DC Influencer: Rich Taylor, Entertainment Software Assoc.

Entertainment Software Assoc. SVP of comms and industry affairs Rich Taylor discusses the widening reach of his organization and sector.

DC Influencer: Rich Taylor, Entertainment Software Assoc.
Rich Taylor, SVP for comms and industry affairs at the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), talks about influencing policymakers and the role of games in education.

What impact will the US Supreme Court's recent decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/ESA have on the industry?
The Supreme Court case represented a historic challenge to the constitutional rights of our developers and publishers. It centered around a piece of legislation enacted by California lawmakers in 2005 that sought to regulate video games based on their content.

In its landmark decision, the court affirmed that free speech protections apply every bit as much to video games as they do to other forms of creative expression. It also underscored the constitutional protections afforded to video games, developers, and industry artists. The court's decision not only places video games where they belong, alongside other protected forms of speech, but also guards against future regulation.

When working with policymakers, what issues are at the top of your agenda?
At the federal level, we work with Obama administration officials and members of Congress to ensure strong enforcement of copyright laws, encourage inclusion of intellectual property provisions in free-trade agreement negotiations, and protect the First Amendment rights of computer and video games.

Earlier this year, we worked with lawmakers to launch the Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology, which will educate policymakers and the public about the economic, educational, and social benefits of sustaining a robust entertainment software industry. Most recently, we collaborated with administration officials on the launch of the Digital Promise initiative, which will provide support for developing technologies that can transform teaching and learning, including educational games.

We are also committed to educating policymakers about our industry's role beyond entertainment. The cultural perception of computer and video games has changed dramatically since the introduction of the first games more than 30 years ago. Games are no longer viewed as a solitary entertainment activity, but now make improvements in education, health, and business. They also communicate ideas around important social issues.

What are some examples of how games play a role in daily life?
One area in which we have seen particular growth is the use of games in education. A growing number of educators incorporate games into their lesson plans in classrooms, such as the online, game-based learning platform iCivics, conceived of by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, which helps teach civics. The White House has also lent support for this work. We were proud to collaborate with administration officials and a number of other organizations to host a National STEM Video Game Challenge as part of the Educate to Innovate campaign to improve science, technology, engineering, and math education for children.

The educational benefits of computer and video games also extend into higher education, and the ESA Foundation offers scholarships for women and minority college students pursuing one of the 343 video-game design and development programs offered by American schools.

To what extent have mobile technologies and social networks impacted your industry?
The rise of social networking sites and tremendous expansion of digital technology capabilities is driving current trends within the entertainment software industry. Right now, every product with a screen plays games, stimulating consumer demand. Purchases of digital-game content accounted for 24% of all game content sales in 2010 and generated $5.9 billion in revenue. This includes purchases of digital full games, digital add-on content, mobile apps, subscriptions, and social networking gaming.

A greater number of Americans also enjoy playing games while on the go. According to research conducted by Ipsos for the ESA, 55% of gamers now play on their phones or handheld devices. In response, our developers and publishers are producing an ever-expanding variety of games in a wide variety of formats that are accessible across all these platforms.

How is the ESA responding to recent piracy issues?
Piracy is a serious concern for our industry's artists. Without aggressive enforcement of intellectual property law, the long hours of work and the millions of dollars invested by publishers to bring a top game to market would be lost to piracy, which in turn has negative consequences for our economy.

We are committed to working with government officials here and abroad to ensure strong enforcement of intellectual property law. We work with partner organizations around the world to conduct training seminars for law enforcement officials that enable them to identify pirated items, investigate their production and distribution, and prosecute those responsible. These seminars enhance officials' overall knowledge of the entertainment software industry and its products, as well.

In addition, we developed an educational outreach program for elementary school students to raise awareness and respect for intellectual property rights. Our “Join the © Team” curriculum educates students about the importance of original work and the correct way to access and utilize pictures and other digital content for projects.

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