Do Gamer Advocates Need to Be Gamers?

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.

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  1. oto kirlama says:

    I’m all for freedom of ttnet vitamin speech and allowing rent a car game makers to put whatever they want in games, but there’s one thing about this app that has me scratching my head.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but from araç kiralama the previous article araba kiralama on this I gathered that players can use Google maps in-game to find the other (real-life?) dealers in their area.  If this is the case, has travesti anyone considered what’s stopping someone from using this app to actually move drugs between hands for reals?

    But majority araba kiralama of their outrage araç kiralama stems from what it could DO TO children, not the content itself.  Talk to one of these people and you’ll find they don’t think any books kiralık araba should be banned from children.  Mention American Psycho and they talk about kiralık araç the redeeming value of using imagination to construct a story.  Reading, no matter what the content, is largely viewed as a consequenceless activity for people of any age.  The reason why I mention American Psycho is because of the content itself.  Gaming never has and likely never will have any scenes where someone has sex with a severed head.  Not gonna happen.  Yet despite this, they’ll fight tooth and nail to protect their children from two boys kissing in Bully but whatever they read is harmless… yeah.

    The entire arguement is kiralık oto based upon a social normality inflicted by luddites who can’t figure out the controls for Halo so it’s frightening and terrifying and obviously the cause of youth violence on the rise even though, in reality, it’s in decline (which is actually a HUGE suprise given minibüs kiralama the economies status).  In  a perfect world, we would have parents that actually parent.  The idea of sales restrictions on media on oto kiralama any form to accomidate parental unwillingness to get involved with their child’s life is the real problem to me.  Here I am, 32 years old, and being held up at a self-scan rent a car needing to show ID before I can buy a $10 M rated game all because Soccer Momthra can’t be bothered to look at the crap Billy Genericallystupidson does in his free time.  It’s too hard for her, so I have to suffer?

  2. Noir-Okami says:

    Okay, I think it is  important when these idiots who never bother even researching what they rant about, that we have gamers to tell them that they are incorrect. (By the way, I haven’t picked up a controller in months. I’ve been playing a flash zombie game. But that’s because my gaming computer is on the friz and the newest console I have is a NES.) Oy, that sucks.

  3. JRO3456 says:

    I don’t think you necessarily need to be a gamer to be an advocate, however it would certainly help any arguements you may have.


    Never play this dirty game… a Rapelay review.

  4. Llydis says:

    I think one could be an advocate of a certain group of people without having to live the life, if you will, in as much as they do need an understanding behind how an industry works.

    Groups like the ECA work with the publishers and developers on a daily basis so I do think they have an understanding of how the industry works on that level. Or, politicians that do like to play games like WoW, Rock Band, or some other popular mainstream franchise that don’t really consider themselves gamers to any extent do have an understanding of why we do like to play them and how it doesn’t hurt anyone.

    Personally, I think within five to ten years it’ll be a moot point anyway. As the people we’ll start electing towards the lower echelons of our republic will have played games, and there’ll be the ones who will go for congress or the senate that will decide policy at a national level.

  5. GamesLaw says:

    Having attended the panel, I don’t think that he asked the question in a combative or hostile tone (especially not compared to some of the other questions that were asked of you that, frankly, I thought were inappropriate).


    I think he just wanted the reassurance that our lobbyists are different than the politicians that pass legislation without actually knowing what they are legislating about.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So do all Jewish advocates have to be non-Jewish?


    "I don’t care what you have to say, you’re just a filthy stinking jew!"

  7. Anonymous says:

    Intellectual Copyright lawyers make good money, and basically it’s not much of a step to go from a kind of engineering to patent law (at my college, CS is lumped in with engineering, so I see them as being in the same group).  Don’t do it though unless you really like paperwork and dry case studies. 

    Try reading a book or two about intellectual property before deciding.  If you can get through it without either hating it or falling asleep, then I’d say go for it.  I’ve read large pieces of a few of them, and sadly enough I found it enjoyable from time to time.  A big problem though is most are older than the internet, so there’s basically next to nothing I was able to find on modern day copyright issues.

