I love games. I've had a controller in my hand since I was five when I was playing pong on my cousin's Atari 2600. The obsession really impressed me when I got my own Nintendo Entertainment System and my first real introduction to Mario, Luigi and the Illusive got Princess. Fast forward to the present and there has never been a better time to be a player. We are on the verge of another console cycle, PC games are flourishing and virtual and augmented reality is beginning to penetrate mainstream markets.
To celebrate the progress of the industry and just because it's fun, the Entertainment Software Association recently launched the game generation. It is a nationwide campaign designed to recognize the positive effects of video games, including education and community building. All positive game news can be found in an online hub, where you can access a number of interesting game statistics and share your own story about how gaming has affected your life.
Laptop Mag recently sat down with ESA President and CEO Stanley Pierre-Lewis to discuss the new campaign and other events in the gaming world. A player since his youth and now the parent of a 13-year-old has shaped his passion for the industry and not just for console games.
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LTP: Tell us about the Game Generation campaign.
SPL: It's based on the concept that video games play such an important role in our lives and in society, but we never take the time to celebrate them publicly. And here's what I mean. Today, 164 million American adults play video games, or 65% of the population, which means that overall more people play video games than those who watch football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey together in the United States. This is impressive.
And it is an industry that really stimulates everyone's imagination and involves everyone, because on every platform there is a game for everyone in every sector. But when video games are accused, there is no place to go. We saw a great example last summer where video games were blamed for another terrible crisis and tragedy and the hashtag on Twitter was that video games are not to blame.
And how do you create a platform where everyone can speak and speak as they feel most comfortable? This campaign is about celebrating games and making people feel that we should strengthen ourselves in relation to games, and then working out what video games mean in society.
LTP: Why do you think this campaign is necessary?
SPL: We want to make sure that we celebrate it, highlight it, and enable people to motivate and empower them to share their stories, because that will change the narrative about what video games are. You know, we're going to take the Amtrak home this afternoon. And when I pull out my iPad and watch a series, nobody will think about it, but when I pull up my (Nintendo) switch, people wonder what is going on.
(Gaming) should be celebrated because it is something that brings people together and makes them happy and makes them smarter. And we all know that in the church. The question is, how do you get this in mainstream America where it is happening? Three quarters of households have video games in their homes. It shouldn't be a stray, and yet we find ourselves every time our industry is accused or scapegoated and have to go back to the beginning.
LTP: Where's the biggest growth in the industry?
SPL: We see innovation and inspiration through video games and what I mean by it is more and more that gamification becomes an art concept in which everything is gamified. However, in education there are video game technologies used in schools to help children learn faster and learn more about computer skills.
We saw this in the studies we did, but we also saw it in U.S. Department of Education studies from major leading universities that there is a certain stickiness that occurs when you involve the mind in a special way. One example is that Microsoft has an educational version of its Minecraft and over 35 million students in the US are playing it.
You can also see it in the medical field. Surgeons are now learning more about the body and acquiring surgical skills without penetrating the actual human body through AR technology but also through VR technology. They see video games rehabilitate stroke victims, and medical providers find that the fun of the game is to keep people more active in performing their physiotherapy, and this applies to all population groups, but especially older ones.
And then you see it at work. If you're just starting at Walmart, your onboarding includes a VR component for the stores. So you see things that get excited by the excitement of the video game sector because a lot of innovations come from the video game industry. It is dynamic, diverse and digital.
LTP: Politically, ESA is a non-partisan organization, but you are often the first line of defense when playing inevitably gets caught in the political crossfire.
SPL: What we are trying to emphasize is the importance of (the industry). We are also trying to demystify our industry for them. You know, we'll get in touch whenever we hear (negative) things to explain what's going on. Whether it's the White House or a member of the Senate or the House or in the States, we make sure that we are ahead of events to ensure that people understand the impact we have.
We would like to remind you of the importance of the video game industry in building our culture in terms of innovation and its economic impact. One of the things we've highlighted for many different audiences, including policy makers, is that games are made everywhere. If you just think of the United States, there are the majors everyone knows, the triple-A titles and the smaller ones that pop up, but there are actually more than 2,000 video game companies in the United States, sometimes just four or five people Make games that are really dynamic and grow into things.
One of the things that keep surprising politicians is that 84% of congressional districts have a video game company in the United States. That is why we cover a lot here abroad. The other thing you see is that technology, breaking down technological barriers, the ability to use technology to make games and make them at a high level, is growing everywhere.
LTP: How do you behave as a parent about video games?
SPL: As a parent, I find that 73% of parents think video games are helpful in their children's educational development. Because it in turn promotes learning and participation and interests them in what is hidden under the hood. This finding is shared by other organizations and groups that are investigating how video games have a positive impact on the flow of development.
LTP: What advice do you have for parents thinking about getting their first gaming PC or game console for their children?
SPL: We usually avoid sticking to a hard age – all children are different and we firmly believe that a parent has the best idea of when their children are ready for a new game or technique.
However, we always recommend parents to set up parental controls before giving their children a new device. This can include a conversation about setting specific “house rules” at screen time, what games are age-appropriate, who your kids can play online with, and how much money (if any) can be spent on in-game purchases.
We also believe that parents should emphasize the same common sense rules that they teach their children in the real world to practice online – core values for respecting others and protecting your privacy. Above all, keep these parent-child communication channels open when it comes to what they experience online.