Hal Halpin is the founder of the Entertainment Consumer Association (ECA),
a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to giving a political voice to
gamers across the United States. Gamasutra Features Editor Frank
Cifaldi, along with Game Developer Managing Editor Jill Duffy
and Features Editor Brandon Sheffield, recently sat with Halpin to get
a broader scope on his vision, the legal challenges the organization is
likely to face, and the need for consumer awareness in the face of
Gamasutra: So tell us briefly about the ECA. We've had time to poke around the site a bit, but tell us in your own words.
Halpin: ECA is a 501(c)(4) [non-profit agency], so that's a membership
organization that's different than a (c)(4), which is pure charity, or
(c)(6), which is trade association. There aren't any other similar
membership organization for movies, music, or games, so we're sort of
inventing the wheel. And that's probably as many good things as bad.
we sort of parallel ourselves against, in terms of modeling, is AAA or
AARP or moveon.org, because they're also membership organizations.
They're also involved in advocacy, which is sort of the root of our
business, and then they also provide lots of services to the members,
especially AAA and AARP, where you subscribe or you become a member for
a fee, and you get many times the value in terms of other things that
they're supportive of with their services.
Even during interviews, Hal Halpin takes
time out to
enjoy the latest issue of
Game Developer magazine!
that was sort of the genesis of it. It came about as a result of an
IEMA board meeting, the organization I used to run. We had a board
meeting, and came out of it, and I realized that a lot of the
conversation that we were having had sort of stopped being about the
retailers and what they could accomplish inside the industry, and
started becoming about the consumers, and what their wants and needs
That's when I realized that it's unusual
that there are all these trade associations representing all these
other parts of the industry, but no one's out there representing
consumers and gamers.
GS: "Used to run?" Are you done working with retailers entirely now?
Well, technically I'm still president emeritus of the IEMA [the
Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, which earlier this
with the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) to become the
Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA)], although I don't have any
day-to-day interaction with the new organization.
So it looks like the primary mission…actually, I have a printout right
here, I'll just read it! "The primary mission of the ECA is to give
gaming consumers a voice and ensure that state and local politicians
hear their concerns and appreciate their demographic power." How are
they, theoretically I guess since the ECA just started, being heard?
What kind of channels are we talking about here?
We're a web-based organization, so hopefully all of it will be digital
advocacy. And – a lot like MoveOn.org, actually – a lot of what we're
going to try to do is motivate people to sort of express to us their
wishes and their opinions, and then we'll be doing advocacy through our
government relations team at the state and federal level, and my sort
of fondest wish is to motivate people at the local level to go and
actually testify, to present petitions, and to be able to sort of show
that gamers as a group are not pimply-faced little kids. They're
adults, and they can speak up for themselves, and I would love to get
people testifying before committees.