The man across the counter muffed the transaction for the third time.
Dark, dark circles cratered under his eyes.
“I’m really tired,” he said
“Don’t tell me you were up all night playing World of Warcraft,” I said.
“How’d you know?” he finally asked.
“I recognize the signs,” I said.
This man is not some punk huffing paint in his spare time. He is a middle-aged father and the mayor of a small town who has an addiction to a product owned by Activision Blizzard Inc., which maintains offices in several states, including Texas.
When my mind was formed, my parents owned a black-and-white Zenith television.
When my son’s mind was formed, personal computers were common, and by the time he went to school, emails were the norm.
He grew up on video games. I loved video games, and felt envious of his childhood. Then I discovered a more disturbing fact. By the time he was seven, he could beat me on Starfox. And I was trying hard. He beat his uncles on the early NBA video games. His uncles, both in their twenties, did not handle it well that a child could beat them at something in which they invested a great deal of time.
But it further demonstrated the great divide between precomputer childhood psyches and postcomputer childhoods. Never mind that a man walked on the moon in the era of vacuum tubes. Today’s generation formed their thoughts around interactive screens.
Some have criticized the postcomputer childhood psyches. An excellent article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” by Nicholas Carr ran in the Atlantic two years ago (see http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/). But the fact is, these kids are processing more information than we did, and are. Technological change is reaching the point of where equipment appears to grow obsolete almost instantly.
So don’t be surprised that video gaming is huge economic force in Texas, second only to California. There’s a phrase, “Dallas Gaming Mafia,” that refers to the numbers of video game companies based in Dallas, which includes the studios 3D Realms, id Software, Gearbox Software, MumboJumbo, Robot Entertainment, Bonfire Studios, Terminal Reality, Nerve Software, Barking Lizards Technologies, Blockdot, Method Solutions, United Developers and Playnet. And of course, you’ve seen game previews at movie theaters that emulate and surpass many movie previews.
The impact has been enormous. Not only do you have friends that are hooked on the inane Farmville, there’s now an exchange rate between gaming currency and real world currency. I suspect you know someone who pays for gaming currency to someone in another country who’s been playing games all day in China. The practice is known as gold mining. The New York Times ran a notable story about 100,000 Chinese who work long shifts to “gold farm” for American customers.
And real estate in Second life can be bought Linden dollars or real dollars. Video and computer games add about $5 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Entertainment Software Association. There are 80 publishers and developers of software games in Texas which employ 13,613 people, according to a report released yesterday. The Texas industry makes about a $1.2 billion positive hit in the state.
That, of course, doesn’t count the negative economic costs of those who skip work or play the games at work instead of producing.