The election is looming and the video game industry realized that in order to stay strong going forward, it can't rely on fanboys to promote its agenda. That's why the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) will soon begin spreading money around to candidates for federal office. The video game publishers’ organization has created a political action committee (PAC) to facilitate its campaign donations. Says ESA boss Michael Gallagher:

We will be writing checks to campaigns by the end of this quarter. This is an important step in the political maturation process of the industry that we are ready to take now. This is about identifying and supporting champions for the game industry on Capitol Hill so that they support us.

Donations will range between $50,000 to $100,000 in 2008. Fair enough, you might say. After all that's what Hollywood and the big labels (and pretty much any other industry) has been doing for years now. Well, not if you're the Parents Television Council (PTC). It announced that it would target elected officials who accept contributions from the ESA since accepting these means taking a stand against families.

As the PTC's president Tim Winter put it:

The video game industry continues to fight meaningful accountability for selling inappropriate material to children. The industry has been exposed repeatedly for its reprehensible behavior and now they are looking for ways to buy friends in the government…

The [ESRB] has offered little to prevent companies like Rockstar Games from subjecting millions of children to sexually graphic material as they did with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. More recently, when it was revealed that Manhunt 2 still contained horrific violence that was thought to have been completely removed, the ESRB was missing in action.

There's the bizarre attitude that the family and videogames are somehow mutually exclusive, which in the light of games like Buzz, Singstar, Rock Band or consoles like the Wii is just completely ignorant.

But then again what do you expect from prototype moral crusaders like the PTC? As Anthony Larme explains in his thesis Dangerours Games? Censorship and 'Child Protection' a moral panic begins with an initial problem for which a group marginalised by mainstream society attempts a solution. Initial societal reaction that involves various elements of misperception becomes amplified by media exploitation (as with the cited examples Manhunt 2 and GTA San Andreas). Such amplification involves sensationalism and exaggeration along with providing a ready mouthpiece for all those who always knew that games were the root of all evil anyways – a vicious circle that augments the crusaders' believe their own horror stories.

The only acceptable solution for them: censorship.

Maybe the ESA should target officials who accept contributions from the PTC. After all the PTC subverts the values it (supposedly) claims to represent by contravening the US constitution through trying to impose restrictions on the freedom of speech.


ESA Gives Video Game Voters Network Website Overhaul, Could Use Some Humanizing

The Entertainment Software Association, representing the interests of of U.S. video game publishers, launched an updated website for its Video Games Voters Network in order to “increase the recruitment, education, and mobilization of video game players across the country.” The press release (via explains:

The response to the VGVN is overwhelming and dramatic―over 100,000 members, generating thousands upon thousands of letters defending video games. It’s impressive. Ordinary Americans’ passion for computer and video games is driving a desire to be counted and speak out. They are a political force that not only votes, but actively makes their voices heard in Washington, DC and in state legislatures across the country.Politicians who think easy political points can be scored at the First Amendment’s expense have to know that such efforts will be aggressively opposed. VGVN and the ESA would rather work in a collaborative and productive partnership to educate caregivers about how to ensure the games their children enjoy are parent-approved. 

The site includes a nice over-the-top trailer complete in first-they-came-for-the-movies-but-I didn't say-anything-style and also links to a Myspace profile – check basic social media.

While the whole approach is an applaudable effort there are some issues though.While I don't necessarily see the interests of publishers and consumers as mutually exclusive (coming from a country with a ridiculous gaming legislature and all) I'm inclined to agree with gamepolitic's view on the missing personal component. This could have been achieved by, you guessed it, an additional blog. Not only could it have been used to give updates on recent successes of the campaign to encourage more user involvement, but also to facilitate closer connections and to humanize the whole undertaking.

Furthermore what is missing is a regularly updated overview of lawmakers and their stand on videogame related issues so you know what your representative is up to.

Also the whole approach of giving users the possibility to send already formulated emails is debatable. Not only does it add it to the impersonal nature of the campaign but the emails might simply be seen as spam. As the Australian Federal Minister for the Environment, Malcom Turnbull explained in connection with Get Up! which uses the same method: "When you get 1000 emails, all in exactly the same form, it's not exactly as persuasive as a bunch of emails people have written to independently express themselves." On the other hand: This procedure also allows people who don't have the time to research all the right contacts to eloquently express their genuine concern.

What I really asked myself though was: When is there going to be a German version?