By Scott Hillis, Tue Jul 10, 2007 6:10PM
SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) - The video game industry's new champion-in-chief said on Tuesday he will fight a perception that games are a menace to society by playing up their creative and technical achievements.
Mike Gallagher, the new head of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) that represents game publishers such as Electronic Arts Inc. and Activision Inc., also said he would try to energize a fan base which reaches far beyond a narrow stereotype of awkward teenage boys.
Gamers could help protect their past-time from hostile lawmakers by emulating another group of passionate hobbyists: amateur radio operators who have zealously defended their right to use a slice of public airwaves, Gallagher said.
"They are passionate, they are heard and they are accommodated. If there is one group to look at and say: 'It can be done', simply look at the amateur radio community," Gallagher told Reuters in an interview.
He spoke a day before the start of the industry's annual U.S. trade show, known as E3, where publishers show off upcoming games.
Gallagher, a former U.S. Commerce Department official and lawyer specializing in telecommunications, was appointed to the ESA in May after its founder, Doug Lowenstein, retired.
Gallagher said two-thirds of American families played video games of some sort, the average player was 33 years old, and the average buyer of games was nearly 40, he said. That is hardly the teenage stereotype.
The medium has also helped drive important national policy goals such as hooking up more homes to fast Internet connections and creating high-tech jobs. Software sales in the United States alone were $7.4 billion last year, while sales of games and hardware topped $30 billion globally.
"I want to do everything I can to create an environment for growth for this industry, where policymakers embrace video games and what they bring instead of the more recent pattern, which has been to pick on them for false stereotypes," Gallagher said.
Over the years, the ESA has fought proposed laws in several states to make it illegal to sell violent games to young people. Instead, the ESA advocates a self-policing ratings system similar to the movie industry's.
Gallagher said his efforts would focus on fighting illegal copying of games, opening new markets abroad, and winning respect for the medium as a legitimate art form.
"We need to make sure that the content of video games is on an even footing with books, magazines, movies and other types of media and not singled out unfairly based on false stereotypes for criticism or legislative abuse," he said.