Takes ESA to Task Over Spat with GamePolitics

There was a little flare-up between the ESA and GamePolitics earlier this week.

Maybe you noticed. certainly did. In today’s edition of its newsletter, writes:

What on earth is going on at [ESA]? The industry’s representative body in the United States has been part of the furniture for years, taking care of everything from running E3 through to fighting the good fight against censorious, unconstitutional legislation in states across America.


Now, suddenly, it seems that a week can’t go by without the organisation raising eyebrows – in all the wrong ways… In the last couple of days, the organisation’s senior director of communications, Dan Hewitt… has launched a blistering and very public attack on the credibility of, after the site questioned the ESA’s choice of keynote speaker for this year’s E3…


in full view of anyone who cares to watch, the videogames industry’s premier representative body is answering its critics by hurling insults at established media outlets – while simultaneously haemorrhaging members… People do care to watch, too. The Internet loves a fight…


Hewitt’s problem appears to be with a pair of GamePolitics pieces which questioned the choice of Texas Governor Rick Perry as the keynote speaker at E3 2008… This latest piece, it’s worth noting, came originally from outlets such as Wired and The Escapist, neither of which the ESA chose to mention or include in its scathing attack.


This is an absolutely legitimate item to report, and the ESA’s decision to put Perry at the lectern as its keynote speaker is an absolutely legitimate thing to question…


Whatever has gone wrong in this process, the ESA needs to work to set it right. Each publisher who leaves the organisation is a further blow to its power to lobby… That lobbying power, more than anything else, is the reason why the industry – and its consumers – need the ESA. It provides a US political voice that we’re sorely lacking otherwise.


…public perception of the body… is at a low ebb… trade bodies often don’t appreciate the realisation that they can and should be the subject of media scrutiny. It’s something the association will just have to live with, though… Rather than lashing out ineffectually, the ESA should grasp the opportunity to reach out, communicate effectively, explain itself – and in the process, reinvigorate itself.

GP: There has been a lot of media coverage of this incident, but what has written summarizes the issues rather well.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m not anti-ESA. Moreover, I do recognize the value of a functional ESA to the game business.

That said, the organization has had plenty of bad news in recent times (member defections, a dispute over E3 awards), upheaval (closure of the NY office, letting go of a senior exec who was there since the beginning), some questionable decisions (using Homeland Security to raid mod chippers in the US, enlisting Gov. Perry to keynote E3) and tepid performance (a slow-starting campaign contribution program).

Here’s hoping they can get their act together.

UPDATE: Kotaku has posted an interview with ESA boss Michael Gallagher about some of the issues which the organization is currently struggling with. It’s pretty much standard-issue ESA corporate-speak. No revelations, nor does it address the GP issue.

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  1. Scott ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I am fully behind the separation of church and state – but that certainly shouldn’t be taken so far as to preclude politicians from speaking about their faith.  It is worth noting that Perry’s revelations regarding his religious convictions did not come as a spontaneous admission but in response to a direct line of questioning.

    It seems that if his answer disqualifies him or makes him "controversial" the only way he could avoid the stigma you’ve attatched would be to not attend churches that are inline with his beliefs or otherwise to "plead the fifth" when asked questions about what he believes – both of which would themselves likely be contrary to his convictions (Christian tends to look down on "hiding one’s faith"). 

    Let’s not disqualify people to speak before/be apart of the gaming community based on their religion/sexual orientation/etc.  They should be admitted or barred from entry based upon their views toward gaming – nothing else.

  2. Anonymous (but not like *chan) says:

    Hear, hear – my thoughts exactly. It’s not the fact Perry’s an Evangelical Christian – it’s the fact that the good Governor has made his faith political by identifying with and endorsing it in public. Why can’t such issues be kept personal?

    I for one simply don’t understand where this perception of anti-Christian bias is coming from. It’s not about muzzling Christians – it’s about keeping Church and State seperate, a principle enshrined by several American Presidents, if not overtly written into the US Constitution.

  3. thefremen says:

    Huh? Jack Thompson thinks there’s a conspiracy to keep the ESRB running at all costs.

  4. Adamas Draconis says:

    They are out there, just most of them make their money in the Blogosphere these days (no worrying about getting fired because you pissed off the company paying for the ads)

    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  5. Aliasalpha says:

    And it would be further evidence of the conpsiracy jack thompson is going on about… HMMMM…..

  6. thefremen says:

    There could easily be a case made for the theory that Micheal is attempting to discredit and destory the ESA so that the ESRB is no longer viable, then a government agency could step in. We know this course of action is desired by both Hillary Clinton and the Conservative Christians.

  7. Evan says:

    When the ESA decided to appoint a politico to their CEO spot, we really should have seen this coming. I’m sure Gallagher convinced himself that doing something different with E3 was a good idea, and made it so. $5 million dollars in penalties later…. doesn’t look that way.

