Video gaming in the United States

Video gaming in the United States is one of 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.[1] There are some estimates that by 2015 the worldwide gaming industry will possibly reach $70.1 billion.[2]

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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3] In 2011, the average American gamer spent an average of 13 hours per week playing video games.[4] In 2013, almost half of Americans who were gaming more than they did in 2010 spent less time playing board games, watching TV, going to the movies, and watching movies at home.[3] 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.[3] The most common reason parents play video games with their children is as a fun family activity, or because 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.[3]

US Navy 100525-N-1831S-004 A Sailors en route to Fleet Week New York aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) play a demonstration copy of the new Top Gun video game
A US Marine playing Top Gun


The average age of a U.S. gamer is 35, the average number of years a U.S. gamer has been playing games is 13, and only 29% of the gamer population is under 18 years old. The American gamer population is 59% male and 41% female. Of those females, women 18 and older account for a greater portion of the population than males younger than 18.[3] The average female video game player is 37 years old, while the average male video game player is 33.[5][6]

Market statistics

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.[3] 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.[7] 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 .[3]



The beginning of video games can be traced to the year 1940, when 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.[8]


At the start of the 1950s another American, Claude Shannon, wrote basic guidelines on programming a chess-playing computer.[8] Although OXO was created in England by the year 1952, the findings and inventions of the Americans described helped make it possible.[9] 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 '50s also included the largely forgotten tennis game created by Willy Higinbotham that anticipated the famous game Pong.[8]


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.[8] 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.[8][10]


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 became 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.[8][10]


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, 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.[8][10]


The early '90s saw the introduction of the Super NES, 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.[8][10][11]


The 2000s 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. 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.[10] In 2006 a revolutionary system to control games with actual body movements would appear.[8] The popularity and advancement of the video game industry continues to grow in the United States to this day.[8][10]


Within the 2010s, a larger shift towards casual and mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets became significant, in part due to a wider demographic of video game players drawing in more female and older players.[12] Continuing from the previous decade, a large number of independently-developed video games emerged as games on par with those from major publishers, made easier to promote and distribute through digital storefronts on personal computers, consoles, and mobile store markets. All three major console manufacturers released next generation consoles: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch.


Education training

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.[13]

Job market

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[13]


As with most forms of entertainment, video games and video gaming is rife with controversies in the United States. Such controversies primarily target 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.[11][16] This debate paired with Columbine caused the Sega game company to stop the release of a light gun with the Dreamcast.[10]

In 2010 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.[11][17]

Currently 85% of American parents are aware of the ESRB rating system and many are finding parental controls on video game consoles useful.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Stephen E. Siwek. "Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2012 Report" (PDF). Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  2. ^ Patrick Rishe (April 18, 2012). "Trends in the Multi-Billion Dollar Video Game Industry: Q/A with Gaming Champ Fatal1ty". Forbes. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 2013 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry Archived February 17, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. N.p.: Entertainment Software Association, 2013. Entertainment Software Association. Web. October 9, 2013.
  4. ^ "Time spent gaming on the rise - NPD". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 23, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  5. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). January 12, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Frank, Allegra (April 29, 2016). "Take a look at the average American gamer in new survey findings". Polygon. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  7. ^ "Video games that get lost in translation - Technology & science - Games | NBC News". MSNBC. April 28, 2004. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Video Game History Timeline." ICHEG. International Center for the History of Electronic Games, n.d. Web. October 10, 2013.
  9. ^ Cohen, D. S. 'OXO Aka Noughts and Crosses - The First Video Game"," ""n.d. Web. October 15, 2013. Retrieved on November 5, 2013
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Kudler, Amanda. "Timeline: Video Games."," "Infoplease", 2007. Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c "Video Games On Trial: Part Four -- In Summation, Looking Towards November 2". G4. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  12. ^ Leonov, Ievgen (December 29, 2014). "Mobile and Social Gaming Industry: 2014 Highlights". Gamasutra. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Crosby, Tim. "How Becoming a Video Game Designer Works"," "HowStuffWorks", n.d. Retrieved on November 5, 2013
  14. ^ . "Economic Impact", "ESA", 2010, Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  15. ^ ""Software Developers: Job Outlook"." "U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics", July 18, 2012, Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  16. ^ Cornelius, Doug (November 4, 2010). "Violent Video Games and the Supreme Court". Wired. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  17. ^ Kennedy, Kyle. "A Look At the Renewed National Debate On Violent Video Games." Ledger Media Group, July 20, 2013. Web. October 10, 2013.
Atari video game burial

The Atari video game burial was a mass burial of unsold video game cartridges, consoles, and computers in a New Mexico landfill site, undertaken by American video game and home computer company Atari, Inc. in 1983. Up until 2014, the goods buried were rumored to be unsold copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, one of the biggest commercial failures in video gaming and often cited as one of, if not, the worst video game ever released, along with the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man, which was commercially successful but critically maligned.

