There was a little flare-up between the ESA and GamePolitics earlier this week.
Maybe you noticed.
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 GamePolitics.com, 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 gi.biz 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.