Home » Forums » Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) » ECA in the News

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Dennis McCauley
Joined: 2006-09-30


March 9, 2007 - Begun back in October 2006, the Entertainment Consumers Association is an advocacy organization for gamers. The ECA feels that gamers are continually overlooked and misrepresented by politicians and the mainstream press. Hal Halpin, the ECA's founder, wants to give a voice to gamers, but to do so he needs them to join his team.

At GDC this week the ECA unveiled a new initiative to get college students, a key gaming demographic, involved -- a college discount, so to speak. The normal membership fee to join is $19.99 a year, but college students will receive 25 percent off, making it $14.99 a year. ECA members receive a host of benefits, from game savings to hotel discounts to credit card programs. Halpin says for their $20, members receive over $200 in savings. That's not to mention the community benefits and job help the ECA offers.

Before founding the ECA, Halpin ran the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association for nine years. We sat down with Halpin to get the lowdown on the deal, and to see how the first five months of his organization have been going.

IGN: What was the inspiration for your new college recruitment initiative?

Halpin: We have this great demographic in colleges. College kids get [videogames]. As a result, we really want to encourage them to join because they're going to be vocal and speak up and help us in the process. But we also recognize the fiscal challenges when you're a student, and so we introduced the 25 percent off student discount.

IGN: Would you say the ECA would be beneficial to those who are interested in working in the videogame industry?

Halpin: Yeah, I would actually argue that it's crucially important for them. What we're building is all web-based organization. And we have an education module where we're pulling in information from all the colleges in the country that have degree programs or even just coursework in games. So we'll have all of those resources in addition to scholarship information. Separately, there is another module called a career module where there will be job boards, resume writing help, and articles on getting into the game industry. A lot of the resources that are kind of scattered around the web right now will be essentially pulled into one module.

IGN: How are you getting the word out about the ECA to consumers?

Halpin: We've pretty much focused on the endemic media, all the enthusiast publications and websites.

IGN: So are you aiming for the core gaming market? Or are you also trying to recruit soccer moms playing Bejewelled?

Halpin: I think anyone who is a gamer or cares about gaming issues are the broader audience. But the ones that we're really trying to communicate to first and foremost are the relatively core gamers who are relatively central to understanding and appreciating gaming. Communicating is a difficult thing to begin with -- advertising is repetition. Our ads have just started to hit about five or six weeks ago. So the first thing that we need to do is shock them into understanding why this is important, and why they need to stand up for their rights.

You know, our rights are being threatened. Over a hundred bills a year are being put up. And, yes, we've been successful in defeating them, but what if there's an angle where all of a sudden we're not treated like music and movies? What if we're treated like alcohol, tobacco, and firearms? Hence, some of our initial shock ads. [The ECA's first ads show a pistol, a syringe, and a game controller over a blood red background, and reads, "Politicians consider videogames to be as dangerous and guns and narcotics and they are spending $90 million to prove it."]

IGN: How many members does the ECA have now?

Halpin: We're a little shy of 500, I think.

IGN: You've announced that future programs and initiatives will be coming in the next few months. Can you give us any details about what they will entail?

Halpin: I can only tell you that we're working on the insurance module, and in the next month or two we'll probably have more information on it. It's one that is really, personally important to me because insurance is something that could be really beneficial for our members. It could be three or four different types of insurance -- at least two major types. It would provide access to insurance where some of our members, especially the younger ones, wouldn't have otherwise.

The other thing we've been working on in the background is an affinity credit card program. Again, for the younger members coming out of college, they're not going to have credit. So having an affinity credit card program that is reliable, national, and won't take advantage of them would be a great benefit.

IGN: How much interaction does the ECA have with politicians at this point?

Halpin: At this point it's pretty low, only because the session just came back in. After the elections everyone took some time off, and now they're just starting to ramp up again.

IGN: Have you received a lot of support from the videogame industry?

Halpin: Yeah, that's probably been the most rewarding part from my perspective. I was really concerned about how publishers and developers would accept a consumers advocacy group coming along after all these years of [publishers and developers] being the only people represented out there. I was concerned that eventually we would come across issues where we would naturally be divergent like DRM or in-game advertising or any of that sort of thing where consumers rights are going to be different than a publisher's interest. But instead, they embraced it right from the beginning. We started working early on with NCsoft (City of Heroes/Villians) and they were so happy about what we were working on that they handed off a program they had called Play Smart. It gave information for parents: what's appropriate for your kids to be playing online, what you should be careful of… And then information for gamers, too. Really public service, altruistic stuff. They wanted us to take over the program and bring it out more broadly across other publishers. So we approached Blizzard, Sony, and all the other guys and we're trying to roll out that program across the entire sector so that new PC games packages will come with Play Smart information inside.

IGN: Do you spend a lot of time playing games?

Halpin: Not enough, especially not recently. You're probably gonna kill me for this but right now I'm just playing Mario Kart 64 on the Wii.

IGN: You pass.


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