In an interview with The New York Times, recently-installed ESA president Michael Gallagher acknowledged that the game industry lacks the star power that can seduce politicians.
"Washington is very enamored with glitz and the appeal of stars," Gallagher said. "Whenever Bono shows up he creates this bow wave as he comes through, and it's true that stars do help drive messages. And it is true that Master Chief and Mario are not yet household words on the Hill, but wait for the years ahead."
Gallagher defended the industry's record on self-regulation, noting the ESRB's recent decision to give Manhunt 2 an "AO" rating. The ESA has successfully challenged laws regulating the sale of videogames in at least nine states, and one of Gallagher's priorities will be fending off calls from politicians to treat games more like drugs rather than other forms of entertainment.
"The average video-game player is 33 years old and has been playing for an average of 12 years," Mr. Gallagher said. "It is not something you do as a phase in your childhood and leave it behind. Now it's a part of your entertainment culture.
"I think there is a bit of a generation gap, federally, given that a number of the legislators — especially since Congress operates on the seniority system — are older. Video games came very late in their content-consuming careers, and so they're not as familiar with the intense innovation, competition and excitement that come from video games."
Gallagher took office on June 1st as president of the ESA, becoming the game industry's chief lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He said he considered the MPAA's Jack Valenti as a role model for his new job.
"At the most basic level my job is to create opportunities for this industry to thrive," he said. "We need to make sure the policy environment supports the growth of video games."
The ESA, founded in 1994 as the IDSA, is a small player in politics thanks to its budget of approximately USD 20 million.
"Obviously we have a lot smaller budget than the music and movie industries, so we have to do more with less," Mr. Gallagher said.
"The main challenge is connecting with decision makers and creating champions for the video-game industry in the policy-making arena," he said. "So working to set up a way for the Entertainment Software Association to participate in the federal election process is one of my top priorities. Contributing on the federal level is a very important part of our success going forward."