. gamer over 13 dedicating 1310 over the same 4 year period to gaming, that's 15% of time require for a Bachelor's degree spent on video games and really the number is higher as most degree programs do not have you in class 52 weeks a year.

According to NPD, 91 percent of U.S. children ages 2-17 play video games (64 million). More interesting, these numbers are up nearly 13 percent from a 2009 study. The number of kids in the U.S. has increased by 1.54 percent in that time, but not nearly enough to make up for the massive increase in game playing. Oct 11, 2011
— http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/91-percent-of-kids-play-video-games-says-study/
The good news is that we’ve finally gotten our priorities in order. According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer age 13 or older spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games during 2013
— http://time.com/120476/nielsen-video-games/
Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day.
— https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-high-school-dropout-rates

So by these figures more than 1 million students are playing video games just shy of 2 weeks a year and dropping out of high school...

Let some of this sink in next time you turn on your console or tap that app on your phone.