Gamers On Trial: The ECA's Hal Halpin on Consumer Advocacy
October 25, 2006 Page 6 of 8
GS: Was there much of a change fundamentally in your responsibilities in switching from the IEMA to the ESA? It seems like a logical progression in many ways but at the same time it's, you know, an entirely different group you're representing here.
HH: Well, the two organizations are as different as night and day. And every day is unique; not just topically when conversation changes, but also how you approach it. I was warning my staff last week that we've had anywhere between 29 and 39 bosses before, because that's how many retailers there are in the business, and we're going to have…a few more than that now! [laughs] And all of those people are potentially our boss, so we have to be careful that we're taking all these opinions from this broad spectrum of consumers, from hardcore online gamers to hardcore console gamers, to people who do both, to people who play casually online, like the demographic we were talking about earlier. So it's going to be a challenge to try to be sure that we're staying true to our core mission, but at the same time servicing all those people, and that's sort of the big difference between the IEMA and the ESA.
GS: You're talking about the potential of attracting this casual crowd. Um…how? [laughs] I mean, it doesn't seem like there are any political issues that these particular gamers have to worry about. Why would they want to join?
HH: Well, it's another one of the challenges of educating them. We were testing some internal ads, the ones we'll be dropping in January, and even at our ad agency – which is one of the bigger ad industries inside the games industry, very well branded, they do other work for other game publishers – as they were printing out the ads, one ad that we're going to be using kept resounding internally, because people would walk over to the designer and be like, "Is this true?" It speaks about the legislation, and exactly what's going on and how much they spent against it, and I don't think even people who work inside the business understand that there were last year one hundred pieces of legislation that we had to defend against.
It's unbelievable when you think about it! One hundred pieces? Don't they have anything better to spend their time and money on than trying to nail Johnny who is buying a game at 17 that he's only supposed to have six months later when he's 18? So that sort of educational process I think would resound with anyone. So if you're a gamer, regardless of how you're classified or how passionate you play or how often, making sure that that word gets out about the truth about what's going on, and not politicizing it, and sort of deemphasizing it and demystifying it, that's our challenge.
GS: Well, with casual gamers, I think a lot of them may not really consider themselves gamers. Do you think there's anything you can do about that?
HH: I do. One of the three ads that we were testing actually has exactly that sort of messaging to it. The thing I like about the ads is that it's really a slap across the face. You're reading through your favorite consumer magazine, your favorite enthusiast magazine, and all of a sudden there's this ad that strikes you because it steps out away from everything else that we're doing in the industry, and doesn't look like everything else, and all of a sudden you're shocked because you look at it and you read the facts. And the facts make you stop. So with the casual gamer the challenge is harder, but the messaging is the same. So we're trying to partner with outlets like Yahoo! Games, or places where you find all of those audiences, and use that same messaging to the same degree, but do a different audience.
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