Video games virtually certain to drive future innovation
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Where do you find the most sophisticated and exciting consumer hardware? Software that tests the limits of technology? Epic stories of heroic adventure? You find them all in the video game industry. Interactive entertainment is the center of the tech universe, and E3 — the industry’s world-leading trade show — is the catalyst that sparks spectacular new worlds of innovation each year.

Held recently at the Los Angeles Convention Center, E3 2017 featured more than 2,000 products showcased by approximately 300 exhibitors. More than 11 million people around the world watched the global event to see the exciting future ahead — an exclamation point on the tremendous economic impact of video games.

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Recent research shows 125 million Americans play video games, adding $30.4 billion a year to the U.S. economy. Video game companies have thousands of U.S. locations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reflecting our industry’s truly universal reach. This vibrant economic environment drives the creation of more than 220,000 jobs in this country alone, and our industry’s employees earn an average compensation of $97,000 per year

 

The video game industry’s influence grows further as it explores new experiences and pushes beyond the bounds of entertainment, promising to change our lives in new and remarkable ways. There are two major areas of development that policymakers in D.C. and state capitals across the nation need to keep an eye on if they want to ensure that America continues to be a global leader in this cutting edge segment of the tech sector. 

First, they need to stay informed of the great strides in the emerging technologies of virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Already, this “enhanced reality” is advancing quickly and inspiring millions of people. With these emerging technologies, we can travel to new worlds or bring those worlds to us, creating the most immersive experiences imaginable in any reality.

Two years ago, enhanced reality was a sub-billion-dollar business. Last year, consumers spent $5 billion on enhanced reality technology and experiences, and analysts project spending will grow to $162 billion by 2020, creating thousands of new jobs and improving American incomes along the way. 

Many leaders in Washington recognize the amazing potential of this emerging field. Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of legislators in Congress came together to form the Reality Caucus, which now works to educate policymakers about enhanced reality technologies and their related economic, educational, social and health benefits.

This caucus will build upon the success of the E-Tech Caucus, which informs lawmakers about the value of a robust video game industry and has grown to more than 100 members since its launch in 2011.

Second, policymakers need to familiarize themselves with the numerous ways video games are expanding creative opportunities for education — inspired by creators ranging from retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Sesame Street. In schools everywhere, educators are integrating video games into the classroom to enhance learning in ways never before possible.

Students are engaging with virtual reality to travel back in time to historical battlefields, using video games to learn social skills and teamwork and learning to code and develop their own games and software as early as kindergarten. Even medical schools are beginning to use video game technology to train new surgeons and practice procedures without the burden of once-necessary physical materials.

Lawmakers should seize upon these trends and pursue smart federal and state policy to accelerate them. That means strong intellectual property laws that encourage innovation and investment. It means stimulating growth in high-wage jobs through STEM education, job training initiatives and pro-growth tax policies.

It means tax incentive programs that drive greater innovation and provide taxpayers an enormous return on investment. It means legal protections that ensure consumers face no barriers to enjoying the interactive content they want. 

It also means an expansive H-1B visa program, free of abuse. The U.S. video game industry is an example to other industries on how H-1B visas can be utilized to benefit industry and the American people. By harnessing the power of brilliant innovators from around the world, the U.S. video game industry strengthens its contributions to the American economy.

With these goals in mind, there are no limits to the realities we can create, in our games and for the next generation of Americans. Video games have a bright future in America, and they are America’s bright future.

Michael D. Gallagher is the president and CEO of Entertainment Software Association, the trade association of the video game industry in the United States.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.