Video gaming in the United States
Video gaming in the United States is one the fastest growing entertainment industries in the country. According to a 2010 study released by the Entertainment Software Association, the computer and the video game industry added US$4.9 billion to the economy of the United States. There are some estimates that by 2015 the worldwide gaming industry will possibly reach $70.1 billion.
The average American gamer spends an average of 13 hours per week playing video games.
In statistics collected by The ESA for the year 2013, a reported 58% of Americans play video games and the average American household now owns at least one dedicated game console, PC or Smartphone. The households that own these items play games most commonly on their Console or PC. 36% of U.S. gamers play on their smart phones. 43% of Video game consumers believe games give them the most value for their money compared to other common forms of entertainment such as movies, or music. Almost half of Americans who are gaming more than they did three years ago spend less time playing board games, watching TV, going to the movies, and watching movies at home. When Americans game, 62% do so with others online or in person yet the other person is more likely to be a friend than a significant other or family member. The most common reason parents play video games with their children is because it’s fun for the entire family or they are asked to. 52% of parents believe video games are a positive part of their child’s life and 71% of parents with children under 18 see gaming as beneficial to mental stimulation or education.
The average age of a U.S. gamer is 30, the average number of years a U.S. gamer has been playing games is 13, and only 32% of the gamer population is under 18 years old. The American gamer population is 55% male and 45% female. Of those females, women 18 and older account for a greater portion of the population than males younger than 18.
The bestselling console video game genres of 2012 were Action, Shooters, and Sports.The PC gaming market’s bestselling genres were Role-playing, Strategy, and Casual. For online games the most popular genres are Puzzle/trivia, action/strategy, and casual/social games. While there are many American video game developers that have been producing games for years, Japanese games and companies have regularly been listed in the annual lists of best sellers. The U.S. computer and video game dollar sales growth of 2012 was 14.8 billion dollars, showing a drop of 1.6 billion from the year before. The Unit sales growth featured a similar drop with the report of 188 million units sold from 245.9 in 2011. U.S gaming consumers spent a total of $20.77 billion on the game industry alone and currently hard copies of video games are still dominating in sales compared to digital copies .
The beginning of video games can be traced to the year 1940, when distinguished American nuclear physicist, Edward Condon, designed a computer capable of playing the traditional game, Nim This Device would have tens of thousands of people play it even though the computer won 90% of the time. Seven years later an American Television pioneer, Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr., patented an Oscilloscope displayed device that challenged players to fire a gun at a target.
At the start of the 1950s another American, Claude Shannon, wrote basic guidelines on programming a chess-playing computer. Although OXO was created in England by the year 1952, the findings and inventions of the Americans described helped make it possible. The U.S. military dove into the computer age with the creation of a game titled Hutspiel. Considered a war game, Hutspiel depicted NATO and Soviet commanders waging war. The IBM 701 computer received programs like Blackjack and Checkers. A later IBM model featured a chess program that was capable of evaluating four ply ahead. The 50’s also included the largely forgotten tennis game created by Willy Higinbotham that anticipated the famous game Pong.
The Military continued to take part in video gaming in the 1960s when, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis The Defense Department created a war game known as STAGE (Simulation of Total Atomic Global Exchange). STAGE was created to be political propaganda that showcased how the U.S would be victorious in a Thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. The idea of video games that were usable on televisions was conceived by the engineer Ralph Baer and with the help of a team, Baer completed two successful TV games in this decade. The first interactive media computer game, Spacewar eventually had the future founders of Atari create an arcade game of it titled Computer Space that became the first video arcade game ever released.
The 1970s included the birth of the video game console. The first console released was titled Magnavox Odyssey and the foundation of Atari occurred around the same time, marking the start of Pong’s development. Upon Pong’s completion it become the hottest selling Christmas product of 1975. The evolution of the console was incredibly rapid. A few years after their invention, consoles received microprocessors and programmable ROM cartridge based games, allowing users the ability to change games by simply switching cartridges. Important consoles released at this time were the Telstar, Fairchild Channel F., and Atari 2600. Arcade games also received advances with the game Space Invaders, which allowed high scores to be tracked and displayed. A year later the game Asteroids built on the idea and gave high scorers the ability to enter initials by their scores.
