On Championing and Concern

Finding a new topic to write about each week is not as simple as you would think. I don’t have the knowledge or experience to offer any meaningful insight about the dedicated server debacle going down over Modern Warfare 2. I don’t have any additional commentary beyond what has already been summarized by 2D Boy and their World of Goo “pay what you want” experiment. I don’t know enough about Famitistu to pretend to hype the fact that Bayonetta is the first Xbox 360 game to get a 40/40 review. As you can see, there certainly was no drought of topics worth my grammatical mishaps and typos but without the basic knowledge of the subject matter it’s hard to become motivated. But fear not, my eager-reader, for I do have a few tidbits to supplement a recent interview conducted by Skewed & Reviewed with ECA President Hal Halpin.

First, a refresher for those of you not in the know. The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) is a “non-profit membership organization that represents consumers of interactive entertainment in the United States and Canada founded with the goal of giving gamers a collective voice to communicate concerns, address issues and focus advocacy efforts.” You can read all about the ECA, their mission which I just summarized, what they have accomplished and what they hope to accomplish in the future at their website, http://www.theeca.com. The ECA exists for us, lobbies on our behalf on issues such as digital rights, net neutrality, laws and government regulation and other noteworthy topics thatthreaten us, the consumer. ECA President, Hal Halpin addressed some of these topics in his interview with Skewed & Reviewed, would you like to read about it?

Regarding victories of 2008-09, Halpin touted being the sole consumer advocacy organization to speak at a workshop discussing Digital Rights Management (DRM) held by the Federal Trade Commission. If you weren’t aware, Digital Rights Management is the thing that prevents you from installing a game on a limited number of computers. It prevents you from transferring purchased movies or music to other machines or devices, even if you own them. Think that DRM isn’t a big deal? Ask Electronic Arts how their release of Spore went. Ask gamers with a refurbished Xbox 360 who had to jump through hoops to get their purchased Xbox Live Arcade games on a new hard drive. DRM is complicated because it is constantly evolving with the rest of technology. Content developers certainly want to offer their product to as many consumers as possible, but the rights of the consumer over a digital product are not clear-cut. As a result there is a constant push and pull trying to determine what kinds of restrictions are both fair and effective.

Another big topic, not just for gamers but anyone with an Internet connection is the debate over net-neutrality. Honestly, there isn’t enough room in this post nor time in the day to try to clearly articulate the debate over net neutrality intelligently so I wont try to waste too much of your time. Naturally, part of this issue boils down to money. The Internet as it exists today, is net neutral. You pay your ISP for access and up to the contractually agreed bandwidth caps, Surf’s Up. For gamers, a non-neutral network would mean that ISPs would mean “allowing cable, satellite and telecom companies to determine how, where and when you’ll be able to play certain subscription or online games, which retailers you be able to purchase from most easily, or even what kind of lag/latency you’ll experience.” If you wanted a seamless online gaming experience, it would cost you. Prioritizing traffic would mean the end of the online gaming landscape as we know it. Forget Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, forget streaming 1080p through your Xbox, forget downloading content at reasonable rates, forget a relatively painless competitive multiplayer session of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Thankfully the ECA isn’t the only consumer rights group working for the good guys on this one, but it’s something that you should be peripherally aware of, because this issue will not be put to rest any time soon.

Halpin also discussed the role of politicians. To date, any legislation attempting to restrict the rights of consumers over purchasing video games has been ruled unconstitutional, thankfully. But that hasn’t stopped our elected officials yet, and it likely will not stop them in the future. Traditionally our thought process has been to hold our ground and wait until the next generation of citizens becomes our elected officials. Growing up in the age of Mario and Master Chief will eventually have its advantages, just you wait. We know that video games are not a sign of the Rapture. We know that for every study suggesting a link between violent behavior and video games, there are 10 debunking that absurdity. However, until we become the generation with the power, and responsibility, groups like the ECA exist to advocate on our behalf. The ECA is an essential piece in the evolution of gaming in our society.

I try not to get too bogged down in politics. Being Diabetic, I have a particular interest in the heath-care debate going on in Washington. It’s one of those instances where the more you know, the more you regret becoming an informed citizen. Thankfully, keeping up on the politics surrounding the video game industry isn’t nearly as painful. I’ve touted the work done over at GamePolitics.com before, but it bears repeating. If you are passionate about video games, then you owe it to yourself to pay some degree of attention to what is going on around you. Issues like net neutrality are not going away any time soon. Proper use of Digital Rights Management is a myth right now. Legislation restricting the sale of video games will always be on the docket. The debate over the rights of consumers of digital goods is just beginning. Do your part to become more informed on these topics, I’ll be sure to thank you later. I promise.

The interview referenced and quoted can be found here – http://sknr.net/2009/10/20/eca-president-hal-halpin-talks-about-gamers-rights-2009/

My other hosted posts can be found here – http://talkingaboutgames.com

3 thoughts on “On Championing and Concern

  1. my recent ipod breakage and computer loopiness (technical terms) have pointed out the mess that DRM can be. i miss the security of owning something tangible.

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