While covering the PAX Expo in Seattle, I was able to speak with Hal Halpin, President of the ECA. The Entertainment Consumers Association is members based advocacy group that fights for gamers rights.
I want to thank Hal for taking the time from the very hectic convention schedule to talk with us.
GVK: Can you give the readers a brief background of how this got started?
HH: I was heading the IMA the previous nine years and we supported companies like Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Gamestop but realized that the consumers were not being covered, so we merged and founded the ECA.
GVK: How is the ECA setup?
HH: We are a non-profit membership based organization like A.A.A. Membership is $19.99 a year and members get over $30.00 a year in benefits back. We deal mainly with State and Federal level advocacy and rights.
GVK: There has been a lot of talk about your move into Canada, can you tell the readers what prompted that to come about at this time?
HH: Mainly it was PAX 07. We were only 9 months old at the time, and we had such a strong demand to go into Canada. So, we looked into ways that we could do that with our non-profit status as well as keeping an eye on the growth management to go international. We were able to setup Canada as chapters but we do not see any further expansion for a while.
GVK: What are some of the perks of membership?
HH: Game Rentals, Discounts on stays at the Hyatt, Magazine subscriptions and much more.
GVK: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the ECA?
HH: Broad Stroke 1st Amendment issues, anti-gaming factions, net neutrality, Universal Broad Band and Fair Use doctrines.
That and the negative image many gamers get especially Generations X and Y as they are portrayed as being lazy slackers.
GVK: How does the ECA attack and issue, do you have lobbyists working in Washington?
HH: Mainly through grass roots campaigns as we have over 44 chapters many are at colleges which have sanctioned them as approved clubs.
GVK: How do you pick the issues you want to battle?
HH: Mainly we have to take a reactionary approach and see where things are going and nip things in the bud before they go too far. Sometimes it can be simply showing politicians that fighting a certain issue will cost a lot of time and money and based on past examples is not likely to succeed.
We are currently 11-0 in issues dealing with 1st Amendment rights as we have won 9 at the state level, 1 at the city level and 1 at the county level.
GVK: I have talked with some people who have complained that in parts of Europe or Australia they not only are banned from buying certain games, but they are banned from buying and downloading digital copies. What can you tell them to do about this issue?
HH: Keep the faith, as we feel your pain. Many politicians are banning games based on false research and information that is being passed around by people like Jack Thompson who have a clear agenda against gaming. The best way to fight this is to partner up with overseas groups who defend the rights of gamers and consumers.
GVK: With the upcoming election, does it matter which candidate wins the White House or is The Senate and Congress the main focus of interest?
HH: The Congress and Senate for sure have the most impact on what we do. Due to our status we cannot endorse candidates but there are clearly some such as Biden who are not consumer friendly as well as some on the state level as well. The key is to be aware of what is being said as many times politicians do not speak about gaming issues while they are running for office and you do not know until it is to late as to who will be anti-gaming once in office.