The technological advances of the late 70s led to the introduction of the Intellivision in 1980, which featured better video game graphics but a higher price tag. In two years the Commodore 64 changed the market by not only being the most powerful console of the time but also the cheapest. With the lowered prices, popularity of the video game industry continued to grow and the first video game magazine, Electronic Games, was printed. This decade featured the start of 3D games and the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Master System, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Atari 7800, Super NES, and the lesser known TurboGrafx-16, which featured games stored on compact discs. This time period was almost considered the second generation of console video gaming in the United States but a massive recession hit the industry from 1983 to 1985. This recession was called the North American video game crash of 1983.
The early 90s saw the introduction of the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Tamagotchi, and Dreamcast, whose sales brought the damaged video game industry back to life. During this decade the PlayStation was considered the most popular console when its 20 millionth unit sold. In 1993 the video game industries’ first debate began and its focus was on violence found in video games. This debate fueled Senator Joseph Lieberman’s desire to ban all violent games and from this investigation the Entertainment Software Rating Board was created in 1994; giving all games a printed suggested age rating on their packaging.
The 2000’s brought PlayStation even more popularity when its second console had such a high American consumer demand that it actually affected the console’s availability to be purchased during the first few shipments. The famous companies Microsoft and Nintendo also saw this popularity with the release of their own next generation consoles. Consoles up until this point were controlled by handheld devices called game controllers that featured an assortment of buttons and joysticks. In 2006 a revolutionary system to control games with actual body movements would appear. The popularity and advancement of the video game industry continues to grow in the United States to this day. 
Video game designers are required to have a variety of skills and innate abilities that feature a vast amount of training in computer graphics, animation and software design. On top of these skills a successful designer needs a powerful imagination and knowledge of the various consoles’ operating systems. Programming and hardware essentials are a must, considering games are sophisticated computer software. To get into the field many colleges offer classes, certificates, and degrees in computer programming, computer engineering, software development, computer animation, and computer graphics. Internships or apprenticeships are important to get hands on experience. If possible an aspiring American game designer should conduct freelance work. There is even the possibility of designing a game independently, using a wide array of available software. Building an independent game can be risky yet the finished product gives employers insight on what the designer is capable of; just like a portfolio.
The U.S. video game industry continues to function as a vital source of employment. Currently, video game companies directly and indirectly employ more than 120,000 people in 34 states. The average compensation for direct employees is $90,000, resulting in total national compensation of $2.9 billion.
The current job market for game design in the US is extremely competitive, however it is soon expected to have a 32% increase in software publishing jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. An American game designer salary depends on where the designer works, who they work for, and what kind of designer they are. A good starting place on finding average salaries is International Game Developers Association’s entry level salary report that lists $50,000 to $80,000 annually; averaging $57.600. A closer comparison to what a US Game developing job could potentially start at is the Learn Direct’s report of $37,000 yearly.
As with most forms of entertainment, video games and video gaming is rife with controversies, most notably the presence of violence which dominated many early video games and continues to be a major component of many games today.
A notable event regarding violence in video games appeared from 1997-1999, during which the state of Arizona attempted to make the selling of violent material to minors illegal. Even though it was never approved, Wal-Mart banned over fifty video games and The Columbine School shooting of 1999 changed the ideas of the debate. Instead of the argument being fixated on morality a new theory was created that tied violent video games to the desensitization and increased aggression of American children. This debate paired with Columbine caused the Sega game company to stop the release of a light gun with the Dreamcast.
In 2005 the Court case Schwarzenegger V. Entertainment Merchants Association (now titled Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association) struck down a recent California law that banned the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental supervision. The Court ruled that video games were protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, just like other forms of media. Arizona and California are not the only states that have attempted to pass laws on violent video games and these laws have been tested repeatedly in federal courts over the past decade and all have been struck down.
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