Videophilia and the Future of The Outdoors

According to a new study released by the National Academy of Sciences, participation in outdoor activities has declined by 18 to 25 percent in the past 25 years, something researchers link to the appearance of video games in the daily diet of younger generations. They also cite “overfishing and pollution issues decreasing access to fish populations.” “The decline, found in both the United States and Japan, appears to have begun in the 1980s and 1990s, the period of rapid growth of video games, they said. For example, fishing peaked in 1981 and had declined 25 percent by 2005, the researchers found. Visits to national parks peaked in 1987 and dropped 23 percent by 2006, while hiking on the Appalachian Trial peaked in 2000 and was down 18 percent by 2005.” In The New York Times. (Thanks to John Merwin for this link.)

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  • Jack Wallingford

    When I was a youngster growing up in upstate New York, and then Ohio, I would watch my cousins spin fishing in the adirondacks and then having to use LL Bean and Orvis to find fly fishing equipment in Ohio. Today, i go to fish the Grand River or Rocky River for steelhead and i have to go during the daytime and during the week because the rivers are inundated with anglers all dressed in premium gear and casting $500 fly rods. if the fishing fraternity is shrinking and the number of young anglers is decreasing, then where in the hell are all these orvis bedecked dudes coming from?
    a weekend on a stream in Northeast Ohio looks like a pre-party at the super bowl.

  • Bryan Whiting

    As a high school teacher I am in touch with kids everyday. The reason for the decline is not video games, it is access. The influence of the video game is not time, it is an expectation that one will have success and get better. Even here in Colorado where we are blessed with some great fishing, kids perceive that all the good fishing is tied up in private waters. They feel any water in which one can kill fish is not going to have many fish which is the majority of public waters. They feel that to get good fishing one must “Pay”. If one can’t get good fishing they aren’t going to do it. Video games have taught them that repetition produces increased results. If they have to pay to get the good fishing then they aren’t going to get repetition so why bother in the first place. The same concept is behind the decrease in kids’ hunting. If access would increase participation would follow right along

  • If you note in the end of the NYT piece (and in some other sources I reviewed), the researchers seem to say that decreasing opportunities play a big — maybe even bigger — role than kids’ addictions to electronics. Which would provide at least part of answer to Jack’s puzzlement about the overcrowding. The study was funded by The Nature Conservancy, so we’re guessing they didn’t want to emphasize access issue.

  • Jim Oliver

    Even in Alaska we have noticed a decline in the younger anglers coming with their dads to fish the “wilderness”. If money gets tight the only tight lines are those belonging to the dad and his buddies. It truly is a “pay” fishing world these days and the word “access” is synonymous with “money”. Gone are the lazy fishing days one used to enjoy – you now have to work for the fish just feel like you are getting your money’s worth. Maybe I’ll do some online video casting to keep my casting arm (or finger) in shape.

  • Another term I have heard and has been written in literature is “nature deficit disorder”. In addition to video games, fewer fish, and cash are immigration and “urbanized values” permeating fishing. When I speak of immigration, there is absolutely nothing negative being implied, its just a case of new immigrants (to Canada in my case) being drawn to urban centres making up the largest influx of residents that do not have a connection to the outdoors. This may be the case because they lack the knowledge of our waters, they may not have the means to get out and fish or they come from a culture where fishing in nature just was not possible. The second matter of “urban values” is a case where the major population centres are in many cases comprised of people who are less connected with nature and therefore are less tolerant of fishing. I am suggesting there is a large percentage of people who don’t understand the value of fishing and knowing where your food comes from.