    Then that politico decides to serve its members with a huge increase in membership dues to pay for E3… companies leave.

    Let’s not forget that the ESA pushed for the Department of Homeland Security to raid modders. Not that I am a supporter of illegal modding, but the DHS?!?

    This year’s bright idea… get a politician, who signed a video game funding bill (that is restrictive on who gets funds based on game content), who won their election without getting close to 50% of the vote, and who subscribes to a pastor who is so absurd John McCain had to back away from.

    How dare a website entitled GamePolitics cover any of this, right? The fact is GP does cover news, and then clearly adds commentary and opinion about the article. It is clearly marked by GP:

    It may be too much for the ESA to wrap their heads around but they look stupid. Dumb decision after dumb decision adds up. People question their actions, companies leave. The idea that ECA and ESA are rivals is also ridiculous. Sure, they do not agree on everything, but there is quite a bit in common.

    In the end I’ll stand by a consumer group any day before I jump on board with a trade association.


  8. Anonymous says:

    When you hire somebody fresh out of the Bush administration to run your organization, it’s a good idea to have plenty of lube on hand.

    Gamespot had an article citing the ESA’s public filing of its ballooning budget last year, but they didn’t go into any real detail regarding who got that money.  Is the filing available for viewing anywhere online?

  9. Loudspeaker says:

    LOL and the ESA wonders why it’s taking heat.  SHEESH!

    That Kotaku interview was a laugh.  He Gallagher didn’t answer even one of those questions.  He dodged the whole interview.  Pathetic at best.  This interview smells of ESA, "We will just pretend everythings fine and therefore everything will be fine", strategy.  The fact is ESA needs to take action and from the look of things CEO Gallagher is the weak link.  He doesn’t seem to have any vision on how to help the gaming industry.  If he did, now is the premier time to say so and show the industry how wrong the companies who have left are for doing so.

    "Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

  10. Brandon St. Germaine says:

    I have my respectful criticisms of Game Politics, but the ESA has absolutely no respect from me.  The Mod Chip fiasco, along with other incidents in past years have been inexcusable, and to the detriment of consumers.  There shouldn’t be so much tension between the ECA and the ESA.  It damages the effectiveness of either organization.

  11. Loudspeaker says: hit the nail on the proverbial head.  It’s not the fact that ESA responded, it’s the fact that they can’t seem to take criticizm at a time when there have been a large number of events that question their validity and power in the industry.  If they wanted to avoid such critique then Dan Hewitt should have made a press release explaining what has happened to cause such a falling out with their current and now past ESA members.  Instead their first real statement is a slam against Dennis, not for misstating facts, but for questioning the ESA’s judgement.

    So…  Your cousin organization says, "Hey what’s up?  Are you serious?" and the response is something along the line of an FU.  That just raises more questions and furthers the microscope on your present issues as an organization.  That’s PR 101 and I’m a tech.  Mr. Hewitt should know this off the top of his head.

    I sincerely hope this blizzard (pun intended) of bad press ESA has been getting gets them talking about what the world has been going on with them.

    "Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

  12. Cripple_MrOnion says:

    Ouch , tough week for GP.  First they get called out for being a trumped up blog acting like a news site by a credible source (to nobody’s real surprise), and then the news that Thompson is getting disbarred, effectively robbing the site of it’s one notable draw.  Well here is hoping some real journalists decide to take up the banner for games and politics…they must be out there somewhere, right?  Riiight?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s more a case that they have invited a Christian who has created controversy regarding his religious stance than merely ‘A Christian’. Nobody cares what religion Hal Halpin is, Doug Lowenstein or Strauss Zelnick, or even people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leland Yee, because they are smart enough to not make an issue out of it, but if a politician is going to make an standpoint out of his or her religion, then it doesn’t surprise me when that raises it’s head an issue at a later date.

    The thing is, it’s unusual enough that a politician has been asked to give the E3 opening speech, and not an industry rep, that, in and of itself, would create questions, the simple fact that it is such a controversial politician was really just fuel on the fire.

    As for the ESA’s response to it, I was pretty dissapointed, it sounded like one of Jack’s love letters to Doug.

  14. Scott ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have to say that GP bringing up Perry’s religious convictions as a way of discrediting the appropriateness of him speaking on the subject of video games is highly suspect and unfair.  It is tantamount to saying that only atheists/budhists/insert-your-worldview-here are right and as such should be allowed to speak.

    Were the tables turned, and a Christian posting that someone’s disbelief in the divine was grounds to blackball them from speaking on a non-religious issue the boards would be aflame.

    I realize that some will point out that "not all Christians believe that way," but that hardly settles the problem – again, why should someone’s belief regarding the afterlife (whatever it might be) have ANY bearing on their credibility to speak on an unrelated political/cultural issue? 