  8. souljabwoy says:

    Good point. I do agree that some exposure to game play, the gaming environment, and perhaps a LAN party or two or even spectating at a professional gaming tournament, not only earns you a little respect but also helps you to be better able to relate. I don’t feel its necessary but going that extra mile to immerse yourself at least at a high level is a good check mark to have on the dossier!

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s not a requirement, but it would certainly be beneficial.  How could one defend and argue against "Mass Erect"-style ignorant accusations if one was not at least somewhat familiar with games and gaming.  If a gaming advocate does not themselves play games, that shouldn’t be taken as an instant disqualification of what they say.  But being a gamer, and having that familiar knowledge and understanding of the medium they are defending, certainly couldn’t hurt.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well, my mother is in her early 60’s has just discovered ‘Chuzzles online’, but other than that, she finds any computer game from a ‘moving’ perspective entirely dis-orientating, so she’s hardly a gamer, but she was also a teenager when the whole Rock’N’Roll ‘scandal’ was going on, and she has mentioned how stunned she is at how many of the same old arguments are being rolled out all over again. Presley’s hips were, according to the ‘evidence’ the cause of lustful thoughts in teenage girls, and it was so much easier to blame all the territorial fighting on music than on poverty, boredom, racism or alcohol.

    Amusingly enough she also thinks Jack Thompson is an idiot who reminds her of some of the zealots that were spouting hate about Teenagers when she was young, about how young Rock’N’Roll girls were ‘sin-filled whores’ and the men were ‘Neandertholic, anti-social thugs.’, best part is, he couldn’t even get away with calling her a ‘kid’, since she’s been around longer than him, though I’d say she isn’t older than him, not where it counts at least 🙂

  11. SomeoneElse says:

    I think it’s an interesting question.

    I guess I’d like an advocate acting on my behalf as a gamer to have an understanding of my perspective on things so that they have an easier understanding of what I find important.  But do they have to be a gamer in order to have that perspective?  I don’t think so.  I’d really like to know of any successful examples though.

  12. Lance20000 says:

    I dont think you should take insult to the question. I think gamers have a tendancy to want to rally together and him knowing that these people standing up for him are just like him, but only in a better position. Also this person my find that people who are part of what they are fighting for may be more passionet about there work.

  13. Thad says:

    Gamer advocates don’t need to be gamers, but sometimes it helps.

    I have a degree in computer science and am toying with the idea of going back to school to study copyright law.  At first blush, this seems like a huge departure to most people, but I believe that we need more copyright lawyers with a strong understanding of the technological underpinnings of modern copyright.

    I’m glad for any legal help gamers can get.  And of course legal scholars don’t need to play through GTA4 to understand it’s protected under the First Amendment.  But if they do, it might give them a more intimate knowledge of how to present their case.

  14. A different Thomas says:

    I don’t quite get the same feeling about his statment as you’re getting.  I hear him saying that he doesn’t want someone who’s ignorant on the subject to be trying to "help our cause."  I can kind of see where he’s coming from with that as well. 

    If the major speakers on both sides are only spewing nonsense, the one with the most newsworthy nonsense will be the ones to win the argument in the end.  Seeing how the other side has the nonsense that games lead to psycopathic killers, it’s a bit hard to top that.

    However, do the people speaking on our behalf need to be gamers themselves?  No, I don’t think so.  Do they need to be good speakers?  Hell yes, whether they play games or not.  So long as we have advocates that can speak well, argue well, and have the decency to back up their arguments with facts and knowledge, then I’ll support them.

  15. chadachada(123) says:

    There’s another thing though, being a gamer, or at least playing some social video games like COD4 or Guitar Hero or Halo 3, is a normal thing. Most of my friends play those games, even ones that aren’t "gamers." This younger generation is filled with either gamers or friends of gamers, and I love it

  16. Alteffor says:

    I do not think that gamer advocates need to be gamers. It does us well to be accepted and supported by a society outside of the gamer society. By showing that people who aren’t gamers are supporting us, it helps us to dismiss the antisocial/aggressive/desensitized rumours that people love to throw around. It shows that we can interact in a normal society as much as some people try to attack us.

    Also, the more support the better honestly. Because the majority of the population doesn’t play video games, if they all condemn our hobby then the government could easily restrict it, because it wouldn’t be controversial outside our circle.

