Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Gaming Industry Gets a Clue

Whoa. From Next Generation:
Two figures known for butting heads with the game industry—US Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman—have partnered with the Entertainment Software Rating Board on a new series of TV PSAs.

...In a statement, Sen. Clinton said, “We all share in the responsibility of making sure our children play age-appropriate video games, and I’m pleased that the ESRB and retailers are working together to educate parents about the video game ratings and make sure they are enforced.”

Sen. Lieberman added, “I have long said that the ESRB ratings are the most comprehensive in the media industry. There are many age-appropriate games that are clever and entertaining. Parents should understand and use the ratings to help them decide which video games to buy for their families."


It seems like only six months ago, Clinton and Lieberman were waving burning torches on their way to Frankenstein's castle.

Isn't it funny how one election can change all that?

Suddenly, the hot political demographic isn't extremist. It's much closer to the middle, and bonfire rhetoric doesn't appeal to the middle. Which means that association with Jack Thompson and his ilk (man, I wish he had an elk, because I'd love to type "and his elk") is now a political liability when you're trying to appeal to a national audience. Lieberman has supported the ESRB in the past, but the level of cooperation and the lack of sabre-rattling in the press release differs markedly from his attitude of the last few years.

Even though this was a largely symbolic announcement, the symbolism is important. I criticize the ESRB and the ESA on a regular basis, but this was a very clever (though long overdue) move. In a strategic sense, the best thing you can do to political opposition is start separating them. The more separate groups you can help create, the more they're likely to start fighting with each other instead of you. Clinton and Lieberman have been separated, to some degree, from the rest of the mob, and that's going to get people like Jack Thompson to scream.

Look, no one wants kids to buy games that are inappropriate for their age. And while there is strong disagreement over the meaning of "inappropriate", there's plenty of common ground that we all agree on. What the ESRB/ESA has finally done is focus on that common ground. Partnering on common ground makes it far more likely that the uncommon ground can be negotiated as well. And while they should have done this years ago, at least it appears that they're finally doing it now.

Here's something else (from Gamespot, November 15):
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) today announced the next step in its initiative to educate parents about the ratings system. The organization that rates most of the console and PC games brought to market in the US said it was partnering with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to launch a nationwide game ratings education campaign.

The partnership will see 1.3 million brochures in English and Spanish distributed to 26,000 PTA groups nationwide. "Just as with all media, we urge parents to be as involved and informed as they can," Anna Weselak, PTA national president, said in a statement. The brochures are due to arrive at PTA locations in the next few days.

Again, well done. Common ground. Doing good deeds. Insead of sounding whiny and shrill, like it has in the past when faced with criticism, the gaming industry is suddenly taking a logical, common sense approach to its problems.

This is a huge opportunity for the gaming industry. Reasonable, effective partnerships with politicians and responsible parenting organizations will build relationships. The shrieking anti-game crusaders aren't building relationships--they're just screaming "GAMES ARE THE DEVIL!" And that, over time, will contribute to their isolation.

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