Video game industry could energize R.I. economy

To the Editor:
I applaud the recent selection by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee of Keith W. Stokes as the head of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation (“Chafee ends speculation, says Stokes to stay on as head of the EDC,” Jan. 10, 2011).
From 1900 to 1910, Rhode Island saw the biggest boom in its population, with an increase of almost 27 percent, making the increase of the 2010 census a century later look like a rounding error. The growth in that first decade of the 20th century was driven by an increase of 33 percent in the number of Rhode Islanders who were born in a foreign country. They poured into the textile mills and other factories as the Industrial Revolution begun in Pawtucket a century earlier chugged on.
Rhode Island today needs another economic engine similar to the Industrial Revolution.
I feel the video game industry is a prime candidate to be such an engine.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops,” a video game for Windows, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii, sold 7 million copies within 24 hours of going on sale in November 2010. It generated more than $650 million in worldwide sales in its first five days on the market, and was responsible for more than 600 million hours of online game play.
More people play the game every day than watch Leno, Letterman and Jimmy Fallon combined.
Zynga Nation, the virtual world invented in 2007 as a place where PC users could gather on social networks and play casual games at their leisure, boasts more than 225 million active members a month.
Simply, the video game market is huge, and the job opportunities are vast.
At a recent video game-career seminar of the Newport County Mentor/Co-Op Group, students from the entire county flocked to listen to the presentations and understand the number of career offerings.
The EDC, under Mr. Stokes’ leadership, provided a financial guarantee to entice Curt Schilling’s group, 38 Studios LLC, to Rhode Island. While this decision may be controversial, it was a decision made to help enhance the job opportunities in Rhode Island.
The job openings listed on the website of 38 Studios are numerous, and the potential company growth is huge. Combined, these factors confirm that this was an excellent decision.
I feel that we need to continue to pursue the video game-industry sector of the economy as a source of future careers for our students and as a candidate for the next major economic engine for Rhode Island.
Chris Semonelli
Middletown town councilor

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