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The video game industry isn’t such an odd stepchild in entertainment anymore. The $67 billion worldwide industry is breaking through barriers on the cultural, legal, and political fronts, according to the annual report of the Entertainment Software Association, the U.S. industry’s trade group with 37 game publishes as members.
The most astounding stat just might be how many people are playing games in the U.S. The ESA said that 72 percent of U.S. households play games, a greater percentage than ever. Of these, 82 percent are adults, and 42 percent are women.
Gaming has also seen a great deal of activity in the political arena. During 2011, the ESA faced 171 bills that attempted to regulate video games in 39 states. But in the summer of 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to much of the debate by ruling that video games are a protected form of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The group said that lawmakers in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Utah acknowledged the industry’s economic benefits by enacting bills that created tax incentives for computer and video game production. Twenty-two states now provide such incentives. A total of 25 tax incentive proposals became law in 13 states and one U.S. territory. Nine bills in three states sought to eliminate incentives. All of those suffered defeat. Even the conservative bastion of Texas approved $32 million to fund its industry incentive over the next two years.
During the year, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which game companies fund, launched a mobile version of its game rating system that helps parents manage their children’s gameplay. A survey said that 85 percent of parents are aware of the ESRB’s ratings system.
The group lobbied Congress through the launch of its E-Tech Caucus, which held a reception celebrating games in Washington, D.C. Gallagher testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at a hearing on the growing uses of computer and video games in education. The ESA also held its second annual Games and Learning Summit during the E3 2011 trade show.
The Video Game Voters Network, which recruits consumers to support causes protecting video games as free speech, grew to more than 310,000 members. Its Facebook page has more than 18,000 friends, and it has 3,100 Twitter followers. The program has ambassadors on 390 U.S. college campuses.
The Electronics Entertainment Expo trade show remains a top draw, in both attendance and mind share. The 2011 E3 drew 24 billion media impressions and 45,000 attendees. In a survey of the 2011 crowd, 93 percent said they planned to participate in E3 2012.
The ESA remains active in the fight against software piracy as well. The trade group joined with the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus to name Canada, China, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine to a “watch list” of high piracy countries. The ESA conducted 45 training sessions for 1,500 law enforcement officials about detecting and identifying game piracy. Six major pirates were prosecuted in the U.S. Dozens of other raids were pursued in other countries.