The new head of the video game publishers' association actually plays video games!
I certainly didn't when I wrote a snarky advice column to incoming ESA president Mike Gallagher during his first week on the job. But, two months into his tenure, I like what I see. I'm willing to bet a lot of other gamers do, too.
In fact, we should create some kind of JFK award for the guy just for having the guts to stand up and proclaim, "ich bin ein gamer." In interviews, the new ESA boss immediately outed himself as the setup man for the office multiplayer Doom network when he worked as a congressional staffer. Of course, I had a great deal of respect for Gallagher's ESA predecessor, but Doug Lowenstein wouldn't know a space marine from the man in the moon. He was no gamer. To his credit, he didn't pretend to be. But it feels better to have someone who is in gut-level touch with the medium at the industry's helm.
Like everyone else, I thought E3 kind of sucked this year, but that wasn't Gallagher's fault. Coming on board in late May, he inherited a show that was already locked in place. I appreciated his candid comments about 2007 and future E3's, which were basically: we'll see. No hype and no promises he can't keep.
You may know that I edit GamePolitics.com which is owned by the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), so I like to watch out for the little guy, the gamer. As such I'm always wary of the motives of game industry suits. The interests of game publishers regularly conflict with those of game consumers. The Xbox 360 red rings fiasco and the $20 Madden price increase that happened as soon as EA acquired a monopoly on the NFL license immediately come to mind. But ECA president – my boss - Hal Halpin, a guy who really cares about gamers, had a scheduled hour-long lunch that stretched into two with Gallagher at E3. Hal told me later that he came away with a very favorable impression.
I met Gallagher briefly on my way into the Sony press conference, where he was entering with ESA VP Gail Markels and PR guy Dan Hewitt. Off that brief handshake and hello, I would describe Gallagher as affable, polite – and tall. But while friendly on the exterior, Gallagher seems like a tough nut, which is good. He held high office in the Bush administration (I won't hold that against him), has been a lobbyist for Verizon and knows his way around Capitol Hill.
What's more, unlike Doug Lowenstein, he seems unafraid of dealing with Jack Thompson. In an interview with the San Jose Mercury-News, Gallagher dismissed concerns about the anti-game attorney and his tactics, telling reporter Dean Takahashi, "As I understand it, Jack is up for a psychological evaluation in Florida (Gallagher obviously reads GamePolitics). My focus is on the positive. And on the great story that we can tell as an industry..."
Impressive. The iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach dispensed with Thompson as easily as one might brush away a mosquito while Gallagher deftly seized the opportunity to turn the conversation in a positive direction. Okay, so it was PR 101 but the point is that if you asked Doug Lowenstein that question he would have given you a dirty look. But then again, Doug had been there a long time and endured a lot. It's time for a fresh face. And Mike Gallagher looks like that face.
Dennis McCauley is the Political Editor for the Entertainment Consumers Association (www.theeca.com), tracks the political side of video games at GamePolitics.com and writes about games for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Opinions expressed in The Political Game are his own. Reach him at