The Entertainment Software Association, the trade association of the video game industry, named Stanley Pierre-Louisas its new president and chief executive Monday. Pierre-Louis, who had served as the organization’s general counsel since 2015, now becomes the video game industry’s public face in Washington.
As the industry’s revenue continues to soar — with about $43 billion in sales in the United States and roughly $140 billion worldwide last year — so has attention from political and regulatory corners.
“Video games are no stranger to misconceptions about their impacts,’’ Pierre-Louis, 48, said in a telephone interview Friday. “Every form of media faces challenges with respect to social and cultural issues, and every time that challenge surfaces it is an opportunity to share the dynamic story that artistic expression brings.
According to the association, which lobbies on behalf of most of the largest game companies, nearly two-thirds of American adults play video games. In 2011 the Supreme Court granted video games full First Amendment protection from regulation of content, but gaming’s growing popularity is now fostering increased scrutiny of how the industry makes money.
One of gaming’s most controversial practices is a form of monetization known as “loot boxes.” In some modern games, players can spend real money to buy a virtual “loot box’’ that contains randomized virtual rewards, such as a weapon or an outfit for the player’s online avatar. Critics liken the practice to gambling because some players keep buying loot boxes until they get the rewards they seek.
Last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced plans to introduce a bill called the Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act that would ban loot boxes from games aimed at minors. The Federal Trade Commission intends to convene a workshop in August to examine the marketing of loot boxes, largely at the prodding of Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
In Friday’s interview, Pierre-Louis said that in 2018, 24 bills aimed at regulating loot boxes were introduced in nine states and that the industry organization defeated them all.
In addition to American politicians, global health authorities also are scrutinizing gaming. Last year the World Health Organization included “gaming disorder” in a version of its International Classification of Diseases, a decision to be voted upon by WHO member countries at the group’s annual World Health Assembly meeting this month in Geneva.
Before joining the video game association in 2015, Pierre-Louis worked as a lawyer for Viacom, the law firm Kaye Scholer (now known as Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer) and the Recording Industry Association of America. The game association’s previous leader, Michael Gallagher, resigned last October.