"We're in a new era of acceptance for video and computer games."

So did ESA CEO Mike Gallagher kick off his "State of the Industry" E3 keynote speech this afternoon. "When we look back, we'll see now is the time that our industry became an accepted part of our cultural landscape," he added.

The signs of this change are all around us, according to Gallagher, such as the prominent participation of Texas Governor Rick Perry in another keynote speech this morning. "In my predecessor's time, we were fighting government officials, not working with them," he said. While there are still problems with the game industry's image, he said, projects like Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's planned civics education game show that "those who write about the industry in narrow demographic terms are behind the times."

Games are about much more than just entertainment these days, Gallagher stressed. "Who would have imagined a couple of years ago that nursing home residents would be more excited about video games than Bingo or Bridge," he said. Gallagher also pointed out games like Re-Mission, Virtual Iraq and Food Force that educate as they entertain, and projects like Folding@Home that use the power of game systems to aid public health research.

After highlighting the latest statistics on the industry's massive growth, Gallagher challenged the audience and the industry with five concepts to employ going forward (as paraphrased below):
  1. Remember our base: Avid gamers have been with us from the start, and we must continue making engaging and compelling games for them. We must also look for new ways to use technology to keep them engaged.
  2. Welcome new gamers by continuing to expand game content and offer new and more appealing game choices.
  3. Broaden use: The operative word remains "play," but games are increasingly not just recreational, but also involved in other pursuits.
  4. Help parents: Already, 80% of children can't purchase M-rated games, according to the FTC, a 43% jump since 2000. We need to increase parental awareness and usage of parental controls and ratings systems.
  5. Unite behind public policy: Already, states like Texas, Georgia and Wisconsin are seeing our industry's transformation and encouraging growth with financial incentives. "Of course ... not all elected officials are so enlightened." In Cyprus, Australia and Germany, game censorship is all too common. Some American legislators, no doubt, will continue to try to enact unconstitutional restrictions on the industry. So far, the ESA has fought such laws, and "when we haven't won in legislatures, we've won in the courts, every time." Over 150,000 gamers have joined the Video Game Voters Network ... we'd like that to be 200,000 by next E3.
"The industry has come a long way in a very short time, and we're finally garnering the respect we deserve," Gallagher concluded. "I challenge you to name another industry that has a more passionate consumer base than ours."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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