General Question

Garebo's avatar

What do you do when your 22 year old only wants to play video games?

Asked by Garebo (3173points) July 10th, 2014

My son graduated over a year ago with honors in engineering, worked for three summers then as an intern at my company. But was rejected for a more flamboyant individual-a “rock star”. The whole thing was done in a very unprofessional crappy way. He is quiet and reserved, but so was his manager who liked him. I believe the real reason was the already present cronyism in my company, and no more of it. Since then he has done nothing but play video games like a Count Dracula- play all night, sleep all day, now for over a year, with no aspirations to get a job or improve his lot in life. He has a few close friends all working that he continues to play with at night. No drugs, limited drinking, doesn’t seem to be suffering from depression, no carnal girl friends- just apathetic and stay at home. He does help out enough with house chores begrudgingly, and is now running out of all his savings. He feels hopeless with very low self-esteem. I’ve tried threats, but they end up being false threats. I want to help him but he keep pushing back and ignoring my advice. I suggest he see a professional since we can’t get thru to him, but he feels they are just as whacked and only want to prescribe drugs.
He is very intelligent, honest, reserved, but rudderless and addicted.
It is causing us severe anguish.
If anyone has remedied this nightmare I would like to hear about it.

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35 Answers

pleiades's avatar

The time will come he is extremely young. And that video game playing is one way to mask depression. How do I know? Source ME

Blueroses's avatar

This might sound like something you don’t want to hear, but listen.

My best friend is brilliant… at night… guiding clans through Halo as an officer. She had no direction.
I suggested taking the armed forces test. She was immediately courted by Navy and Marine and Air Force.
She went Navy.
Focused. She was sent to school that does count toward Master’s education.
She is totally boss now!! 5 years in Navy, they are begging her to re-up. Married, kids, whatever… she is set whether she wants to continue in Navy or go private sector.
All because she rocked at diplomacy in video games.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The top 2 responses are worthy of note. This phase will pass. So much potential will not remain unnoticed.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’d be concerned too. It’s obviously not healthy for him to play games all day and night and he’s avoiding life.

Who’s paying the bills? Who pays for the games? Access to the internet/cable or however he’s accessing the games? I’d start by cutting off any supplementary funding to that sort of thing.

I’d set some house rules which would include a ban on games during the day and an expectation that he either goes back and does more study or he starts looking for a job or he moves out. I think it’s time for some strict rules. How long are you prepared to have him hijacking your sofa/one of your bedrooms while he plays games?

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

You said he is not depressed, then described depression. He is probably not clinically depressed, but depressed in response to hi environment.
Get solid. Do you love your son? Get solid. Take the game system if he can’t be trusted with a rule. He turned to games to pick up his spirits, fine, works great. One year later he is DEPENDING on games to provide endorphins.
Every day, at 6:45 AM, make him get up. shower, dress, and have breakfast. By 8:15 AM he is required to leave the house, and must not return before 11:45. When he has successfully followed that schedule for a week, start having him leave again at 12:30 and not return until 6:00.
He ha strained himself out of a responsible schedule routine, and must be returned to the land of the living. He doesn’t have to be actively looking for work all that time, but make it clear to him he can’t spend that time hanging at arcades or friends’ homes.
Once he gets out and mobile again, his brain will kick in and get him back to normal.
You don’t have to spring the new habits on him. Let him know he’d better get a good night’s sleep, and tell him the plan.

johnpowell's avatar

I was kinda like your kid at his age (minus the video game part, I just read Fark all day). My sister made fake jobs and asked me if I wanted to do them.. Shit like, “My friend needs a fence painted and you can do it if you want.” The fence didn’t really need painted but I thought I was working and earning money by myself and that felt good. And in turn led to me looking for more opportunities to make money.

She was actually the one paying the friend who would in turn pay me.

johnpowell's avatar

Keep in mind that he was a intern for three summers. That is like the job interview from hell and he still wasn’t picked. Now he has to walk into other companies and the interview is 30 minutes. In his mind if he couldn’t impress in 9 months how the hell can he impress in 30 minutes.

It would be so very depressing.

kevbo's avatar

My first thought is to recognize that all of his talent and smarts were trumped by a brand of politics. If your son were adept at that kind of politics, he would perservere. But, he isn’t. He’s good at engineering. He did all the right things and discovered the system is fucked, and he doesn’t yet understand that this isn’t true across the board. So now what?

A second thought is that video games are a relatively cheap and reliable way to get a predictable reward. The right effort will produce the right result, and there isn’t a shade of politics that threatens to get in the way.

