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Fixing the industry's image problem still a work in process
Fixing the industry's image problem still a work in process
June 10, 2013 | By Kris Graft

The Entertainment Software Association hasn't had any big, televised meetings with the Vice President lately. But the group that represents the game industry has still been working on ways to show the general public that there's more to video games than headshots and F-bombs.

ESA CEO Michael Gallagher said during a dinner with press, "We've had a very high-quality dialog with the House, the Senate and the White House about the entirety of what the game industry is, how it addresses things like [content] ratings, how it works with the Federal Trade Commission, how the Federal Trade Commission works with us.

"All of that has been very productive," he said. "But I think the things that have been most interesting to observe is the reach of the industry. Most recently we worked with the White House on a mental health announcement that they made last week.

"What they wanted to partner with us on was to destigmatize mental health as an issue, and where to get the treatment and resources."

It's one way that the game industry is trying to fix its image problem -- a lot of people still associate video games with shooting violence. So it's one of ESA's duties to remedy that. Gallagher and other game industry leaders sat down with Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year to talk about the effect video games have on youth.

Gallagher said leaders in Washington are seeing video games as a new venue for spreading meaningful messages.

Rich Taylor, senior VP at the ESA said, "It's telling that [the White House] turned to us not because we're part of the problem, but because we can help with a solution."

Gallagher said the group has been in close communication with House leaders, and instead of passing judgement and writing off video games as violent wastes of time, they've been receptive to working with the ESA on issues like game research and tax incentives.

"It's been an educational opportunity for the industry to be engaged in this [dialog]," he said. "I think you can see by the tone of it, the receptivity [of politicians]."

Gallagher noted how both Texas and Pennsylvania boosted incentives for the game industry in their most recent budgets. "They see the value of the industry, they understand these trade-offs and they want to see more of our jobs.

"That's where you see the real truth of where our industry is. Those [negative] allegations don't hold weight over time."

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E Zachary Knight
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You know when we have a long road ahead of us when game publishers take an iconic and fresh game like Plants vs Zombies and turn it into a 3rd person shooter. The sad thing is that they claimed it was something new and unique. Sorry. That is just putting a new skin on a tired genre.

James Yee
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Yeah it's called Dungeon Siege. :|

Arthur De Martino
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I felt it was the other way around.
They took a boring, violent genre and made it colorful and funny in a unique way.

It's not like this is a replacement for Plants vs. Zombies anyway.

Daniel Backteman
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@Zachary You gave me a huge scare there. I thought it was the actual PvZ2, but it just seems to be a spin-off?

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Looks like a push to get the casuals more into the FPS genre. I don't see any bigger reason to fret, except that it might hurt the perception of what games are and can be to the public.

Edit: Oh, right. This is an article about industry image. Sorry when I'm at work I open several tabs with articles before starting to read. This actually might be a bit hurtful then.

FPS Shooters - The End All Be All Genre of Games.

Chris Dias
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FPS Shooters? Is that like a First-Person FPS?

Daniel Backteman
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Hah, I'll leave that typo there since it sounds like something that Molydeux would say.

FPS Shooters - You play the person playing a computer game. Alternatively you play as the gun.

John Flush
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I'm amazed the ESA hasn't figured out how to communicate their own rating system to parents. How tough is it to say these ratings are like movie ratings with more details?

The reason the industry is viewed like a shooter fest is because that is all kids want to play and parents don't know what content are in the games. Honestly, I have had to tell every parent I know that an "M" on the box can almost equate to a "R" on a movie and they are shocked... Yeah, you let your 11 year old play 40 hours of "R" movie every week. Didn't you know?

seriously, I know games != movies, but the easiest way to communicate this out is to use to common reference point.

James Yee
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One of the best versions of the ESA ratings I've seen were the Penny Arcade variants.

John Andersen
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I don't know the extent of how the ESA showcases the ESRB game ratings in store, but retailers are doing their part in promoting the system as well. Then there are the retailers like Target that ask for my ID at when I buy an M rated game - that makes for an interesting checkout experience.

I really think this needs to be visually exhibited to the House, Senate and White House. Toys R Us is one good example of a retailer that has large posters hanging from the walls that explains the ESRB rating system in detail. In the end it's up to parents and adults overall to pay attention to this rating system if they don't want to purchase games with content they do not approve of.