Toward the end of a Games, Politics & Policy panel I was moderating at PAX yesterday, a guy in the audience asked a question that was really more of a challenge. He wanted (demanded?) to know whether each of the four panel members and myself as moderator played games.
As it turned out, we did. Everyone explained their own gaming habits. I mentioned that I’ve reviewed games for more than a decade for the Philadelphia Inquirer and that if it’s out there, I’ve probably played it. The questioner seemed satisfied.
But that particular question stuck with me after the session. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became.
The panel, you see, was packed with experts who work hard to make the gaming scene better. At least two attorneys were seated at the table. Jennifer Mercurio works on policy and legislative issues for the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA). Bo Andersen heads the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), which represents video game retailers. Both spoke passionately about the First Amendment rights of game creators, game sellers and game consumers.
Also on board were Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and Alex Quinn, head of Games For Change. Jason workes tirelessly on behalf of the people who make the games we love. Alex spearheads a movement to exploit the power of games in positive ways.
As it turns out, they all game to some degree, but – so what? Do you need to have a level 70 WoW character to be a good advocate for games? If I blow my knee out playing softball, do I care if the orthopedic surgeon has a catcher’s mitt at home? No. I just want her to use her professional skills to patch me up.
And so it is with our panelists. I retrospect I feel that the question was insulting, although probably not intentionally so. What I wish I had said to the guy was: Sure, it’s good to play games in order to understand their context, but professional expertise on issues like the First Amendment, Fair Use and Net Neutrality transcends the game space. And, as a gamer, it’s comforting to know that skilled people are fighting on my behalf. Whether they are also fighting the Horde on WoW is not so important to me.
FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.