Article Library / 2015

2014-2015 Annual Assessment

Once considered a niche hobby of techies and science fiction enthusiasts, video games and other forms of interactive entertainment have gone mainstream across the globe in terms of their popularity and social acceptance. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA): 59 percent of all Americans play video games, and 51 percent of households have a dedicated gaming console; the average age of video gamers is 31, but roughly 40 percent of gamers are older than 36; the average age of individuals who purchase video games is 35; and 48 percent of gamers are female.1

As the popularity of video games has steadily increased over the last 20 years, and especially dramatically in the last five years with the proliferation of mobile based games, the video game industry has emerged as one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy. According to Gartner, a technology research firm, global sales of interactive entertainment in 2013 hit $93 billion U.S.D. and by the end of 2015 sales are expected to reach $110 billion.2 In comparison, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, total global box office receipts for all 2013 films was $35.9 billion.3 Between 2009 and 2012 the U.S. interactive software industry grew by 10 percent while the economy as a whole grew by only 2.4 percent, contributing more than $6 billion to GDP.4

Video games have been utilized as a medium and tool of education. Terms such as ‘edutainment’ and ‘gamification’ have entered our vernacular and dictionaries. Edutainment, a portmanteau of education and entertainment, refers to games that teach specific skills like math or spelling. Gamification is a process by which specific tasks or objectives are fulfilled through game-like technics and operations. In their book, Changing the Game: How Video Games are Transforming the Future of Business, David Edery and Ethan Mollick argue that “Games have become a powerful tool through which organizations teach, persuade, and motivate people.”5

The increase in the popularity of video games and their transition from cult to mainstream represents a cultural shift. Rather than individuals meeting in a physical space or location and engaging in a shared experience, individuals meet in a virtual world and have a shared experience. By some estimates, by age 21 the average young person has accumulated more than 10,000 hours playing video games.6 That is the equivalent of working a full time job for about five years, or what Malcolm Gladwell argues is the necessary time for mastery in a given field.

Transformative inventions and the widespread adoption of new technologies impact the Jewish people in one way or another. The popularity of interactive entertainment, the growth of the gaming industry, and the use of gaming for educational and other purposes challenges policy makers in the Jewish world and Israel to consider what might be the subsequent policy implications. How can Israel and the Jewish people utilize gamification and edutainment to help motivate and educate future generations? How does adopting a virtual identity and playing for countless hours affect one’s Jewish identity? What is the state of the video game industry in Israel and what, if any, policies should be considered to improve the industry? How can video games and virtual worlds be utilized for hasbara? These are the questions this chapter will discuss below.

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