Since the burial was first reported in the press, there had been doubts as to its veracity and scope, leading to it being frequently dismissed as an urban legend. In either case the event had become a cultural icon and a reminder of the North American video game crash of 1983; it was the end result of a disastrous fiscal year which saw Atari, Inc. sold off by its parent company Warner Communications. Though it was believed that millions of copies of E.T. were disposed of in the landfill, Atari officials later verified the numbers to be around 700,000 cartridges of various titles, including E.T.

In 2014, Fuel Industries, Microsoft, and others worked with the New Mexico government to excavate the site to validate the contents of the landfill as part of a documentary called Atari: Game Over. On April 26, 2014, the excavation revealed discarded games and hardware. Only a small fraction, about 1,300 cartridges, were recovered during the excavation period, with a portion given for curation and the rest auctioned to raise money for a museum to commemorate the burial.

Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n

Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 564 U.S. 786 (2011), is a landmark case by the Supreme Court of the United States that struck down a 2005 California law banning the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental supervision. In a 7–2 decision, the Court upheld the lower court decisions and nullified the law, ruling that video games were protected speech under the First Amendment as other forms of media.

The ruling was seen as a significant victory for the video game industry. Several of the Court's justices suggested that the issue might need to be re-examined in the future, considering the changing nature of video games and their continuously improving technology.

Business in Gaming Conference

The Business in Gaming Conference (BiG) is an annual game convention hosted and organized by students in the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The conference "seeks to bring together industry leaders, game developers, professors and students from leading MBA institutions such as MIT and Harvard to discuss the future of the gaming industry." The first convention took place on May 8, 2009. The opening address was delivered by Christopher Weaver, the founder of Bethesda Softworks and current MIT professor. Keynotes included Ken Levine, the founder of 2K Boston/2K Australia and Susan Bonds, the CEO of 42 Entertainment. Panels covered topics such as In Game Advertising, Digital Distribution, MMO Business Models, and Serious Games. Panelists included Curt Schilling, Founder of 38 Studios; Jon Phenix of GamerDNA; Craig Alexander of Turbine, Inc.; Robert Ferrari of Sanrio Digital; Eugene Evans of Mythic Entertainment; published authors Ethan Mollick and David Edery; Doug Whatley, CEO of BreakAway Games; Bruce Roberts of BBN Technologies; Matthew Bellows of Vivox; Albert Reed, founder of Demiurge Studios; John Rizzo, CEO of Zeebo.

Cultural history of the United States

The cultural history of the United States covers the cultural history of the United States since its founding in the late 18th century. Various immigrant groups have been at play in the formation of the nation's culture. While different ethnic groups may display their own insular cultural aspects, throughout time a broad American culture has developed that encompasses the entire country. Developments in the culture of the United States in modern history have often been followed by similar changes in the rest of the world (American cultural imperialism).

This includes knowledge, customs, and arts of Americans; and events in the social, cultural, and political spheres.

Electronic Entertainment Expo

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly referred to as E3, is a premier trade event for the video game industry. Presented and organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), it is used by many developers, publishers, and hardware and accessory manufacturers to introduce and advertise upcoming games and game-related merchandise to retailers and members of the press.

The E3 event formally includes an exhibition floor for developers, publishers, and manufacturers to showcase titles and products to be sold in the upcoming year. In the few days before the event, the largest publishers and hardware manufacturers will hold an hour-long press conference to outline their offerings that will be on display, and which feature announcements of new games and products. E3 is considered to be the biggest gaming news expo of the year in North America. E3 was formerly an industry-only event; individuals who wished to attend were required by the ESA to verify a professional connection to the video-game industry. With the rise of streaming media, several of the press conferences were broadcast to the public to increase their visibility. In 2017, E3 became open to the public for the first time, issuing 15,000 general admittance passes for those who wanted to attend.E3 is held in June at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) in Los Angeles; the most recent event was held from June 12–14, 2018. The show in 2019 is scheduled for June 11–13, 2019.

Entertainment Software Ass'n v. Foti

Entertainment Software Association v. Foti is a lawsuit filed on June 16, 2006 claiming that a Louisiana law should be declared unconstitutional. The recently passed Louisiana law was a way for the state to censor video games by making it illegal to supply minors with video games considered violent, similar to laws making pornographic material unavailable to minors, but using violence as the criteria instead of sexual content. The lawsuit claims that the law infringed on the video game industry's constitutional right to freedom of expression.