    All this said, I agree with Dennis that Perry was a poor choice.  But I vehemently disagree as to his reasons for thinking so.

  15. Vake Xeacons ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    With the industry more divided than ever, the whole point to the ESA is to bring us together. Instead, they’ve done just the opposite, pointing fingers and attacking their own.

    What gives? Especially their E3 keynote speaker. When I said use games to spread the Word, damning others to hell was NOT what I had in mind. Who does Gov. Perry, and for that matter Dan Hewitt, think he is?

    It’s as if the ESA has joined the anti-gamers. Where are we to turn now?

  16. Anonymous says:

    There are real journalists?  I thought they all died a slow agonizing death when the Faux News Network started broadcasting…

  17. Korrd says:

    Every time I see a "First!" post I can’t help but feel like a small number of brain cells just committed suicide.

  18. L42yB says:

    I’d say it is a bit of a problem when a Govenor openly states that he thinks a fairly large portion of the country are all going to hell…  I know I wouldn’t want him having any kind of power… 

    — mostly harmless

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why is it news that a Christian believes non-christians are going to hell and why is that controversial? I’m an atheist myself and I can hardly say thats suprising viewpoint. Why has a public decleration of faith going to interfere with giving a talk at a games conference? Does that sound right to you?

  20. Gray-17 says:

    I didn’t say that it was right, only that yeah he did it, and it appears to be a common practice in journalism. Frankly it annoys me, but as long as the article is right, I don’t care much.

  21. Anonymous says:

    That doesn’t mean hes right to do it. When a journalist uses these tactics against the gaming community they respond with distain and decry sensationalism. When GP does it, oh thats OK.

    It is not OK, I would expect higher standards. If you want trash read a tabloid or the crap that Sterling writes over at Destructoid.

  22. thefremen says:

    Yeah VGVA started first, and when Dennis reported on it myself and several others stated concerns about how the action network would be used when legal concerns were not over anti-game laws but were expanded copyright law.

    I’m for companies making money as much as anyone, but I bought WH40k:DOW 3 weeks ago and still have not been able to run it because of SECUROM issues that have yet to addressed (and lets face it, will not be addressed, my money is fucking gone) by either the publisher/developer or SECUROM. Millions have had issues with burning disks thanks to Starforce. iTunes limits the number of times you can re-install/upgrade windows. et cetra.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think Dennis ever could have been pwned by the ESA. I recall GP did some anti-DRM stories when Starforce was bein’ all evil.

  24. Xlorep DarkHelm says:

    I thought the VGVA started first, and then the ECA did. The difference being that the VGVA likes spamming people with proposal emails… usually about a week or two too late… while the ECA seems to be actually, I dunno… paying attention to consumer interests.

    "I’m not responcabel fer my comuter’s spleling errnors." — Xlorep DarkHelm

  25. Anonymous says:

    “Always”? Lurk moar, newfag. Kieth Vaz asked for Bully to be banned before he had even seen so much as a trailer. Also, the purpose of those polls is for the readers to vote. You might as well complain that you don’t like all the movies nominated for Best Picture of the Year for the Oscars.

  26. LAG (Law Abiding Gamer) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    No demeaning tone intended.  My apologies for coming across that way.  Just putting my statement in context.  I think this is played out anyway.

  27. Anonymous says:

    "why is it that you chose this moment to make your point, when apparently you’ve been a long-time reader (hence being qualified to determine that Dennis has "always seemed" do do anything)?"

    Well for one I think its ontopic and as you stated we all are allowed to state our opinions. You think I’m a shill, fair play, but please drop the demeaning tone. 

  28. LAG (Law Abiding Gamer) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You may or may not be from the ESA.  Your tone and message just sounded a bit suspect, and as such it "smelled" of ESA.  Quite frankly, I don’t care.  ESA pundits have the right to make their opinions known, just as I do.

    I didn’t intend to make it sound as if "everyone’s doing it so we might as well".  However, I fail to see how this is suddenly such an issue.  How long has Dennis been writing in this blog? 5 years? I’ve only been following it for the past 2 or 3, and I can’t remember a time when his writing style was such a sore subject to someone other than our friend Jack (and no, I don’t think you’re Jack, and I’m not comparing you to him.  You’ve been civil in your objection).  Why is this suddenly so important of an issue, now that the story is about the ESA, and if Dennis has, "…always seem[ed] to like googling for mud to sling…", why is it that you chose this moment to make your point, when apparently you’ve been a long-time reader (hence being qualified to determine that Dennis has "always seemed" do do anything)?

  29. Anonymous says:

    So what, everyone is doing it so we might as well? For starters mainstream organisations are competing with each other, GP has no competition. And if GP is innocent then why change the headlines on multiple articles?

    And yes both posts were from me, if you want to believe I’m from the ESA then I think your being a touch paranoid.

