Gamers On Trial: The ECA's Hal Halpin on Consumer Advocacy
October 25, 2006 Page 2 of 8
GS: So you're talking about web-based, sort of idea gathering, and then from there there's a lot of actual ramifications in the physical world?
HH: I think both things would happen in parallel. The GI team is going to be actively out there and sort of fighting on behalf of consumers and all that stuff anyway. And it's more a matter of, how do you change a course to adapt to what your consumer members want, as opposed to cutting the course.
GS: So is it mostly politically geared?
HH: In terms of advocacy, yeah, almost all that we do in terms of advocacy is politically driven. As a (c)(4) we're not allowed to, by law and by our IRS designation, back any party or any political person running for office. What we can do is fight on behalf of consumers and do a lot of the similar things that the IGDA and the ESA and the EMA do.
GS: What kind of output will you have? You mentioned AARP and AAA and obviously they have magazines and newsletters and things like that. What are people going to get to know that they are part of the organization?
HH: We have a few initiatives internally, none of which have been announced yet, but one is that we're going to be doing a monthly newsletter that will just keep them abreast on everything that's going on, both legislatively as well as what's going on in the business, via partner websites.
I'm not sure if we're going to be generating a lot of our own content, I don't know if that falls in line with what we do. We're not really a media company, unless it involves legislative and advocacy issues, in which case, by all means. In terms of magazine, AARP's magazine is the largest in the world. It's not something that frankly I've given a lot of thought to. Eventually it could be, but I see more of our constituents as sort of digitally driven, and I'm not sure that a print magazine would fit in with that.
GS: What if anything is the ECA a direct response to? Is there one incident that really inspired you, that made you say, 'You know what, there's a need for this?'
HH: To me there is. I'm not sure that it's there yet for consumers, so we might be out ahead of the curve in terms of them being aware of the legislation or the impending doom from legislators. From our perspective, at least from mine, I noticed last year that the state-level guys started moving away from targeting retailers, and trying to haul them off for selling M-rated games, to targeting consumers. And, you know, kids being hauled off at 17 years of age for buying an M-rated game, especially when the industry is doing so much to inhibit that process, it's going from a misdemeanor to a formal felony to going on their record and inhibiting their ability to get loans or scholarships or any of those sorts of things. It's just insane. And so, to me, that was the call.
GS: When I interviewed you back in November, I asked you what the major opponents were for the retail industry. And you said, with no hesitation, the state of California, the state of Michigan, and the state of Illinois. What would you say are the three major opponents to consumers right now?
HH: It's a more difficult question to answer now, because of the timing, because we're not in session in most states, and so the election hasn't happened, and people aren't really posturing, other than generally saying, "I'm for kids!" and "I'm for," you know, "everyone being happy!" That doesn't necessarily translate into "I'm going to introduce this bill." So we're in a good position, because while we're launching and while we're new, it gives us some time to sort of get our feet underneath us. And when they do come back into session and the posturing starts more in earnest, then we'll know.
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