The Millennial Burnout Conversation Also Applies to Gamers


Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


This is very out of left field but based on the omnipresent US world view, this similar to post Vietnam and the disenfranchisement and alienation of veterans. Millennial burnout is a societal problem that has impacted every generation see Lost Generation.

Slapping a new face on the fact that we fundamentally don’t handle things well, like change, stagnation, upheaval, loss, regrets, etc… As mental health care improves and we live longer more problems become apparent. We don’t burn out necessarily I think we get world weary of the little cog in the big machine.


At first I thought videogame fatigue has something to do with the fact that physically you’re always just looking at a screen and twiddling your thumbs. Your brain is having one hell of a ride, but your body is just bored and wants you to stop. After thinking about it some more, I don’t think the mind/body dichotomy really explains it. I don’t have the same problem with reading, for example, or browsing the web. I do get fatigued doing those things, but it’s more short-term fatigue than long-term. I could spend too much time reading or browsing the web in a given day, but a couple of days later at the most I’m ready to go again, and it feels just as good. Whenever I approach a new videogame however, there’s always a sense of apprehension, depression, and even despair. Maybe I would call it empty achievement fatigue. I’ve spent decades playing videogames, I’ve managed things within the context of playing them that surprised me, made me smarter, that I didn’t think I would be able to do. Trying to translate these achievements to real life made them feel more like anti-achievements. They haven’t made me better at handling day to day situations, they’ve made me worse. They haven’t made me more ready to tackle real life challenges, they’ve made me less ready. Challenges in videogames are designed, graduated and tested for enjoyable consumption. You know there is always a solution, so each problem becomes manageable. In real life there are no guarantees. Real life problems aren’t always fair, there isn’t always a solution, and you don’t always feel a sense of achievement in the end. It’s become so much easier to retreat from real life problems in favor of ones that are on the screen over the years. Maybe this fatigue isn’t fatigue at all. Maybe it’s just you knowing on some level that you’re harming yourself, and trying to stop yourself from doing it.


Burnout is central part of life, for autistic people. So It’s a little strange? to see many neuro typical people, write about their kind of burnout. Which seems from an autistic perspective, to be somewhat mild, and not something that can make you stop function.
But then again it’s not competition. it’s more that I find it interesting, that words can have very different meanings, for different groups.
Good youtube video about (autistic) burnout


Damn, you’ve articulated exactly how I feel. I think you’re really on to something here. I keep wondering what’s wrong with me while browsing gaming news sites and subreddits and not feeling ‘properly engaged.’


That does suggest what is the proper level of engagement with material. If fatigue is possible from any source, then at what point does use become harm?


This is interesting. I think, by and large, the concept of “millennial burnout” is just a new name on a very old phenomenon. The one contributing factor now that I think is different from the past is specialization. You could commit yourself to a smaller, singular space, but I hope you pick the right one, because within a few years everything else will have passed you by so far that there is virtually no going back.

I read or learn about people hundreds of years ago making groundbreaking discoveries in physics or biology who were self-taught. People who learned calculus in their spare time. Hobbyists. Scamming for every book they can get hands on, if you will.

It boggles my mind. Today, you can’t even get your foot in the door without a decade of specialized education. Want to study anthropology? Cool, here’s a dozen books on anthropology. And history. Go ahead and learn a couple languages - spoken and programming. Data science. Statistical modelling. CAD. Good? Now pick a single aspect of a single time in a single place and study nothing but that for the rest of your life.

This isn’t to imply that things were more egalitarian or meritocratic back then - obviously there were many systems in place deciding who got these opportunities and who didn’t. But today, the realm of the autodidact is the realm of crackpots and conspiracy theorists. But hey, by my experience, those people never burnout, so maybe they’re on to something.


I don’t think burnout in the modern sense is unusual. Sounds like it’s time for you to slide sideways into a more meaningful (for you) aspect of your career. I don’t think specializing will work. You’re older and more mature and your focus/ needs have changed. Maybe you would like to help or manage younger people or work in a team or help develop games for people with special needs or study education gamification. Who knows but take a risk, the change will feel good and even if the next thing is not the right thing it will help you narrow down what the problem is.


Thank you for writing this article and linking to that excellent BuzzFeed piece. My wife and I both read the Buzzfeed article and it dominated our discussion over the weekend. I am at work right now so I can’t get all my thoughts out here but I will be back later today!