With that out of the way, I think there are two things you can do. One is to really listen to him. Get him to talk about his aspirations and whether they are expressed in a positive or negative fashion (“I want to do this” or “I won’t do this.”) Nudge the outcome of the discussion towards what a next step might be and then elicit his agreement to do only that next step. Don’t pollute the discussion with your advice or ideas. Just facilitate his articulation of his.

The second thing is to get him to make the smallest, least painful change he can make. Just lather, rinse and repeat with this, and make sure the changes are truly small. The momentum will build in a short time and the changes will be sustained.

Lastly, since he has a ton of time on his hands, you may suggest his taking up a different kind of hobby. I’ve been doing live shows (theatre and dance) for a number of years as a backstage person and as an actor. Theatre is an amazing collaborative process that begins and ends usually over a two month period, involves many people from many different disciplines, requires and intense amount of time and energy, and offers the opportunity for a lot of play with other people. It beats the shit out of watching TV or playing games, and helps lots of people who would otherwise isolate themselves at home find an outlet to be a person with other people. That’s only an example from my experience, but perhaps there’s something more appropriate for him.

jonsblond's avatar

We are in a very similar situation with our almost 22 year old son.

Your son needs someone to give him inspiration and hope. Is there anyone he knows who he can job shadow for an afternoon? Our son studied computer science and he had hopes of developing his own game, but hoping and developing a game on his own does not pay the bills. I have a sister who works at Caterpillar and she asked a co-worker if our son could shadow him and get an idea of the types of jobs that are available. He went to Caterpillar yesterday and got an eye-opener. I think he realized that there are opportunities out there that are better than flipping burgers by day and gaming all night. We shall see.

Blueroses's avatar

My point was not “Join the Military”.
That worked well for my friend, but that isn’t everyone’s answer.

Gaming online, with people, brings out traits of leadership or maybe a comfort in being a follower. Take an interest in that gaming persona and you will have so much insight into what really makes your son thrive.
Don’t discount the games as wasted time.

hearkat's avatar

I agree with @Jonesn4burgers – your description sounds exactly like depression. STEM is where the jobs are right now, so he’s in a far better position than most of my 23-year-old son’s friends that went to college. Since you can’t go back and undo the mistake of having him intern at your employer, couldn’t the college’s career office help him find something?

CWMcCall's avatar

Turn off the cash flow and start charging him rent and make it painfully clear it is time he starts living like a man and support himself and I would go a step further and give him a timeline as to him moving out.

snowberry's avatar

Depending on your son’s personality and the severity of his depression and addiction, threats, cajoling and expectations might or might not work. Be prepared to kick him out, and if you do, don’t back down!

I had to kick my own son out as soon as he turned 18 because he brought drugs and pornography into our home, as well as sneaking girlfriends in for trysts. That in itself is bad, but we also had young girls (his little sisters), and we were not willing to risk our children’s safety while he worked out his issues.

Kicking him out meant that he lived hand to mouth for a while, crashing on friends’ couches, or sleeping wherever. He had all his possessions stolen twice, and hubby and I didn’t sleep soundly for many months. Eventually he got tired of the shiftless life and joined the military, but I acknowledge the story might not have had as happy an ending.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@snowberry did you keep close contact with him while he was out living on his own or was it a complete cut-off? Tough love must have been very hard, a double-edged sword! Thank God he found his way out of the maze!

ragingloli's avatar

My guess is that he took that event as a personal failure, and now he feels that he is a failure and that he has no chance at finding a job anyway, so he escapes into the game world, where success is almost guaranteed.
I suggest psychological treatment as soon as possible.
Such an event can emotionally cripple a person for life.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I don’t have children but, when I do, they’ll abide by the same rules as I did growing up – if you’re living at home, you’re either going to school, working, or both. No grown ass man is going to sit in my house playing video games and sleeping all day with no job. He’s an adult – the issue with these “threats” of yours is, like you said, they’re false. If you say, “get a job or I’m kicking you out” ten times and never follow through, he knows you’re a bullshitter, so he’s not going to listen. If you’re not going to follow through with things like that and you’re just going to continue to coddle him like a child, don’t bother handing those threats out.

