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States do a delicate dance with gamers

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“The entertainment-software industry has become a recognized part of our cultural landscape, as nearly two-thirds of our nation’s households include someone who plays computer or video games,” wrote Gov. Rick Perry (R) of Texas in his message declaring Feb. 3 “Entertainment Software Day.” In 2007, Texas directed $20 million to film, television, and video-game incentives. Governor Perry wants to triple the program in the next budget.

A big driver behind this push to get chummy with the industry: money. As traditional manufacturing jobs erode, some point to the young medium as a flourishing high-tech industry.

In 2006, the growth rate of Texas’ video-game industry was nearly quadruple that of the state, according to the Entertainment Software Association, an industry group in Washington.

The industry’s growth rate has slowed somewhat with the rest of the economy. But sales continue to grow. Last holiday season was the biggest in video-game history. Sales hit $5 billion in December, nearly equalling what the industry earned in all of 1997, according to the retail research firm NPD.

“Entertainment is usually recession-proof,” says Morgan Webb, cohost of X-Play, a TV show that covers video games on the G4 cable channel. During the Great Depression, people flocked to the movies. During this recession, it seems people are flocking to their Nintendo Wiis.
Beyond sheer economics, Ms. Webb says that video games are getting noticed because of a generational shift in politics.

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