Let me start by saying that I, as a reader of four years and an active member for half of one, am proud that this website has at least had the integrity to point out the hypocrisy and bullshit of some our industry’s leading organizations with regards to their stances on SOPA. The ESA has had a stranglehold over our industry for the last decade or so – whenever they have something to say on any legal case whatsoever, their rhetoric is simply pasted and regurgitated in every major gaming publication without any sort of challenge whatsoever. So it makes me proud to see the website I hold so dearly bucking that trend.
Now as the days and weeks have gone by, and the stances of these industry leaders have become more well known to the community at large, there has been some genuine and understandable confusion among many:
How could the ESA, which has championed the freedom of expression for video games in various court cases, suddenly come out for such a ruthless bill like SOPA? How could the ESA side with a law strictly written for the interests of certain businesses, written by businesses, which curtails the rights of Americans for the sake of making these businesses money?
The answer is actually fairly simple: the ESA is a business.
The ESA is no different than the NRA: it is a lobbying group, paid and sponsored by EA, Activision, Capcom, and every major video game publisher known to man, to advance their business interests. The ESA represents the people who pay them.
Do you pay them?
The ESA opposes legislation which seeks to restrict the sale of violent video games to eight-year-olds not because they’re freedom fighters guarding the democratic principles of which our country rests on – it’s simply because such a law would mean these companies would make less money. Now what good would the ESA be if they let such a thing happen? They’d be rather shitty lobbyists.
Whether or not these laws are good or bad is a case that can be argued either way, but it is besides the point right now: the ESA never fought for your freedom of anything. The ESA fights for its clients. There is nothing wrong with that, nor does it mean the ESA is evil or always wrong. But we also need to not fool ourselves into thinking they’re looking out for us.
It’s not their job.
So when we take this all into consideration, and take into account what their entire purpose, their entire being, is for – to represent their clients – their support for SOPA of course makes sense. Why wouldn’t they be for companies to have the ability to strike down any website hosting their stolen, pirated content? Why wouldn’t they be for the power to freely take such action, despite the collateral damage? This bill is in the pure interest of every single game publisher in existence. If I was running these companies, you can bet your ass I’d be throwing money to get this law passed!
But at what cost? That is the problem at hand: at what cost is hunting down pirates too much? Should legitimate, harmless websites be crushed for the sake of making money for the ESA and its clients?
Or is there even a price which is too high? Are honest customers and their rights too insignificant when it comes to third quarter profits?
I cannot stress this enough: the ESA are not bad people. We simply need to keep things in perspective here. Our community has a tendency to sometimes sit with its head in the clouds, thinking our industry is the greatest thing since doorknobs and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with it whatsoever. Then, when stuff like this comes up, everybody is so shocked. This industry is a business like any other, whether anybody likes it or not. It plays by the same rules and has the same problems as any other. The ESA is not some shadow lord censoring the internet to protect the identities of the La Li Lu Le Lo. It is not hatching some mysterious scheme shrouded in shadows and ill will. It is not a conspiracy.
It’s just a business. They can and will do as they please, in whatever way that is beneficial to their interests.