"When a phenomenon is occurring, it's impossible to pinpoint the arrival of a new era," said ESA president Mike Gallagher, delivering a keynote address at the 2008 E3 Media and business summit.
"No one rings a bell saying the world has changed."
Though we can never look back on history and decide at what point, or even in what year, the television, for example, became an accepted part of our culture, Gallagher feels that history will show that the present era is the one in which video games became a recognized and accepted part of our cultural and economic landscape.
"With this new level of acceptance comes respect... and that's a loaded word," Gallagher said.
One such application of respect, Gallagher said, is the fact that an elected official from a powerful state addressed the game industry audience at E3 earlier today with Texas Governor Rick Perry's keynote encouraging more game developers to put down roots in his state.
Another is the fact that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has expressed her support for video games to teach civics lessons, with her announcement of the Our Courts game and learning tool announced earlier this year at Games For Change.
"The ESA was fighting state officials two years ago, rather than welcoming them," Gallagher said.
"Our industry has continued to grow and attract millions of new customers of all ages and from all backgrounds. Those who write and talk about our industry in narrow demographic terms are living in a different time."
He likened today's video game industry to a movie multiplex, featuring a broad range of entertainment choices that appeal to a diverse customer base. 94% of today's games, he said, are rated appropriate for gamers 13 and under.
"The... options available are endless," he said. "Who would have imagined nursing home residents would be more excited about video games than bingo or bridge? ...I believe we are entering the golden age of gaming, but we need to work together to make that entry a good one, and further weave entertainment software into the economic and social fabric of America."
"All of us lucky and privileged enough to work in this new entertainment medium should feel exceptionally proud of what has been accomplished," he said. "Name another industry that has a more passionate consumer base than ours, and a workforce as talented and energetic as ours."