Consumers: Govt Should Regulate Games... ESA: Research Firm Did Us Wrong

December 6, 2007 -

A poll of U.S. consumers has generated an unexpected wave of controversy in the video game sector.

The hubbub began yesterday when public relations firm Hill & Knowlton released the results of a survey which indicated that 60% of U.S. consumers favored government regulation of violent and/or M-rated games.

In addition the survey reported that 51% felt that the government should regulate the content itself (aka censorship). 54% of those with kids at home believed that violent or mature game content could affect a child's behavior.

Even those who self-identified as gamers were surprisingly pro-government involvement. 55% felt the government should regulate sales of games with violent or mature content while 44% believed the government should regulate the content itself.

Of the results, H&K exec Joe Paluska said:

While the industry is reinventing itself by broadening the content and the category, society still tends to view gamers as one-dimensional. The industry’s [bad] reputation centers on mature content due to the sensational nature of the content and subsequent publicity. As a result, our survey suggests that there’s an appetite for more government oversight even among the maturing Atari generation who now have children.

The other shoe dropped later in the day when the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the interests of U.S. game publishers, revealed that the H&K research had been dangled in front of the ESA a few months back as part of a business pitch by Hill & Knowlton.

An ESA spokesman told GamePolitics:

The research released today was conducted by Hill & Knowlton for a proposal the agency made to the ESA this summer... Hill & Knowlton’s decision to release these findings was both unprofessional and unethical and its timing is questionable.

The research was... only performed in an effort to help Hill & Knowlton win our business. In addition, the release of only part of the findings paints an inaccurate picture of the entertainment software industry.

The ESA was also angry that H&K didn't release other, more positive results, including:

-More than two-thirds of 18-34 year olds currently play video games;
-Less than 1 in 5 Americans think playing video games is a negative way to spend time with friends and family;
-More than half of families think that video games are a positive way to spend time together
-Educational video games are perceived to provide more learning than TV or DVDs.

GP: As we understand it, it's not uncommon for PR firms to commission research to use in making pitches to prospective customers. Does it help a public relations firm to win business if the numbers indicate that the would-be client has a problem? It would seem so.

Frankly, I don't put much faith in polling, especially when it's put out by corporations. Having read No Excuses: Confessions of a Serial Campaigner by longtime Democratic campaign manager Bob Shrum, it's pretty clear that a good pollster can make the numbers sing whatever tune is desired.

The larger question remains, why did H&K choose to release this data at this time? Neither Paluska nor another H&K exec have so far returned my calls and e-mails requesting comment on the ESA's allegations.


I wonder how many of those polled think that the government regulates TV, Music, and Movie's?

I think H & K can kiss off any chance of getting good business from here on out. If there's any justice left in the world, that is.

I can't fathom the majority of gamers believe in government regulation of video games. That is just mind boggling because you certainly don't see that attitude anywhere in video game sises online or in print. I'm not talking about just the writers either, I can't think of many, if any, comments in favor of government regulation and censorship.

I do wish that parents would pay attention and not get their kids M games. The things My parents would have killed me if I said half the things I hear on Halo by obviously young kids.

Ha, and by sises I obviously meant sites. Sises a word? Hmm.... my sp must be broken.

Spread enough FUD, lie, cheat, steal, profit.

I was fairly disappointed as it appears that the only reason that H&K did this was to spread more FUD and add more fuel to the fire of controversy. Omitting data that was not bad is a sure sign of this.


Polls are almost never accurate, especially since they don't take into account the kinds of people being polled. Mainly, in this case, there are so many gamers these days that we're bound to have a lot more ignorant morons amongst our ranks than in years past.

Hill and Knowlton is a PR firm, not a polling firm, therefore lying is its official business. I am not sure if I remember correctly but I believe it was H and K that was behind the testimony of a girl in committee before the vote for authorization of military force in Kuwait in 1990. The girl claimed that she was a nurse in a hospital in Kuwait City and that Iraqi troops had come into the maternity ward, taken the incubators and dumped the babies on the ground to die.

The girl of course later turned out to be the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US's daughter and the story was a total concoction by H and K to win sympathy in what was sure to be a narrow vote. Many congresspersons said later that this single story made up their mind.

The lesson of the story is that PR firms are paid to lie, and in that H and K's reputation has been proven.

Sounds like the H&K's proposal was turned down by the ESA and now they are looking for some revenge.

Isn't the 55% want regulation kind of low, showing people don't care about video games as much? I seem to recall a poll from a year or two ago that 76% thought newspapers should be regulated.

I'm with Lost Question on this one. I wonder if people are aware that the MPAA, which issues movie ratings, is not a government entity, and not allowing minors into R rated movies is not a government regulation.

Plus, I have a hard time swallowing 55% of gamers want government regulation involved. This brings me to an interesting question, though. Who tends to be more friendly to the video game industry in American politics? I would think it's liberals, since conservatives have the whole "family values" thing going on. I could be wrong though.

