December 16, 2006

Losing The Game That Matters

There have been rumors that Doug Lowenstein is stepping down from his position as head of the ESA. While it's great to point back to his track record as head of the ESA and see the legal victories and acceptance of the ratings system grow over the last several years, the games industry is in one of the worst places it could be because Doug never played the one game that mattered...the public game.

We never had a vocal counterpoint to our critics from the ESA. Our critics were allowed to take center stage and put us on the defensive, forcing a twenty-fold increase in penalties from the ESRB and putting game developers in a self-censoring mode for the last year.

We had an online presence from bloggers, a single paper from a gentleman at MIT trying to debunk gaming myths, and more messageboard postings than you can shake a stick at, but the ESA has been so focused on showing who buys and plays games and trumpeting their legal victories and anti-piracy efforts that they've let everyone think of us as legally-protected hunter-killer-trainers rather than a form of entertainment. If the courts are our only allies, we are losing the war.

As developers and publishers, we haven't been much better. Our titles get targeted, and our public response is...nothing. It makes us look like guilty children cowering in the corner from the scolding we're receiving.

As an industry, we've taken a "wait and see" response because we keep seeing from the past that every generation has their strawman for its ills. However, if we don't start opening our mouths and fighting back, we aren't going to end up like the movie industry...embedded in the mainstream. We'll end up like Dungeons and Dragons...marginalized and mostly forgotten.

Long story short...if you want to protect gaming for the future, don't just your fucking mouth.

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