On Tuesday, July 16, ESA President & CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis spoke on 1A, a news show podcast produced by NPR and WAMU 885. Hosted by Joshua Johnson, the episode—titled “Loot Boxes, The Law And The Music Behind The Game”—was the second installment in a special series called “Game Mode,” which takes a look at different aspects of the video game world.
The segment shed light on the conversation around video game upgrades, add-ons, and in-game purchases, with Johnson inviting a diverse group of experts to discuss the issue. Other guests included Charlie Hall, senior reporter at Polygon; and Steve Blickensderfer, a technology lawyer.
Pierre-Louis shared his thoughts live from the show’s studio in Washington, D.C., speaking as a consumer, an industry representative, and a parent. He gave helpful context about different game mechanics from a game development perspective: “Whether you have a free-to-play game or a AAA title…you see opportunities within each to try to engage people at their level. That’s part of the beauty of the game space today.”
Although experimentation can sometimes cause complaints from consumers, video game developers are highly responsive to audience feedback. As Pierre-Louis put it: “One of the hallmarks of our industry overall is not only trying to create value for consumers, but listening to consumers. We are probably the most responsive to consumers of any industry.”
When it comes to video games and parenting, Pierre-Louis explained: “As the parent of a 13-year-old, what I want are tools and information about how I can limit the amount of time [and] the amount of money spent on gameplay.” This, he pointed out, is something the video game industry does better than any other media industry.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has applauded the industry’s self-regulatory methods several times in the past. For more than 25 years, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (which regulates the U.S. video game industry) has been the cornerstone of our industry’s partnership with parents.
Last year, the ESRB expanded its ratings for game packaging to include an “in-game purchases” notice to better inform players and parents about these optional elements. The ESRB also maintains a library of helpful, effective parental control guides and other resources at ParentalTools.org.
Such tools are not only useful but widely promoted. As Pierre-Louis elaborated from an industry perspective: “Our job is to make sure we’re providing more of that information to parents so that they can make those choices.”
As a father himself, Pierre-Louis also offered some additional suggestions on how to level with kids: “Conversation is important. Gameplay is important. So finding an opportunity to not only talk to your child about the games that they’re playing but to play alongside them…that’s a really useful tool to see what they’re doing, [to] understand the experience, and see where the money is being spent.”
The episode wrapped up with an interview with award-winning video game composer Inon Zur, who shared what it’s like creating music for video games like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, and Prince of Persia.