Computer and Video Game Design

The computer and video game industry, also known as interactive entertainment, provides leisure activity for millions of Americans each day but also creates a livelihood for about 150,000 U.S. workers.

Popular interactive games range from sedate word games like Words with Friends to high-adrenaline, first-person shooters like the Call of Duty series. Games may invite players to interact with highly complex simulated worlds such as the one in Second Life or involve the simple slingshot action of Angry Birds. Players can find games on many hardware platforms, from arcade machines to home consoles to smartphones. In fact, 36 percent of gamers are now playing on their smartphones, and it is estimated that 80 percent of spending on phone apps now is for games.

From its beginning in the early 1970s, with the simple geometric action of Pong, to today's high-definition stereoscopic games, the industry has pushed the limits of the available computer resources and has inspired advanced technologies that later became common on desktop and mobile devices.

The industry provides entertainment for 59 percent of Americans and generated $21.53 billion of sales in 2013, including software, hardware, and accessories. The industry grew by 10.6 percent for the 2005–2008 period, compared to 2.8 percent growth for the U.S. economy as a whole. In 2010, interactive entertainment contributed $4.9 billion to the gross domestic product.

One indication of the reach of the industry is the fact that 51 percent of American households own a dedicated game console, and households with a console own an average of two. Although video games have the image of being primarily a diversion for teenage boys, the average player is 31 years old, and the most frequent game purchasers are 35 years old. Forty-eight percent of all gamers are female. The industry sometimes faces the criticism that it desensitizes gamers to violence and encourages social isolation, although there is little research to support these beliefs.

Game hardware development finances the cutting-edge innovative efforts of many computer hardware engineers and technicians. Game development involves designers, artists, voice actors, programmers, computer software engineers, and testers. Marketers and a network of distributors bring the games to players. With such a large base of players, the industry also supports numerous fan publications, many of them Web-based. Popular characters and settings have inspired movies, such as the Lara Croft and Resident Evil series, and television shows, such as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Japan's early leadership in miniaturized electronics helped it become an early leader in the video game industry. For example, Japan's Nintendo owns two of the most popular video game series of all time, Pokémon and Mario Brothers, which have spun off countless toys, trading cards, cartoons, and other products. One market research company lists 13 Japanese firms in the top 50 game companies worldwide, China in second place with 11, and the United States in third place with 10.

The major U.S. trade shows for the industry are the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit, Game Developers Conference, and Gen Con.


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