|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
CONTACT: Dan Hewitt – dhewitt@theESA.com or 202.223.2400
Last week’s DICE conference provided a wealth of remarkable speeches from visionaries and well-respected industry figures. As I recently noted in my open letter to the industry, we are capable of so much creativity, innovation, and artistry. Unfortunately though, one speech from an admittedly accomplished industry pioneer was so off-base and filled with misinformation that it requires an immediate response.
Gilman Louie took to the stage and laid out his black and white television view of what is now an HD, 3D, surround-sound world. He provided a perspective from Washington, DC, decrying what he feels is an industry with a “weak voice,” no commitment to partnerships and education, and one that is an easy target for attack from legislators and culture critics.
It is unfortunate that those who heard the remarks were left with a mistaken impression and a skewed – if not even a completely inaccurate – view of our industry’s standing with policymakers around the country. I want to introduce Mr. Louie to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents the U.S. video game industry in DC and in state capitals, and the leadership of our 35 member companies. With the exception of Mr. Louie, many in the industry are familiar with ESA from our victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in overturning an unconstitutional California law that limited game developers’ rights and our two presentations at DICE in the past five years. However, we accomplish much more than that on a daily basis.
Mr. Louie presented the idea of an “institute” with public and private partnerships to advance the industry. Below, in bold, are Mr. Louie’s stated goals followed by how ESA is going beyond each. Mr. Louie recommended an institute that will:
- Invest in Research: ESA undertakes and publishes more comprehensive research than any video game industry body. ESA provides information throughout the year detailing consumer purchasing and playing behaviors. A simple Internet search would have turned up reams of data on ESA studies about colleges that offer video game design programs, mom gamers, baby boomer gamers, and hosts of other surveys commissioned by ESA.
- Establish Safe Use Standards: The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is lauded by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), parent advocacy groups, and consumers themselves as the gold standard in providing effective and useful information about making educated purchasing choices. Almost nine in 10 parents are aware of the ESRB rating system and find it easy to use, and it is enforced over 90% of the time by leading video game retailers. ESA also worked with the ESRB and leading video game publishers, retailers, and community groups to launch a new PSA this past fall that reached more than 300 million people to-date;
- Invest in Interactive Educational Initiatives: ESA is partnering with Sesame Workshop, E-Line Media, The MacArthur Foundation and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by supporting GlassLab, which is developing video games, including one utilizing the top-selling Sims franchise from Electronic Arts, that track to Common Core standards and are currently in thousands of classrooms nationwide;
- Sponsor Physical Ed and Sports Activities: ESA partners with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition on the PALA+ program. This remarkable public/private partnership encourages kids to stay healthy, decrease their body mass index, and develop healthy behaviors through the use of video games. ESA also partnered with the Department of Agriculture on their Apps for Healthy Kids competition, which sparked the development of apps and games to encourage children to eat better and be physically active. In addition, ESA is a proud partner with First Lady Michele Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which is decreasing childhood obesity in America;
- Create Game-A-Thons and e-Sports: ESA already sponsors and supports a host of initiatives such as IndieCade, Children’s Miracle Network’s Extra Life charity fundraiser, which raised more than $4 million three months ago, and a host of e-sports competitions;
- Work with Non-Profits in the Technology Education Space: As I mentioned earlier, ESA is bringing together leaders in the video game industry and experts in the field of education to leverage digital games as powerful learning tools. In fact, a few months ago we launched with California Governor Jerry Brown, the named party in our Supreme Court victory, “Project A-Game,” which provides youth an opportunity to create and operate a working video game studios in at-risk communities. Governor Brown complimented the video game industry at this event for our industry’s creativity and leadership. In addition, ESA proudly co-sponsors the National STEM Video Game Challenge – now in its third year – an annual competition to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects by tapping into the natural passion of youth for playing and making video games. For the past several years, ESA has also hosted an annual “Games and Learning Summit” that brings together leading academics, industry figures, and education thought leaders such as the CEO of PBS and the White House Chief Technology Officer to strategize and advance the use of games in education;
- Provide Gaming Scholarships: ESA provides scholarships every year to women and minorities to encourage new and diverse visions in game development. In addition, ESA works with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in providing scholarships to young developers and encourages their pursuit of the industry. Those interested should go to the ESA Foundation’s website to learn more about these scholarships and the large number of other non-profits that the ESA Foundation supports. The ESA Foundation has raised more than $12 million at the industry’s annual fundraiser, Nite to Unite for Kids. This figure does not include the incredibly charitable works of companies like Activision Blizzard, Zynga, Electronic Arts, and so many others that are giving back to local communities;
- Build a positive brand image for games: ESA already informs the general public about the upward trajectory of the industry. As evidenced below, ESA is constantly in the press promoting video games, extolling our industry’s artists, and educating the public about who plays games and their positive impact.
What is confounding is Mr. Louie’s statement that every legislator he speaks with blames video games for a host of societal ills. This is just, again, completely untrue. Numerous elected officials have publicly supported the industry and championed our positions, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator John Thune, and Representatives Hunter, Brady, Upton, and Murphy. In fact, ESA worked with leading members of Congress, including the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in the creation of the Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology (E-TECH Caucus), which launched in 2011. The E-TECH Caucus now has more than 50 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who are committed to improving and advancing video games and their full potential. The industry enjoys support in both Congress and in the White House—as evidenced by the strong and productive relationships ESA has had with both White House video game czars and our presence and support at the launch of the Digital Promise Initiative, which went without mention in Mr. Louie’s presentation.
One thing Mr. Louie got right is the need to encourage greater industry involvement in the defense of this vibrant, artistic medium. Unfortunately, Mr. Louie did not mention the Video Game Voters Network (VGVN). The VGVN is a grassroots army of more than 500,000 gamers who are passionate about frequently defending video games and take action against politicians and media critics who assert baseless claims against our industry’s products. Since it was started, VGVN members have taken action more than 200,000 times—whether that is letters and emails sent or phone calls made supporting video games. Take Two, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Electronic Arts, and many other publishers and developers have encouraged their employees and fans to become active participants in the VGVN, leading to real results—whether that is unconstitutional legislation being vetoed and shelved or national figures like Glenn Beck and Katie Couric who publicly apologized for attacking video games.
I encourage anyone, including Mr. Louie, to learn more about ESA and our work by reviewing our most recent annual report, visiting our website, signing up for our newsletter, and following us on Facebook or Twitter as more than a million people already do.
In closing, the seasonal timing requires me to respond to Gilman’s slight of the recent Super Bowl. On behalf of the millions of Seahawks fans across the country, I say “Go ‘Hawks!” Mr. Louie can have his “inside the beltway” Washington team.
Michael D. Gallagher
President and CEO
Entertainment Software Association