A Crisis of Confidence

A Crisis of Confidence

Sean Sands examines the events that have driven the ESA into its current tailspin and wonders if the organization's fate is all but sealed.

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At a time when the ESA should be making public good faith efforts to stop the hemorrhaging of high-profile companies from its ranks, it instead made the inexplicable decision to defend E3's upcoming keynote speaker, Texas Governor Rick Perry, in the wake of some relatively extreme religious statements. That's to say nothing of the bizarre choice of Perry as keynote speaker in the first place, but wait. It gets better. In the aftermath of Perry's questionable remarks, the ESA followed up by getting into apublic spat with GamePolitics for its criticism of Perry.

Not that I won't sound like a broken record, but...

"wake"? "aftermath"? Comments made over a year ago, that were covered during a political campaign, and then largely forgotten, were brought up in a blog posting and an Escapist article, then picked up by GamePolitics, who used a rather incendiary false quote in their headline. The ESA then went off the hilt over it.

GamePolitics is an "independent news organization"? Or is the ESA starting spats with others that we're not aware of, or that haven't publicized it as widely?

I personally agree that the selection of Rick Perry as E3 speaker was strange, and so far, unexplained. I agree that the handling of E3 has been nothing but a giant mess, and I have serious doubts that it will ever regain its former glory, if it survives at all. I agree that 4 major publishers jumping ship is a giant "WHOA! What's going on there?" moment. The rest of the article is great, and asks worthwhile questions about the position in which the ESA currently finds itself, and what that may mean for the industry as a whole.

That stuff up there though? Not cool. GP poked the ESA (who were already down on their luck) with a pointy stick with the way they headlined that article, and yet they get a free pass as an "independent news organization", who just happen to be owned by the ECA? And the ESA, overreacting, get all the blame? Come on...

And that may be totally valid if the ESA didn't already have its posterior waving in the air, but these events didn't happen in a vacuum. My point in that specific quote is to say that when the ESA needs to be making good faith efforts at securing its membership - and a recent news post on this very site indicates that other defections may be right around the corner - it goes and stirs up the wasps nest by slamming GP. Valid or not, it's like the guy who's about to get fired and sends a company wide email pointing out what an idiot the guy in the next cubicle is. Even if he's right, _he_ looks like the jerk.

I really do appreciate the feedback though, and I don't necessarily think you're off base on the criticism.

My impression of the ESA collapse was that it simply boiled down to the money. They quadrupled their membership fees. Gallagher did so in order to increase lobbyist presence in DC and for some reason just assumed everyone was going to be okay with it. The mis-management comes from the fact that he picked a bad time to make a play.

The elections are hitting in 2008 and despite Gamepolitics guffawing about a few off-hand remarks by Obama, he really hasn't taken a stance on the issue yet. Same for McCain. No politician wants to say a word because all they have is the NPD and Wall Street Figures on this wacky thing called video games. And all those figures say is that these people are making money despite the economy. The logical reaction is to not say a freaking word until the election is over and avoid pissing anyone off. We still aren't exactly someone you want to come out guns blazing for in an election. Yet.

So no, now is not the time to start rattling the saber at Washington, in my humble opinion. I don't know if Gallagher is screwing things up by investing in solely conservative camps in DC (which he seems to be with the whole Perry fiasco) or he just hasn't laid out a real political plan yet because of the current climate.

Once the elections are over, they'll make their play and establish a new lobby group with whoever our new glorious leader ends up being.

Besides being dead in the water, I don't think the industry really needs the ESA. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, etc. on their own have much more lobbying power than the ESA ever will.

If there is an organization to rally around it should be the ESRB. Their ratings system is literally the only standard across all platforms the industry has agreed on.

L.B. Jeffries:
So no, now is not the time to start rattling the saber at Washington, in my humble opinion. I don't know if Gallagher is screwing things up by investing in solely conservative camps in DC (which he seems to be with the whole Perry fiasco) or he just hasn't laid out a real political plan yet because of the current climate.

Once the elections are over, they'll make their play and establish a new lobby group with whoever our new glorious leader ends up being.

Unless your issue has been adopted by one party (e.g. abortion rights), investing in just one political camp is always a bad idea. Politicians and political parties have long memories about who lobbies and especially who gives money to only the other party. Democrats are at least as prone to censoring or banning games as Republicans, and gaming advocacy groups need friends on both sides of the aisle. That's even more true this year, as no conservative presidential candidate is still in the running. Even if the Republican wins, the Senate and House - from whence all the laws spring - will almost certainly be even more strongly Democrat, and the ESA backing or even just lobbying only Republicans just predisposes Democrats to be against anything the ESA advocates.

Sounds to me like Gallagher was a really bad choice to head the ESA, being unable to assist with Congress and likely to make Democrats less friendly toward the ESA agenda. Influence with Bush (assuming Gallagher has any) does little or nothing to promote the interest of gaming. Unless of course the ESA is afflicted with BDS and is afraid that Bush will invade Sony.

Right now the ESA is just generally a bad idea. All it does is hurt games. If an ESA/ESRB rating causes a game to be edited, I usually won't buy it, or hop on the internet and go looking for an uncensored version (like I did with "The Witcher"). Not to mention that it's a bad thing in general.

Right now game censorship is generally a Democratic issue, which is why Obama has made some off handed issues. It all falls under their sphere of wanting information control and is usually mixed in with the message of "protecting the children".

Right Ring/Republican cantidates make a lot of noise on issues of morality, but in general don't DO anything besides make noise, as their party is based around the idea of a weak federal goverment and strong local goverments. I mean Republicans are the type who might like the idea of a town being able to decide what to allow in their borders (like spending money on Christmas decorations if the majority of the people want it) but aren't really in the market to see sweeping legislation, which is often played against them.

Clinton was involved with the Hot Coffee thing, and I believe aside from his comments during the election Obama has been a big supporter of moral censorship of video games and the media in general.

Despite this, it seems a lot of Gamers are democrats, and are shocked when right wingers are used as spokespeople on these issues. Especially seeing as many of the messages of support I've seen over the year are basically along the lines of right wingers hating the stuff in the gaming industry, and firmly believing we're all damning ourselves, but are also willing to defend our right to such media and to make such desicians for ourselves.

Bottom like is the ESA has become a censorship machine. There is no real middle ground. Either speech and expression (through video games) are free or they are not. With internet sales being what they are, the power of "advocacy groups" is less than it once was. Besides I'd much rather see loose idealogical collectives represent the gaming community. Basically if some "protect the children" group wants to get rowdy, I think gamers should just get rowdy back with them.

Trying to play the game "nice" just gave advocacy groups a lever. None of these organizations were stopping censorship, rather they caused more of it, and opened the door encouragingly for people to push. Censorship not being a halfway thing.

Basically, I'm rapidly getting to the point where I believe this isn't the kind of thing where there can be a dialogue. Let them write letters and protest outside stores and perhaps move more business to the Internet. Eventually if they get irritated enough the amount of damage a bunch of enraged nerds can inflict should also act as a deterrant.

Sorry if I sound angry and bitter, I'm just tired of companies like Bethesda freaking out for stupid reasons like fan made mods and such.

Vote Wright/Molyneux 2008 for President of Gaming


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