By: Stephen Crane (Photo: Flickr user Adriano Aurelio Araujo)
Up on that hill here in D.C. there is one group that was seemingly the legal champion of video games. The Entertainment Software Association, otherwise known as the ESA has been crucial in supporting the games industry in legal battles here in the US, but unfortunately it is becoming apparent that while fantastic for the industry in general, the ESA doesn't represent gamers as customers that well. The ESA was named in a list of corporations in favor of stricter coproration control over intellectual property and tighter enforcement against piracy at the risk of the internet as we know it. When a video game advocacy group appears to support legislation so anti-consumer, where can gamers turn to find advocates for them?
Enter the Entertainment Consumers Association. The ECA is a non-profit organization whose membership consists of gamers searching for a collective voice and advocacy in their favor. Its goal is to give us as gamers and video game consumers a way to reach our local politicians and air our concerns. It's almost a counter point to trade organizations like the ESA, IGDA, and the EMA by providing a user focused group. They are a 501(c)(4) charity organization which means while donations are not tax-exempt, their main goal is not profit, but actually fulfilling the best interest of the gamers. That's also exactly why they have come out against the SOPA/PROTECT IP acts.
In times when the best interests of the video game industry appear to be clashing with the best interests of the consumers of the game industry, gamers need to step up and voice their concerns. Resources like the ECA are essential to helping gamers affect public policy as it is being made.
The ECA is also more than an advocacy resource. It is an organization dedicated to bringing gamers together with local chapters all over the United States and a few in Canada. It has a few membership benefits including discounts from Gamefly, Origin, Xbox Live and more. Membership costs only $19.99 and $1.00 for students. They also provide the tools for gamers to get in contact with their representatives to discuss the issues. For those who are curious about the politics or culture of, or even finding jobs in the industry, the ECA is also there with their specific pages.
If you're a gamer, especially one who is in college, take the time to get involved in the ECA and show your support for those who are supporting you. The organization isn't perfect, of course, but it is exactly the right direction we should be going as gamers. Gaming is our hobby and for many of us, a significant part of our lives. We need to make sure our interests as consumers and as gamers are kept in the minds of those making our policies, while engaging the gamer culture to expand itself and pull resources together to accomplish mutual goals.
[FULL DISCOLSURE: Stephen Crane is currently a dues-paying member of the ECA (Joined 11/28/2011). The Entertainment Consumers Association does have have an affiliate program, but The Armed Gamer and associated properties are not involved and thus receive any monetary compensation for writing this article or for getting readers to join.]