E3 2008: ESA’s President and the Age of Acceptance

When did the television become an accepted part of the home landscape? Do you know? I can’t really pinpoint a particular time when society as a whole said, “Yes. This is OK. We can and have assimilated this into our lives.” It just kinda … happened. Televisions were popping up in more and more homes. Different types of programming were born, for all different ages and tastes. Different models were created. Advertisers jumped on board.

The example of televisions was how Mike Gallagher, President of the Entertainment Software Association, began his state-of-the-industry keynote at this year’s E3 Media and Business Summit. Why? He believes we’re in the middle of that same acceptance event.

“We will look back and realize, now is the time that our industry became accepted,” said Gallagher. But he cautioned against sitting back and relaxing. “Does that mean that all problems and compromises are behind us? Of course not.”

This acceptance is tough to call – the warning to not sit back and stop worrying is well founded. But he did discuss some points to support his claim. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s use of games to promote civic knowledge, and Chevron’s full-page ad pointing people to a game to learn about the environment and related concerns are solid examples suggesting this acceptance.

Gallagher also pointed out the changing face of the gaming public as evidence. “Who’d have imagined a couple of years ago that nursing home residents would be more excited about videogames than bingo or bridge?” he said, referring to numerous homes’ adoption of Wiis and the residents’ enthusiasm for games like Wii Sports.

Technological power and use was a final point the ESA President made in support of the current age of acceptance. He pointed out that games today create new worlds that are super realistic with ever-increasing realism in the graphics and player experiences. And the devices on which we play them are mini-powerhouses.

“Today’s cellphones have more computing power than the Apollo 11 landing module,” he explained.

After giving some impressive sales figures and growth projections, he again brought up a note of caution.
“I believe we are entering the golden age of gaming, but I believe we need to work together to make it smooth. We must change the way we think and the way we do business.”

Not to leave the industry without some direction or ideas how we might proceed through the changes, Gallagher suggested five things we must remember moving forward into the Age of Acceptance.

1. Remember our base. Never forget our loyal fanbase. We must continually push forward and look for new tech to keep them interested and involved.

2. Welcome new gamers. Welcome in converts who’ve joined us recently, continue to serve them, as well.

3. Broaden the use of games. Remembering it is still play, games are increasingly not just recreational. And this is a good thing and a growth trend that must be protected and strengthened.

4. Help parents. We must continue to look for innovative ways to ensure games are parent-approved. All hardware providers include parental controls; this a great step. They now need education on how to use parental tools such as these controls.

5. We must unite to support our policy interests.

And here Gallagher highlighted recent attempts and successes in developing partnerships with states and other political bodies. Beyond this, it’s not clear how we should band together to push forward. He did throw support for the Video Game Voters Network, saying he’d like to see the current 150,000 members increase in numbers to 200,000 by next year’s E3. And he believes this is a very reachable goal.

“I challenge you to name another industry that has as passionate a consumer base as ours. To find a more creative and talented workforce.”

I have to agree; in my meetings and conversations with people in this industry, both consumers and developers, that they are the most creative, intelligent and fun group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure with whom to work. I fully believe we can accept the new gamers, accept new ideas, technology and uses of games, and educate parents who are new to games. Now, we just need to band together and move forward.


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