In addition to having a great alliterative name, Hal Halpin likes to start things with acronyms. He started the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) which merged with the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) to form the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). Fifteen years after his journey began, and seven letters later, Halpin noticed there was one big letter missing in his career: C, for consumer. So, his trusty alphabet in hand, Halpin formed the Entertainment Consumers Association, an advocacy group focusing on (cue the press release) "consumer rights, anti-games legislation, and a host of other public policy concerns."
The ECA will seek to provide gamers with "a voice" by presenting the issues that gamers care about to state and local politicians (not federal?). With console manufacturers taking to the streets, criticism of the ESRB growing, court cases taking turns for the worse, and an upcoming election, the timing couldn't be better. Annual membership, available at their site, will set you back $20 big ones, but in exchange they're offering " substantial community and affinity benefits." But don't worry about your money going into some fat cat's silk-lined billfold, the ECA is a 501(c)(4) membership organization, which means they're not making any money.
The closest analogy we can come up with for the ECA is the National Rifle Association, a consumer advocacy group dedicated to protecting citizen's Second Amendment right to bear arms. Sound familiar? Considering the NRA reports nearly half of all families own a gun while, according the ESA, 69% of American "heads of households" play video games, it sounds to us like they may have a strong backing. So, Joystiqers, are you in?
[Update: Hal perhaps took some umbrage with our NRA comparison (we totally saw that coming), and he emailed us his thoughts:
"As for analogous membership organizations, I'm not sure that there are any that fit well given what we're up against and the scope and scale of our efforts. I can tell you that I have admired three other membership organizations which we try to emulate in differing ways: AAA, AARP and MoveOn.org: AAA because they provide a wealth of services to members that easily clears the value proposition; AARP because they do an outstanding job at community building; and MoveOn.org because they have been very effective at galvanizing their constituents using digital advocacy and grass roots empowerment."
Fine, your analogies were better. Thanks, Hal!]
Read - The ECA's website
Read - GameDaily BIZ's interview with Hal Halpin