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ESA Leadership Desk: U.S. Video Game Industry Fuels Connection, Employment and Economic Growth

By Stanley Pierre-Louis, President & CEO, Entertainment Software Association

In 2020, video games emerged as a welcome respite for people around the world. As COVID-19 impacted everyday life, games became a touchstone for many looking to connect with others, creating a cultural zeitgeist. It is humbling that interactive entertainment—video games—played a role in helping people cope with social isolation by connecting us to friends and loved ones across the country and around the world. More broadly, our thanks go out to all the frontline workers dedicated to keeping us safe, and our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones as well as those continuing to persevere through the pandemic.

In such a difficult time, the power of play is more important than ever. Earlier this year, our 2020 Essential Facts research showed that growing numbers of Americans across age, gender and other demographic measures find positive benefits to video game play. Those findings were supported by an Oxford Internet Institute study showing that games can improve the well-being of players. Today, one in three people on the planet play video games , showing the power of games to connect people all over the world like never before. In the wake of the pandemic, we have seen games bring joy, connection, a sense of agency and control.

That’s part of the reason why games fuel the economy in meaningful ways. In addition to providing immersive, interactive entertainment experiences, video games power an innovation industry that has a significant impact on U.S. economic growth and jobs. Many don’t realize the breadth and scope of the U.S. video game industry. That’s why we’re excited to share our latest Economic Impact Report , which details the significant impact video games have on our economy.

Our industry takes pride in being able to support its employees, their families, communities and fans with engaging interactive content that brings joy, jobs and family-sustaining wages. Data shows that the video game industry directly and indirectly accounts for nearly 429,000 U.S. jobs. Those directly employed by the video game industry average over $121,000 in annual compensation.

We also have a sizable economic impact in every single state . And while the industry’s roots still loom large in California and in Washington state, the industry is taking root in other states you might not expect. For example, Epic Games—the company that created Fortnite and the Unreal Engine—is headquartered in Cary, North Carolina. Activision’s largest quality assurance (QA) team is located in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. And in 2021, Electronic Arts will be moving its regional headquarters to Creative Village, a new innovation district in Orlando, bringing 800 to 1,000 high-wage jobs directly into downtown Orlando. In addition, enthusiasm for games has contributed to a growing number of college programs and varsity esports teams throughout the country, making the video game industry a great career choice.

As a convergence point for leadership in software, hardware, entertainment and the creative arts, the video game ecosystem generates the kind of innovation critical to America’s economic growth. The U.S. video game industry generates $90.3 billion in annual economic output and industry-related activity generates $12.6 billion in federal, state and local taxes . Video game technology also powers American innovation across the board, with demonstrated impact in developing innovative, far-reaching technologies. The spillover effect of the video game industry drives innovation in other sectors, like healthcare, education, training and simulations, to name a few.

Video games are a part of the fabric of American culture and a cornerstone of entertainment—and we’re a key part of America’s economic engine, too.

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