He’s an adult. Adults have to work to live (barring disabilities, of course). He needs a reality check. If it were me, he’d be looking for employment or getting the hell out of my house STAT. I don’t treat 22-year-olds like teenagers. If his pride was hurt by being rejected and now he’s depressed, getting off his ass and landing a job will do his self esteem some good. Therapy is fine if he needs it and will go, but that doesn’t mean he gets to remain unemployed in the meantime. Depression may be a factor, but I think the biggest reason for his behavior is that he’s got it made – living with mommy and daddy for free, not having to pay bills or buy food, not having any responsibilities other than a few chores a 10-year-old could do – what reason does he have to change? Solution: give him a reason or put up with having your adult kid live with you forever. The choice is yours.

snowberry's avatar

@ZEPHYRA We let him call us, not the other way around. You can’t afford to be a helicopter parent after you’ve kicked your kid out. And yes, it’s one of the hardest, smartest, and kindest (in the long run) things we ever did for him.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I actually agree with @ragingloli WITAF? Of several good friends who were top of their class or valedictorian they handle rejection and/or failure the worst.

dappled_leaves's avatar

You say he doesn’t have depression, but then list classic symptoms… you make excuses for why he didn’t get a job (at the company where you work – has he ever applied for a job?), even though no one needed these details. You’re plainly invested in not seeing his problems. This is not helping either of you.

You need to either help him start looking for jobs (whether or not in engineering) or else simply boot him out of the house so that he can figure out how to fend for himself. He cannot hide in your home from his own life. It is killing him.

I don’t think that blaming the video games is a constructive approach. He is filling his time with this because he doesn’t want to do anything else. If you remove the games, he will be every bit as lost. If you want to actively help, give him specific tasks to accomplish. Maybe set him a quota of job applications to submit per day. Then compare notes when you get back from work. It would at least give him a shot at being employed, and make him start thinking about his skills and interests, as well as figure out what opportunities are out there and how to find them.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree that he sounds depressed. He needs motivation and that might just mean the motivation of tough love. As long as you are willing to allow him to continue on this course, why should he change?

gondwanalon's avatar

Get tough with him. Tell your son to cut the crap and get off his but and get a job and a place to live. Give him 3 months. Follow through.

hearkat's avatar

Every time I come back to this post, I start to wonder if your son really wanted to be in engineering in the first place, or if he had felt pressured somehow to follow your footsteps? That might contribute to his feeling stuck at this point.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@hearkat Indeed. It’s not hard to imagine that some of his mental state is coming from not having done chosen anything for himself, independently. He’s in the same business as his parent, worked for the same company as his parent (presumably was given that job because of his parent), lives with his parent.

Of course, perhaps the son was in love with engineering and chose it because he wanted a career in it. Hard to know without more information

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I totally agree with @ragingloli that you (your son) may need professional help with this. Getting him to accept this advice and attend sessions with someone may be a challenge. @johnpowell‘s tip of circumnavigating the problem by surreptitiously getting friends and relatives to ask for his help on projects to get him moving and motivated again is a good one. Once you get him off the sofa and engaging with people and projects, it might help to provide opportunities about where to from here and getting some counseling.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

You have to make him leave. You are doing a disservice to him by allowing him to be a lazy slug. And, you are doing yourself and your spouse a disservice as well. I knew a woman who did this. She gave him an ultimatum and he didn’t find work and move, so she drove him and deposited him at a mens shelter. He found a job and even went back and finished his undergrad degree. True story. I never had this problem myself. I have known others though and it’s a real problem. But, he’s living a nightmare and doesn’t realize it. Help him.

johnpowell's avatar

I’m not sure if getting kicked out is best here. He might just be really lazy, or he might be having mental health issues. And really, the job market is shit. Even jobs at Taco Bell are kind of hard to come by right now.

Which is why I suggested giving fake opportunities. Say, “Be here at 8AM in the morning and mow the lawn and you will get 30 bucks.” If he refuses tell him to start paying rent since that is just lazy. If he does the work without complaint then you have something to work with.

Garebo's avatar

No, I never pressured him to do anything which I should have. I pressured him to go into more modern technologies. He chose this after his freshman year of being in liberal arts. I was astonished he chose this avenue. He was familiar with it, and went thru the motions which he has done his whole life.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Clearly he has proven himself to be an achiever. I think just kicking him out at this point would be detrimental. He needs to be encouraged to rejoin life, and you will have to be tough in that regard. I see kicking him out cold, without first trying to regenerate his desire to face life, would feel like more rejection and failure.
He needs to get back into the traffic flow, but he needs some support, and a show of faith in his efforts.
If this were some high school dropout who just piddled his way through the hours gaming and using drugs/alcohol right into his twenties, I’d say give him a blindfold and back him to a wall.
This is not that type of situation at all. He’ll need a hard nudge, but he should see you being supportive.
Remember giving birth to him? The hospital staff was there to see to your recovery, but they made you get up and walk right away so you wouldn’t get veggey.
Well, he got himself vegged out. He needs to rehab his physical activity. Once he does, I feel he will begin to regain his drive to move forward. He may need some moral support, and advice. Do that for him, but don’t let him make excuses to avoid moving ahead. If he shows too much reluctance toward progress, then you may have to resort to tougher measures.

hearkat's avatar

Thanks for coming back to the post and addressing that, @Garebo. As mentioned, my son is 23, and he chose not to go to college. However, I’ve had him paying for most of his own stuff since he was 8, so he’s always been out working to support himself, but we’ve been through other issues – including in his Senior year when he tried to kill himself because the pressure of deciding what to do next (which wasn’t even coming from me) was overwhelming. I suspect that your son’s emotional paralysis may also be from feeling overwhelmed – it’s how I personally react to that feeling.