  17. PHOENIXZERO says:

    No, but you should have first hand experience from at least being in the environment and knowledge of what you’re advocating. There’s nothing worse than an "advocate" who doesn’t know what the **** they’re talking about when it comes to whatever it is they’re supporting.

  18. Sean Chitwood says:

    Do Gay rights advocates need to be gay?

    Do womens rights advocates need to be female?

    How about childrens rights advocates?

    From what you have written I think it was a silly question asked in an insulting manner rather than an insulting question.

    I think in most situations the initial advocates for the rights of a persecuted sub-culture will be members of the sub-culture who happen to have the skills and social standing to challenge the preconceptions of the sub-culture. But after a while you will see fellow travelers and professional advocates who begin to help either because they are ina similar situation or they object to the persecution for academic or idealistic reasons.

  19. Conejo says:

    yes BUT, i want to know that my professionals KNOW what the hell they’re talking about and not just claiming a paycheck.

    or let’s put this another way, do you want your lawyers to know how to use computers even though they’re paid to lawyer and not to be tech support? yeah, you kind of do.

    Here are we — and yonder yawns the universe.

  20. Thomas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You realise what you just said is virtually the same as someone saying "Gamers are all dangerous psychopaths" right?

    Congratulations on failing to learn anything from the situation that we, as gamers, find ourselves in.

    And intelligent person can be educated about gaming without ever having to pick up a controller.. and it is often these people who will be the best one’s for talking to more skeptical non gamers.

  21. Zerodash. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just look at the Mass Effect "Sexbox" incident (vitual orgasmic rape), Jack Thompson, the whole GTA "rape" myth, and Lyndon Larouche.  Non-gamers spew all kinds of false info about games and the people who play them.  The most common (and best) counters to these people is from those who actually played the game.

    I don’t want my right to play games defended by someone who is just as ignorant as those trying to take my rights away.  You don’t need to be a lv70 gamer- just someone who actually is familiar and cares about the medium.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I don’t consider it a ‘gamer’ issue really, I consider it a ‘Freedom of Choice’ issue.

    At 36, I can choose whether I want to play a game or not, I can choose whether I want to watch a movie or read a particular book. Governments purpose was never to live someone’s life for them, it was simply to make sure that everyone could live their own lives without treading on each others toes.

    Any group that automatically demands the banning of anything that doesn’t sit with their own personal view of what they think the world ‘should’ be like, is immediately my enemy, because if there’s one thing I think the world shouldn’t be like, it’s the kind of place where other people tell me who I am, what I think and what information I am allowed to injest.

  23. DarkTetsuya says:

    I know who we could ask, but I’d rather not be called a ‘terrorist nitwit crackhead.’ 😛

    — "Jack and listen are two words that don’t go together…just like Jack and sanity, Jack and truth, Jack and proof, Jack and win…" — sortableturnip |

  24. DC191 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Would game critics (who frequently talk out their ass) actually have the gall to accuse pro-gaming, non-gamer lobbyists of being paid shills?

  25. Vake ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

     It’s definitely something to consider. To be an advocate, one does need to understand the venue to some extent. You may not have to play football to defend a linebacker, but you should at least watch the game from time to time. 

    Plus, what actually qualifies as a "gamer?" How often does one need to play in order to be an official gamer? I go out for bowling on occasion, but does that make me a "bowler?" If a person only picks up a controller once a month, does that constitute a "gamer?"

    All these panel members already work for organizations for gaming, which should be enough. It shows they deal with gaming and gamers on a regular basis, so even if they don’t play games themselves, they at least analyze the industry everyday. 

    But being a gamer never hurts.


  26. Matthew says:

    You don’t have to be a nurse to think that nurses deserve better pay, you can be a native of your chosen country and fight for immigration, and men can hate the glass ceiling too.

    But politics isn’t just about what you know, what you believe, or how much you are willing to fight for it. The people you are speaking to put more trust and faith in you if they know you are “one of them” and are fighting on their side rather than just for it. That way, your loss is their loss and it’s much easier to support someone when you don’t believe they’re just going to go “ah, well” and accept defeat if it comes.

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