Not only are the numbers of polls never accurate (as mentioned by Catch 33) but I for one am curious what cross-section of the population was surveyed.
Since H&K seems to have little to know touble leaving out info they don't want known I would not trust that source either. In fact I would not trust much of ANY of this. Who are H&K exactly? A PR firm (with piss poof PR skills apparently). This is what to do with gaming, rating or much of anything? If they were going to try to come up with a catchy phrase to sell I title I could understand but to dump negative info apparently on a whim.

The timing on this as noted is very interesting... right after the NIMF did their bit in fact... how odd.

Who tends to be more friendly to the video game industry in American politics?

Whoever's the most interested in our votes.

This is the big flaw with statistcs and polls: they are highly manipulative. I think that H&K did what Fox News does: sipn and manipulate the results into what I believe are their own views. I also want to know who participated in the survey and what their views are.

"The industry's bad reputation..." If they looked at the FTC report (doubt it), they would notice that the MPAA and RIAA are in FAR WORSE shape than the ESA and ESRB. Tell me which medium needs regulation. I also want to know if the researchers and the participants know that the Wii, XBox 360, and the PS3 has parental controls (doubt it). I also wonder if the researchers and the participants know that such measures they support are unconstitutional on 1st and 14th amendment grounds (doubt it). All attempts at such legislation have been defeated in courts and cost the unfortunate constituents hundreds of dollars of their own tax money. I also want to know if the reasearchers did what Fox News has the constitutional right to do: lie to and decieve the participants (don't doubt it).

I should also say that I don't favor any government regulation of other entertainment forms. I'm sick and tired of politicians, the media (all of it), lawyers, and researchers not giving the ESA and ESRB credit when the make drastic improvements and instead spinning it into needs for government regulation, but I guess that's what campaign contributions from Hollywood and Musicians (Leland Yee and Hillary Clinton) does.

This is probably complete and total BS.

I don't even want to get too far into the heavy stuff, but even if we assume the survey should be taken at face value, and most of the public does think that the government should regulate games. Oh...nice... So I take it the highways are finished, Iraq's a democracy, there's economic prosperity everywhere, and no illiteracy in the schools?? There isn't? Oh, so don't you think maybe THEY'VE GOT MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO THEN BABYSIT YOUR KIDS FOR YOU.

(The really annoying thing about this is let's pretend that they did actually regulate the industry. I'm sure they would do -such a good job-, I mean everything else they do they excel at right? Come on people, -think-. Lately it seems like they can't even pass a domestic bill without squabbling amongst themselves. I wouldn't trust them to regulate my sock drawer. The closest thing we have to intelligent government is isolated pockets of extreme intelligence. I have no idea how Alan Greenspan made it 20+ years without catching the stupid.)

I blame Leland Yee for this.


"The other shoe dropped later in the day when the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the interests of U.S. game publishers, revealed that the H&K research had been dangled in front of the ESA a few months back as part of a business pitch by Hill & Knowlton.

An ESA spokesman told GamePolitics:

The research released today was conducted by Hill & Knowlton for a proposal the agency made to the ESA this summer… Hill & Knowlton’s decision to release these findings was both unprofessional and unethical and its timing is questionable.

The research was… only performed in an effort to help Hill & Knowlton win our business. In addition, the release of only part of the findings paints an inaccurate picture of the entertainment software industry."

Sounds like the common excuse that one typicaly hears.

“Next generation consoles combined with a near-Hollywood experience translates into increased scrutiny for a $7.4 billion industry that seeks to outpace movies and music as the number one choice for entertainment,”

That sums it up, greedy politicians see an opportunity to make a bunch of cash now. I'd like to see the actual questions in this 'poll', I bet they were baited - looking for a specific outcome.

I learned in math class way back when to never trust statistics. they have to be the easiest thing in the world to use to show bias.

@Catch 33

Sorry for being off topic... but did you ever play Warcraft III?

Government regulation of video games will never happen due to the protection of the 1st and 14th amendment. The only way morons like Leland Yee and Hillary could get government regulation through would be a constitutional amendment that either says games are not free speech or minors have no First Amendment constitutional rights.

All that means is that there is still a lot of educating to do.

The larger question remains, why did H&K choose to release this data at this time?

Trying to drum up business from the other side I would guess. Maybe they hope one of the game-bashing types will hire them since the ESA snubbed them...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Being Canadian, my first response to this story was, "oh good, now more companies will come up here where we don't care about the regulation." Then I realized they'd probably all move to Quebec for the subsidies. So go ESA, I guess!

I've shown to my co-workers how you can manipulate statistics. I took the top 30 games sold in Japan this week and manipulated the data several ways. Then I made a number of different statements showing how different companies could spin the results in order to show positive results. And that was with hard numbers. I showed that I can significantly change results by limiting the data to 20 or 10 games. If that doesn't help, you can compare the reults to a previous month that wasn't as good and claim a large percentage gain.

When you can twist the data by choosing who to poll, the rest becomes easy. We have an area in the city nearby which has two malls, one is an normal big mall, and the other is a really upscale mall with only fancy and expensive shops. I asked, if you wanted to prove that more Americans have retirement accounts or are not concerned about tightening their belts for holiday spending, where would I go? I go to the upscale place, I have a wide variety of age groups but they are all upper class with pleanty of money.