I don’t think kicking him out immediately is the answer; but that tough love is. I’d start by having a talk with him, leading off by how much you love him and how much potential he has. State how his stagnancy has you concerned and ask him if he’s depressed. Listen to his responses. Depending on how he replies will direct the course the rest of the conversation; and at this point you may just need to take a break, but mention that the conversation will be ongoing as he needs sort through the obstacles a create a plan, and you will be there to support and encourage him.

It does have to come from him, but you have to set some reasonable but tough rules. For example, tell him that as of September, he will have to pay rent. My son pays me $250/month which is dirt cheap for him, but for your son who has to find a job yet, it seems pretty reasonable. Then choose a higher amount for the beginning of 2015 so he knows that he can’t slack on some part-time retail job just to pay you rent. Also, tell him with each month (or two) that goes by, he’ll have to take over another of his expenses, such as car insurance, car payment, cell phone, cable TV/internet, etc. This helps him recognize how much support you’ve been giving and helps incrementally transfer responsibility to him so as not to hit him with everything at once, the way kicking him out would. Of course, the toughest part for you will be the catch that if he falls more than 6 weeks behind on anything, he’ll have to be out by the 8th week. You have to be very firm on that and prepared to follow-through.

Haustere's avatar

Try suggesting simple goals within a time schedule. I.e. going to an interview within a month/two week period, and possibly working up from that. If he does go along with it initially, try to build momentum where you can, be it talking through the interview process, or tips on what interviewees expect.

Being reserved myself, I reckon that level of structure would give him enough time to sort through his options and get back on track.

If he doesn’t seem motivated enough for that sort of thing, I’d recommend speaking frankly in asking about his goals, and general outlook. This should provide an idea of any self-perceived barriers, and substantiate a solid foundation upon which he could improve upon.

Paradox25's avatar

The job market does suck currently as I’ve learned myself, so I’m currently working at a menial job to survive, and save some money up for another move on my part.

I’d try to view the pluses here concerning your son, and work with these. Your son sounds a lot better than my one sister, who freeloaded her entire life without working, never attained a driver’s license, dropped out of school, never attained a GED, goes out and drinks with her friends though with money given to her, etc.

There are too many details being left out here. He’s probably depressed like you’ve stated, but he has many pluses here, so try to work with him. It sounds like he’s lacking motivation, but depression and tough life circumstances can do this to you. I’d try to work with him and gradually boost his spirit.

Blueroses's avatar

Oh. I can’t believe I forgot to suggest what actually helped me, when I was in a similar “depressive funk”.
I had lost my job in sales, (because I hate sales, despite being good at it) and wanted to educate myself for a new career.

I went to the Adult Education center (free in most cities) to build my math skills. There, I took advantage of free resume building and personal growth classes. However, the best thing to come out of it was this; I met some group-home teens who were very motivated to get GEDs. I became their tutor for subjects I know well, and in return, they gave me energy and confidence.

There is nothing like explaining what you’ve learned to cement it in your own mind. Also, seeing somebody else succeed, due to how you explained, is a priceless validation.

I got to appreciate myself. My confidence soared. I rocked my classes and nailed my interviews, every single time.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

@Blueroses, what a wonderful idea! I’m glad it worked so well for you… and all those kids!

@Garebo, I would REALLY like your son’s take on all this. Is there any chance he would log on and put in his two cents worth? It could end up being worth a great deal more than two cents.

jca's avatar

I think even though the job market sucks, your son could and should get a job at a fast food place or store like Walmart, just to get used to working on a schedule and also to have a little money, even if the job is just part time. He can give you some money toward his housing and food, and he will have money for himself. It will also get him off the couch and off of his “do what he wants when he wants” schedule.

Please post an update as to how things come along for him, and for you. Good Luck with whatever you choose to do.

The Update Lady

Garebo's avatar

Thanks everyone for all the advise, hopefully, in the near future I can report something positive.
I have learned more then enough about my own shortcomings in this matter as well. As they say, hind sight is 20:20.

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