I’m almost 100% certain that the management at TRR would like to stay out of politics, and I certainly agree with that. Only on a rare occasion should we as a news and entertainment outlet should make an opinion. I want to draw a line here, what I’m about to write represents my performance as TRR’s Gaming Editor.
I’m more sure that readers of TRR are aware of the PROTECT IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), two bills that are making their way through the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, respectively. TRR is not in the business of commenting on these bills (hint: they will be bad for TRR, by the way).
Instead, I want to talk about the Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it is called in the industry. E3 is run by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). I hope you are still with me, I realize the logic pattern is (legislation)>(law)>(effect)>(ESA)>(E3)>(TRR).
The ESA says that they support the video games industry. I would not be surprised if there are people who think that the ESA is the mouthpiece of the games industry. Here is the fact: ESA is the government lobbying arm for the games industry. Part of ESA’s claim to fame was opposing the California legislation that barred the sales of certain games to minors when that law went to the Supreme Court last year (see Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association). ESA was at the front of the opposition line when that case was at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. To their credit, ESA has also legally opposed similar legislation in other courts along with EMA, and the Video Software Dealers Association.
I will not deny, therefore, that the ESA wants to have gaming’s best interests in mind when they conduct their business. ESA is in part a membership-driven company. Major game publishers and developers have memberships with ESA. There are of course exceptions – Activision/Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft - are not members but benefit from ESA’s lobbying/policy/government efforts.
However, ESA pulled a very bold move recently. While Electronic Arts, Sony, Nintendo, and a host of other publishers and developers have been vocal against SOPA, the ESA support it. In a press release that ESA has not posted on their web page, but partially published by the Games Industry journal openly states their support for the legislation. While I have not personally seen any statement from ESA supporting the Senate-version PIPA, I would wager most of my earthly possessions that they do.
I do not need to go into detail about why SOPA is bad. Rather, I would like to shortly discuss how SOPA is bad for gaming. After many decades, there are mini-communities that have sprouted up withing gaming culture. There is an entire website devoted to remixes of favorite gaming tunes, Overclocked Remix. There are GIGAbites worth of such music, all of it inspired off of the enjoyment of the source material. The site only makes money to afford staying online.
There is a segment of the gaming community devoted to finding the fastest ways to play through a game. I have seen the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beaten in under a half-hour this way. There are bands that have music inspired off of only the story of certain video game characters, I’m specifically thinking of The Protomen.
There are conventions devoted to fans of video games, and there is even Major League Gaming, and while I personally pay little attention to them, I know MLG has a massive following.
In a world where SOPA is law? All of that is gone. Overnight. There will be a silence of awe and order as perceived threats to intellectual property are seen as full-blown infringement.
So remember earlier when I mentioned ESA’s revenue? Membership is only part of how ESA makes its money. The ESA makes most of its money from the money it brings in via the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I covered this event in part last year. It is a daunting event to cover. Most major teams that cover the event send at minimum 2 to 3 people.
TRR is a growing team. 18 months ago, one could not find video game entries on this site. As a growing division, I have a pivotal role in deciding where TRR will want to go with that.
Because the ESA is not acting in the interest of their dues-paying members, because ESA is going in a different direction than their issue-constituents – you know, the only reason they exist in the first place…TRR will hope that ESA turns course and revokes their support. We will go through the motions of requesting Press Access to E3, but if ESA does not change their minds on SOPA/PIPA, then TRR will follow suit with a growing trend of other game news organizations and will not attend E3, nor will it not cover anything that happens there.