Like every special interest, the video game industry has its own lobbying group. The Entertainment Software Association, which runs the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show, represents the industry to congress. Today, the association is revealing that its gamer-focused grassroots organization — though one that doesn’t always have the best interests of gamers in mind — reached a major milestone.
The ESA’s Video Game Voters Network surpassed 500,000 members. This lobbying group works to inform gamers and mobilize them to act on public policy that may negatively impact the gaming industry.
“As the prevalence and influence of computer and video games in our society has grown, so too has the dedicated membership of VGVN,” VGVN senior vice president Rich Taylor said. “These highly engaged members make their voices heard in government offices across the country, educating officials about video games’ positive impacts and advocating for policy issues affecting game creators and consumers.”
In the past, the ESA and the VGVN have fought against laws that would restrict the First Amendment rights of games. Particularly during the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. EMA/ESA, which attempted to implement government regulation on the sale of violent video games to minors in the State of California. The Court upheld gaming’s First Amendment right to free expression thanks in part to the ESA’s legal efforts.
But the ESA is primarily a lobbying group for the game industry and not for gamers. While the two groups’ interests often align, they diverged in early 2012 when the ESA came out in support of the strict Internet regulations Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. These two bills planned to give intellectual-property holders the right to shut down any site that hosted copyrighted material.
SOPA/PIPA prompted sites like Wikipedia to shut down for a day in protest. The League for Gamers popped up in opposition to the ESA’s VGVN.
Eventually, due to pressures from gamers and industry members, the ESA changed its stance on SOPA/PIPA.