The video game industry is bigger than the film and music industries combined. The best part? It continues to grow. While it certainly doesn’t enjoy the same glitz and glamour as Hollywood does, over 2 billion people across the globe play video games—that’s roughly 20% of the world’s population. In particular, California has a sizeable chunk in this mammoth sector.
California is known as the United States’ leading video game market, with no shortage of players who buy WoW gold and Path of Exile Currencies alike. It’s a hub for developers, gamers, and investors alike, but it wasn’t always like that initially.
The Evolution of Gaming in California
In the beginning, video gaming in California started with penny arcades. California had a crucial role in introducing the video game business to America. Sunnyvale, a city in Santa Clara Valley, experienced the launch of the Atari during the 1970s, which jumpstarted arcade gaming. From then on, arcade games started popping up in barber shops, theme parks, bars, and almost every other entertainment spot in California. Popular games during this period included Pac-Man and Space Invaders, which helped establish a gaming culture in the state.
During the 80s and 90s, California jumped from arcades to home consoles. Firms like Nintendo and SEGA took over the gaming market and we saw the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, SEGA Master System, and the SEGA Genesis. From this budding ecosystem sprung many other gaming powerhouses.
After the turn of the century, technology evolved yet again. Game developers started catering titles for mobile devices. Major digital stores like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store (both of which are situated in California) helped usher in an area of mobile gaming. The accessibility and convenience of gaming on the go using smartphones and tablets propelled the industry to a new level.
California Ranked First for Economic Impact in the Video Game Industry
California showed the United States that no other state can compare with its influence on the country’s economy. As the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) reported, California’s video game industry generated a jaw-dropping $51.8 billion in annual economic output in 2020. The output is divided between the direct industry output ($22.5 billion) and other factors in the video game ecosystem, such as suppliers and other supporting industries ($29.3 billion).
The U.S. video game industry’s annual economic output during that time was $90.3 billion, accounting for nearly 429,000 jobs. California accounts for 218,100 jobs, ranging from software developers to employees working for game-related companies that sell digital assets. These are just some key findings from ESA’s report, “Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2020 Economic Impact Report.” It essentially outlined the advancements made in technology and participation in gameplay.
Hollywood Played A Role in Jumpstarting California As A Gaming Hub
Unbeknownst to some, Hollywood actually played a role in contributing to California’s gaming supremacy. In the early 1980s, Pixar tapped into computer-generated graphics, drawing talented progressions to Los Angeles. Those CGI developers soon jumped ship to apply their motion capture and animation skills to the then-budding gaming industry, providing valuable expertise and experience with 3D-animation.
Video games became promising career paths for actors when voice acting took off. Some of the biggest names in the field started small before they landed career-defining roles. Troy Baker is known for his performance as Joel in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Then there’s Steven Ogg, the voice actor for Trevor Philips in GTA 5, who went on to star in shows like Snowpiercer and The Walking Dead.
Once voice acting became a thing, big-name actors started to jump on the bandwagon. Nowadays, you’ve got the likes of Keanu Reeves appearing in Cyberpunk 2077 and Normal Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen in Death Stranding. These high-profile actors proved a powerful marketing strategy to sell new games.
An Iconic Setting
New York City may be the world’s most popular U.S. setting for video games, but California—Los Angeles, in particular—just comes in short. LA has stood as a backdrop for over 160 games, from Call of Duty’s installments and many racing games to slightly obscure point-and-clicks like Hotel Dusk: Room 215. It’s safe to say that Los Angeles is just as versatile on consoles as on movie screens. The state even inspired one of the most successful video game titles ever, Grand Theft Auto 5. The creation of Los Santos conjures some of that LA flair.
California’s Relevance in Gaming Isn’t Something to Scoff At
California’s involvement in the video gaming industry as a whole can’t be undermined. With many major games having their roots in the area (Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, PlayStation), the state’s technological resources and innovative prowess are nothing to scoff at. If anything, it should prove that California has more than mountains and sunny beaches to offer.