The suit was successful in getting the law overturned in late 2006, and the plaintiffs were awarded attorney's fees in early 2007.

Family Entertainment Protection Act

The United States Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA) was a bill introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and co-sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) on November 29, 2005. The bill called for a federal mandate enforcement of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings system for video games in order to protect children from inappropriate content.The FEPA would have imposed fines of US$1000 or 100 hours of community service for a first time offense of selling a "Mature" or "Adult-Only" rated video game to a minor, and $5000 or 500 hours for each subsequent offense. The bill also called for a FTC investigation into the ESRB to ascertain whether they have been properly rating games.Similar bills have been passed in some U.S. states such as California, Michigan and Illinois, but were ruled to be unconstitutional in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n, 564 U.S. 08–1448 (2011).

This bill did not become law; it was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and expired at the end of the 109th Congress without further action.

Game On (U.S. game show)

Game On is a game show that aired as part of G4's original 13-show line-up. It was filmed all over the country as the hosts invite people off the street to compete against each other in video games. The hosts, Randy Kagan and Matt Gallant, would choose a side and then the losing host would be humiliated (normally in public). The Game On crew included producer Don Handfield, associate producer Brian Mayer, production assistant Michael Leffler, and production associate Nicki La Rosa.Game On shot fourteen episodes and then was canceled after creator and producer Don Handfield left G4 to pursue a career in film.

Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland

The Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland (often referred to as the GSO, UMGSO, or UMDGSO) is a student-run symphony orchestra and chorus at the University of Maryland. The orchestra is the first collegiate ensemble to draw its repertoire exclusively from the music of video games. Most of GSO's members are non-music majors The orchestra holds a free concert every semester during the academic year and yearly charity fundraisers that benefit the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.


GaymerX is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to celebrating and supporting LGBTQ+ people and culture in the world of gaming, with a focus on video games.GaymerX puts on a fan-facing convention with LGBT-oriented gaming and geek culture, or gaymer, with panels primarily focused on LGBT issues and debates in the gaming industry.

Midwest Gaming Classic

The Midwest Gaming Classic (MGC) is an annual convention for all forms of electronic entertainment, including video games, arcade games and pinball, with a focus on retrogaming.

The event has been held in several locations in Wisconsin since launching in 2001.

Outline of video games

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to video games:

Video game – an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. The word video in video game traditionally referred to a raster display device, but following popularization of the term "video game", it now implies any type of display device.

The Art of Video Games

The Art of Video Games was an exhibition by the Smithsonian American Art Museum which was on display from March 16, 2012 through September 30, 2012. The exhibition was designed to highlight the evolution of art within the video game medium over its forty-year history. Following its time at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the exhibition toured to 10 additional venues in the United States. Chris Melissinos, founder of Past Pixels and collector of video games and gaming systems, was the curator of the exhibition.

Truth in Video Game Rating Act

The United States Truth in Video Game Rating Act (S.3935) is a bill introduced by then Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) on September 26, 2006. The act would require the ESRB to have access to the full content of and hands-on time with the games it was to rate, rather than simply relying on the video demonstrations submitted by developers and publishers.The bill makes no considerations for mods, total conversions, user generated content, procedurally generated content, unused disc space, blocked/disabled out portions of code, player behavior in online games, and various other factors out of the control of the developers (such as how the player decides to play the game).

This bill was unacted upon during its original session and was reintroduced by Senator Brownback on February 14, 2007 under the same title "the Truth in Video Game Rating Act" with a new session number (S.568). The bill remained in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and expired at the end of the 110th Congress without further action.

Video Game Decency Act

The Video Game Decency Act of 2007 (H.R. 1531) was a failed proposed piece of U.S. video game legislation originally introduced into the 109th Congress as H.R. 6120 by Congressman Fred Upton on September 29, 2006. The bill was reintroduced into the 110th Congress as H.R. 1531 in March 2007.

The proposal died in committee in 2007.

The stated aim of the proposed legislation was "To prohibit deceptive acts and practices in the content rating and labeling of video games."

Videogame Rating Council

The Videogame Rating Council (V.R.C.) was introduced by Sega of America in 1993 to rate all video games that were released for sale in the United States and Canada on the Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, and Pico. The rating had to be clearly displayed on the front of the box, but their appearance in advertisements for the video game was strictly optional. It was later supplanted by the industry-wide Entertainment Software Rating Board.

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