Other solutions are to sort the surveys into two piles, one with all the data you want in it, the other with the data you don't want. Then, one pile gets misplaced, but results are able to be extrapolated from the sample you still have.

In short, you can make the numbers say whatever you want. I could go and do a survey saying "Do you think the government is properly rating movie releases?" And more then 90% of them will say yes, simply because the question is misleading.

One is curious exactly what were the questions determining if the person was a gamer and how they determined if they favored censorship or not:
"Have you ever played a game?"
"Should extremely violent games that could possibly be played by children be unregulated by the government?"
"Should the government allow extremely violent and graphic content in games which may be played by children?"

With these questions, I could easily get 90% of gamers to say the government should regulate games and content.

I think I missed my calling...

I smell a furry rodent wearing a political pin.

The thing is, the fact that they chose only to release the information that casts Video Games in a bad light is already an open implication of bias on their part, had they just released all the facts, it might have been viewed differently, however, if they can pick and choose what results to release, then they can certainly pick and choose the outcome of those results to mirror their own opinions.

Yeah...this sounds like total, steaming bullshit

Just goes to show: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I think I may have to get back to learning Japanese and import all my games if the government actually starts to regulate game sales...

I do disagree, that the "right" is more to blame than the "left" for anti-game politics. It seems to me there have been plenty of Democrats involved as well. Here in Michigan, at least, our anti-game laws were originally proposed by a Democrat from Detroit (Hansen Clarke) and heavily promoted by our Democratic governor (Jennifer Granholm).

In my opinion, anti-game laws are not a Republican or Democrat issue; they are a Populist issue. They are written in a vacuum, with no consideration of principle or precedent, and they are based completely on the ephemeral, malleable whims of a population that, overall, doesn't really care about games in the first place.

I think this is why none of the laws have ever stuck. We have a representative government, and we have a constitution. Our whole set-up is designed to dissuade "mob rule." (Yay Founders!)

My personal axiom is "The Populist is always wrong." I can't prove this theory conclusively, but it hasn't failed me yet.



damn lies.

I never did trust the polls..


I agree that they should not be denied the right to publish their findings, just as we have a right to not agree with it.

However, that particular statement has always confused me a little, because if you are going to fight to the death for someone else's' right to have a different opinion, who, exactly, are you going to fight against? Because whoever it is, you are squashing their right to have a different opinion.

Not really relevant, just something that I've often wondered.

Government regulation will never happen.

equal protection

end of story.

"There are liars, damn liars and statistics." -- Mark Twain

You have to balance the results with one key fact: The percentage of people who voted in this poll is not an accurate indication of the feelings of the actual population. It is merely an indication of percentages taken from a pool of results filled by the people who participated in said poll. Lacking numbers of people polled, how they gathered said people, etc. I can assume they polled 10 people, all aged 65, and thus discredit and disregard their results. I'm sure that's not the case, but it's an extreme example of how inaccurate polls are and why I refuse to trust them.

Um... come on. This looks like something they didn't even do by themselves, just paid a high school kid to make some random numbers.

Disgusting. Yeah, the double standard shows up again. You don't hear this crap about TV or films. No, let's pick on the new kid on the block. People fear what they don't understand. It's too new and different. Let the government lock it up and censor it. How stupid. How scary.

I really don't know which end of the political spectrum to blame. You have the conservatives complaining about sex and violence, more so sex. Then again Hillary and Joe are quick to join them. Also on the other side liberals are more for big government and government doing the control and regulation.

Some information on Hill & Knowlton:

A few months after the Bari bombing, Hill & Knowlton was hired by the Kuwaiti government to generate support for U.S. entry into the Gulf War against Iraq. One of their most successful deceptions was the incubator story. "I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators ... and left the children to die on the cold floor." This was the story told by "Nayirah, " a 15-year old Kuwaiti girl who shocked a public hearing of Congress' Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990. It was widely reported in the media, and helped demonize Iraqis in American public opinion. The young woman was later unmasked as the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, and Kuwaiti hospital officials interviewed after the Gulf War had ended said no infants had been dumped from incubators, but only a small fraction of those who were exposed to the original propaganda ever learned that.

Note: the site I linked above is apparently some wacko organization, that will show me to choose the first Google result. here's the infor from a reputable source, the Christian Science Monitor:

Well, I've always said polls are full of shit.
Especially polls that are made by someone with a opinion they're trying to pitch.


Ahhh... that explains a great deal, these guys would get on with the likes of Thompson, it's all about controversy, not accuracy.

@Xlorep DarkHelm
Damn, I wish I thought of that quote in my first post.

Mmm, presidential primary time...

I wish I knew the methodology behind this survey, but the press release included practically zero info. They do give an email and phone number you can contact to get more info, but I doubt they'd just give that info out freely.

Guess it's about time I moved overseas to Japan so I can get my video games unfiltered and not fucked with.

Papa Midnight

And I can get 100mbps internet for $33.95 while I'm at it...

Papa Midnight

@Papa Midnight

My little brother lives in Japan. I keep trying to hit him up for real video games.


1: Do Survey
2: Release the most controversial results (possibly tweaked to be so)
3: Profit
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