A few days ago, the Entertainment Software Association, known also as the ESA, made a tweet that shared an interview between Mat Smith and Anita Sarkeesian. A lot of people were concerned with the implications, whether the ESA is in contact with Sarkeesian or if they were simply collaborating. So due to the fact that people are considering the age of Sarkeesian to be the next Jack Thompson, I decided to reach out and get a few words from Dan Hewitt, VP of Media Relations and Event Management at the ESA.

The way it was explained to me, the tweet in question was not approved to be posted by the representatives of the ESA, but found a way to slip through the cracks. The swift deletion of the tweet was not a way to withdraw from criticism or close discussion, but rather to take the only action available when an unapproved message has been posted.

Considering the taking down of the tweet without some explanation to the community brought up some issues with communication between the developers and other representatives of the gaming community (such as the ESA) and the gaming community, I decided to question him on the state of inter-community discussion and conversation in which we find ourselves in today.

esa feminist frequency anita sarkeesian

The controversial tweet in question. (Source: https://archive.fo/VN9o5)

Justin TGG
The main issue I find with communication between the gaming community and those who represent them is that the press used to be a bridge between the two, but in the past couple years, people have found them less reliable, do you have a few words to share on this situation?

dan hewitt esa

Dan Hewitt (VP of Media Relations and Event Management at the ESA), in person (the picture was borrowed from metroweekly).

Dan Hewitt
At the end of the day, gamers are an integral part of the video game ecosystem and gamers are who this industry always wants to impress new and innovative creative entertainment and when you put out a title that – there’s nothing than putting out a title that gets rave reviews from not only critics but also gamers themselves. And that kind of energy and excitement is great. That energy and passion – gamers’ energy and passion for the medium is unlike anything you see in other industries. There are car enthusiasts, and there are people who are excited about their phones, but you don’t see the online conversations and discussion and cosplay and showing up at conferences that you get in the video game industry.

And as the owners and managers of E3 we put together an event that not only is representative of developers and publishers but resonates with gamers. And we provide an opportunity to connect gamers with the products that you see at E3. That’s what I stay up at night thinking about and we work every day here for that. Gamers are always from a mind whether it’s at E3 or working with the Video Game Voter’s Network in mobilizing gamers to take action on political issues facing video games. That’s the core of who we are – is connecting and talking to and engaging gamers.

That’s why when you said, “Thank you for wanting to communicate” I was like “Of course!” like, you guys have a direct connection to a wide range of gamers. And that’s who, when I talk about the work that we do here at the ESA –and have always done— and if you look at our history of legal victories what you’ll see is that we always defend and advance the rights of gamers to get the content that they want. So, I think that this notion that there is “Industry Proper” and gamers themselves is kind of outdated.

I think that if you look at our materials both online and our social media and our printed materials as well. You’re going to see that we’ve always had gamers front in mind. And we always want to engage and have conversations where we can meet them at E3, Pax, or what-have-you – we always want to be a part of that dialogue.

e3 logo

The ESA hosts and manages E3 every year around mid-June. (Source: http://d.ibtimes.co.uk/en/full/1443324/e3-2015-logo.jpg)

Justin TGG
I think the main issue is that people are trying to avoid another Jack Thompson scenario where you guys stepped in and helped us out. The posting and deletion of the tweet, at least to the people I’ve talked to, makes it seem that this is a Jack Thompson situation that the ESA doesn’t have our back on.

Dan Hewitt
It seems to me that if we had tweeted that and kept it, it would seem that we were trying to provoke people or trying to antagonize them, but by taking it down, we were doing just the opposite of creating another Jack Thompson. We are trying not to antagonize people in the Industry. Being respectful to all sides. It’s kind of a difference of a view there. But at the end of the day, it’s really about that it was a mistake.

jack thompson

Say hello to Jack Thompson (an American activist and disbarred attorney), the guy who literally went out on a crusade against violent games back in the late 90s and early 2000s (Thompson specifically targeted Rockstars “Grand Theft Auto” series).

I thank Dan for the time he gave me, and I hope that in the future we can develop an open dialogue between the community and those that represent us. In the past couple of years, the gaming press has been looked at with ever-cautious eyes. Ever since the “Gamers are Dead” fiasco of 2014, there has been a strained relationship between the community and the press. As a result, some may feel that the dialogue between the community and the representatives has become incredibly difficult. I’ve always seen the press as the bridge between the representative powers and the common populace. As a bridge, people of both sides can meet halfway and create a dialogue as equals.

The problem is that when the bridge is seen by the populace as shaky and unsteady, very few would feel brave enough to trust it to cross. As a result, the bridge is very rarely used and that’s never good for communication. However, based on the dialogue I got to have with Dan, I can tell that this is not the case. Dan Hewitt has assured me that the representatives and the gamers are not on two different sides of a lake with the bridge to cross, but that our love of the media, being video games, is what binds us and as a result, we live on the same side of the lake. Dan assured me that the ESA and organizations like them will always be open for an honest dialogue. With that said, there will always be the press to help get the word out to more people, though in my experience, it’s important to know just who you are getting your news from, as I’ve said, not every bridge is safe enough to cross.

But I think that Dan has given us a lot to think about. We can only hope that the ESA will continually be there to represent the community as they’ve had for years.

Robin Ek – Editor

tgg author avatar Jay Shay
Justin Easler
Senior editor
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @masterjayshay

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