  30. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    My problem with the ESA response, is their accusation that GP was started by the ECA. The ECA saw something that was important to the game consumer and allied themselves with it. The ESA would have been wise to do so as well. Perhaps the ESA is really upsetthat they didn’t get their hands on GP first.

    After all, they didn’t start the VGVN until after the ECA formed.

    E. Zachary Knight


    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
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  31. T5 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If I may, GP is a blog, BLOG, as such it is just one man’s view it is not so much news as news commentary like talk radio or shows like Crossfire.  If GP wants to hate the ESA, conservatives, liberals, christians or whatever goddamnit let him.  Again BLOG, news COMMENTARY not SOURCE. 


    Also this site is the awesome nine times out of ten, posting here often leads to some real intellectually stimulating conversations.  If you agree with GP all the time than he is not doing his job (for example: WTF? ECA and MoveOn?)

  32. Anonymous says:

    ESA : Places industry interests first.

    ECA : Places consumer interests first.

    Only in the mind of Jack Thompson could these two groups work seamlessly together for any period of time.

  33. LAG (Law Abiding Gamer) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What news organization doesn’t spin up it’s headlines to generate interest?  The headline that you’ve chosen as an example "GTA IV Creator: Scotland Ignores Us") is pretty tame when held up against some of the "mainstream" sensationalistic headers that I’ve seen.

    Further, I guess I might be just a little bit offended if you take me to be so empty headed that I’d look at a 6 word headline (is "IV" a word?) and use that alone to determine the content of a story.  I for one tend to actually read a story, and often some of its background material, before making any decisions about the real message being communicated.  Having read the story, I came away feeling that perhaps "ignore" wasn’t the word that I would use, but I don’t think that the actual events were misrepresented by GP at all.  Maybe I’m just weird that way.

    Overall, the reporting that I’ve read on this site has been informative and fair.  However, it is also often presented with some analysis, which of course runs the risk of departing from "balanced".  As far as I’m concerned though, that’s fine, as I have enough intelligence to understand that in order to get the full story, one often has to look in more than one place.

    To be honest, the weak arguments put forth both in the post above, and the similar "Anonymous" post below smell to me of ESA mudslinging (odd irony, given the content of the post below), and not very effectively delivered at that.

  34. Gray-17 says:

    Probably, Dennis does tend to stray towards sensationalistic headlines. I’d imagine that’s something that happens to many journalists.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I think part of the problem is the way Dennis paraphrases things. On several occassions Dennis has taken the jist of a story and then put a twist on it. Becides the way the headline in the ESA was written he also did the exact same thing to N’gai with "RE5 Contains Racist Imagary." What a flame fest that story was.

    Very often when GP links to an offsite article the new summary or headline is perverted, another example is this:

    "GTA IV Creator: Scotland Ignores Us" (

    From that headline you could think thats a direct quote or at least a paraphrase but it is neither.

    The original Times story didn’t even include the word ignore (

  36. BravO))) says:


    Esa has been getting there ass handed lately.  I wonder if there is some views by the game industry, more importantly the ones that dropped their subscription, that there is something very wrong with the Esa.  I wonder if it has something to do with them getting more involved with "political favors."


  37. Anonymous says:

    GP always seems to like googling for mud to sling, I wonder if thats what Investigative Journalism means here. I remember in his end of year "Biggest Political Hypocrite" poll he stuck Vaz on that list because in 2002 he was suspended from parliement for a month regarding a matter which had bugger all to do with video games. Dennis just dug up some old irrelevant fodder to paint Vaz in an unfair light to spin the story.

  38. Jabrwock says:

    The discussions on slashdot were pretty in-depth. A lot of back and forth as to whether GP is anti-Christian or something silly like that. Or whether it’s right to criticize the selection of Perry based on his support for divisive comments that others argue are a "normal" part of being a Christian.

    Personally, I found it a bit odd to pick up comments Perry made 2 years ago, but then again, they neatly summed him his divisive views, and were merely the final note in an overall criticism.

    — If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap…

  39. Chuck (stillnotloggedin) says:

    (lost my saved passwords, don’t feel like changing it)

    Even if GP’s story wasn’t a legitimate one, or was slanted or distorted, the response from ESA’s own communication’s director didn’t exactly ooze with professionalism.

    I guess the ESA isn’t interested in industry or community relations.  The sooner that rudderless ship runs aground, the better.


  40. EvilleNSI ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Could we stop with this "first!" stuff please?


    Anyway, yeah, you don’t see actors, directors, politicians or any other public figures lashing out every time someone questions them do you? With all of the people leaving the ESA like it was the Titanic you’d think all of their efforts would be going towards retaining the people that keep them afloat and give them a reason for exsisting huh?

  41. DarknessDeku! says:

    That was a lot more "harsh" than anything said here on GamePolitics.  It I’d say it is more like criticism, so the ESA can stop crying about it.

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