According to a report released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) yesterday (August 10), the video game industry put $4.9 billion dollars in the U.S. economy’s back pocket in 2009, laughing in the face of its financial ruin.

The statistics, featured inVideo Games in the 21st Century: The 2010 Report, show the gaming industry growing at a rate of 10% from 2005 to 2009, which was more than seven times the entire U.S. economy combined. Total sales were at $7 billion in 2005, raising to an industry high of $11.7 billion in 2008, before declining back down to $10.5 billion last year.

"Despite a challenging economic environment, the entertainment software industry continues to grow and create new jobs at a rapid pace," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, the trade association that represents U.S. computer and video game publishers. "Computer and video game companies have made an important contribution to our nation's economy while stimulating technological innovations and expanding the impact of games on our daily lives. As the findings of this report suggest, the entertainment software industry is well positioned to sustain these economic and social contributions well into the future."

The industry employs over 32,000 people, a number that has grown 9% annually since 2005. In 2009, the average employee made $89,781, including benefits. Publishing staff brought home more bacon than the the developers in the trenches, making $112,712 and $75,908 respectively.

California is the largest employer, providing $2.6 billion in direct and indirect compensation to its 13,041 workers, which accounts for 41.27% of the industry as a whole. The Golden State's gaming companies contributed $2.1 billion into the local economy, a number that increase 11.4% annually from 2005 to 2009, even in the midst of a state recession.

The report comes at an opportune time for the ESA, who is currently at the center of a tumultuous legal battle in California. New arguments were recently submitted by State Senator Leland Yee to the Supreme Court in July, with the hopes of making it constitutional law to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

Yee states, "It is well-recognized that the societal values served by the freedom to consume expressive material do not justify recognizing a constitutional right for minors of the same magnitude as that for adults -- and this should be true whether the expressive material is sexually explicit or offensively violent. Instead, while minors certainly enjoy the protection of the First Amendment, it is a more restricted right than that assured to adults, who may judge for themselves what level of sexually-explicit or violent material they should."

The act was originally signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005 but was quickly thrown out by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. With the submission of Yee's new arguments, the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case in the coming weeks, reaching a verdict later this year.

Ultimately, these statistics help showcase the legitimacy of video games as a widely successful artistic platform, rising from the rubble of financial ruin to produce the economy's one white horse in these trying times, and in California's case, making their state's gross domestic product an offer it can't refuse as the ESA soon goes before the state firing squad. One can't help but wonder if these down times have helped bolster video game sales by providing the unemployed an outlet for their time and an escape from their anxieties. With video game's coveted fall line-up on the door step and an economic turnaround nowhere in sight, who can argue with that?

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