The industry is now directly responsible for 220,000 jobs in the United States. Total sales exceed $24.5 billion. So why are video games seen as a hobby rather than a rapidly growing industry rivaling other entertainment industries?
The numbers are compelling. Add in that nearly 37 million video game consoles were sold in 2016, the total numbers skyrocket. And, the console total doesn’t even take into account the possibility that some of the $416 billion computer parts industry from 2016 was directly caused by consumers building or buying computers for video game purposes.
Video games are no longer the niche thing that kids do in their parents basement. They are a maga industry, and an ignored American success story. Almost 95 percent of all video game companies started in the United States, according to the Entertainment Software Association, which compiled the yearly numbers. There are almost 3,000 video game companies in the United States as of 2016.
The industry has tripled since 2008.
But like many of the visual arts cultural changes, video games have suffered their share of abuse. In the 19th century, photography was ridiculed by painters as a lazy man’s artistry. In the 20th century, movies fought with the theatre industry, although that sentiment was quickly put to bed by the sheer excitement of moving images.
One quarter of U.S. adults surveyed in a Pew Research Study in 2015 said that video games are a waste of time and serve no added value. Another 33 percent said that only some video games were actually helpful to the average person.
Video games have certainly influenced my pattern of thought more than any other medium. The resounding beauty in visual design draws me in, and the always changing dialogue options in video games is what keeps me playing time and time again. But, I’ve been ridiculed too. When I tell people that I spent all weekend playing an addicting new game with my friends online, I’m met with eye rolls. But if a college student talked about how they went out partying with their friends all weekend, they are considered a perfectly normal college student.
People often think we are removed from the world while gaming, but many online services are challenging this theory. Xbox Live, Steam and the PlayStation Network all pair gamers together during their time online. At 48 million, 125 million and 110 million active users, respectively, gaming is becoming more social by the second. Although, it is possible that users have accounts on all three platforms like I do.
Video games also carry several key cognitive benefits. University of California-Irvine researchers found that video games directly correlate to memory boosting over time. In an expanded sense, they are also incredibly helpful for improving reflexes. Surgeons across the country are using video games and virtual reality to help with their reflexes. And, as an unforeseen benefit, video games help people learn to cope with, and directly respond to, stressful decision making.
While it is true that the prolonged exposure to artificial light and the strenuous hand movements while playing video games can be a health concern, video games don’t exclusively carry this issue.
It’s time to recognize video games for what they are - a mainstay of American entertainment culture and something worth praising and promoting, rather than dismissing.
Jager Robinson is an intern at Newsday Opinion.