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As president of the Entertainment Software Association, Stanley Pierre-Louis is always thinking about where games are going.
But the future of gaming is particularly relevant this week, as the all-virtual E3 is imminently approaching on June 12. Among the panel discussions and interviews with top gaming creatives that will take place during the four-day event — which has hosts for the first time ever — Pierre-Louis tells The Hollywood Reporter that there will be conversations about game development and themes in games, and well as talks about diversity, equity and inclusion and a look at “where the industry can go in terms of creating opportunities for game makers.”
The games industry is evolving rapidly, he explains. “The way the industry is marketing its products, services and games has really changed.” Giving some background to the trade show, which was inaugurated in 1995, Pierre-Louis says: “E3 started off as this ability for companies that are creating games to talk to physical retailers. Now with downloading being such an important component, with streaming seeing its future and with the use of the internet that all our companies are using to really great results, we want to ensure that E3 is also enhancing that experience.”
While last year’s E3 was canceled outright, the 2021 virtual event began to be formulated in August, when the COVID-19 landscape was still unclear. “At time there were no vaccines, and there really wasn’t a roadmap of where we might be,” says Pierre-Louis, adding that the show had to be “digital-first and digital-only” due to its global nature and the uncertainties with travel. Pierre-Louis notes that the expo, which typically sees 65,000 people pour into the Los Angeles Convention Center, has been experimenting over the last several years in how to engage fans and enhance the experience for exhibitors, consumers and media.
The event this week will include press conferences, interviews, pre-shows, reactions to announcements and presentations from studio and indie developers, all culminating in an awards show.
As for the future of E3, Pierre-Louis emphasizes that there’s “tremendous value” in having a physical event because of the ability of people to connect together. But there’s also excitement about seeing digital content with fan engagement, he notes. “That’s why concert footage is exciting, because of the fans.” Moving one step at a time, Pierre-Louis says of this year: “We’ll see what transports well between physical and digital.”
Of his work with the ESA, Pierre-Louis says that the organization serves as the “voice and the advocate” for the video game industry at a national and state level. The organization looks for concerns within the industry, such as intellectual property rights and consumer protection issues with subscription services.
Bringing up the word “gamification,” Pierre-Louis notes that games, in some form, are used in many training fields, from medicine to engineering. One who goes to school for animation may end up at a video game company, but they may also end up at the Lockheed Martin Corporation, implementing that technical knowledge into satellites.
A point that Pierre-Louis touches on is that most games sold in the United States are also sold in other countries, though the gun violence epidemic — in which games have historically been referenced as a possible cause for male aggression — does not extend to those countries. And so Pierre-Louis explains that conversation surrounding whether games are linked to violence has begun to shift. During the height of the pandemic, he notes that numerous organizations (not just game companies) suggested people play games to stay home and stay safe.
Among the trends that the ESA is seeing, Pierre-Louis recalls, is that as avid gamers become of age and take positions in elective office, strategic conversations surrounding policy begin to occur. “When they hear an issue that makes no sense to them, they get right on it.”
During the pandemic, Pierre-Louis notes that a lot of people got to, for the first time, see what games can do up close and experience how they build inter-generational connections with family members and friends. The “gaming over 50” group saw particular growth.
This type of enthusiasm, he is quick to point out, will be visible at E3 in the form of “fun and light” conversations around people’s passion for games.
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