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As the video game industry tops $43 billion in revenue over the past year, the Entertainment Software Association, the industry’s official trade association, is touting the success in Washington while simultaneously dealing with increased scrutiny over its content.
ESA CEO and acting president Stan Pierre-Louis took the stage at this year’s D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas on Tuesday to address the World Health Organization’s recent proposal to classify certain levels of video game use as a mental disorder.
“What we know is that there is no medical consensus supporting the adoption of ‘gaming disorder,'” Pierre-Louis said in his speech. “Mental health experts who study this issue at world-class institutions, like Johns Hopkins University and Oxford University, warn over and over that creating some kind of ‘gaming disorder’ classification isn’t advisable because it puts patients at risk.”
Offstage, Pierre-Louis praised his industry and the significant growth it has seen in the past few years. “We’re in a trade surplus on the video game side. That’s a great story to tell in Washington and across the States,” he told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of his D.I.C.E. speech.
Heralding the success of video games to legislators in Washington, as well as those in local and state government, is an important undertaking for Pierre-Louis and his organization. “Right now, video games are the benchmark for job creation, creative expression, innovation, consumer engagement, consumer protection,” he said. “If we have the opportunity to tell that story, it tips us over that inflection point.”
ESA members are a who’s who of the biggest names in gaming, from Take-Two Interactive to Epic Games to Ubisoft to recently returning members such as Riot Games and Sega.
“I think more and more companies are seeing we’re leading on issues important to the industry and they want to have a voice and want to help amplify the work that we’re doing,” Pierre-Louis says.
Of course, not all is well in the video game industry. On Tuesday, Activision Blizzard went through a massive round of layoffs, resulting in nearly 800 employees losing their job after revenue for the most recent quarter came in below expectations. Amid the shake-up, renewed cries for unionization arose for workers in the industry.
“Our members want to create and strive to create the best possible environment for their workers. How they deal with that specific issue is an independent issue within each company,” Pierre-Louis said of unionization. (His comments were made before the news of Activision Blizzard layoffs were made public.)
Outside of representing game companies in Washington, the ESA also organizes the annual E3 convention in Los Angeles, something that Pierre-Louis is excited to see grow even more.
“From the very beginning, E3 has always evolved depending on consumer expectations and needs, game development and distribution,” he said. “In recent years, we’ve added consumers, e-sports, and we’re always evolving because E3 is a great moment of showing a light on the industry to the world.”
Pierre-Louis is confident in gaming’s influence and stature in the world of entertainment, seeing the industry as the leader when it comes to engagement with its audience: “I think what video games are doing, everyone is watching and they’ll try to mimic because the video game industry has really thought about meeting consumer expectations in a way that’s really interactive.”
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