I met a Massachusetts senator last week who loved games. At first I wasn't sure if he was the real thing, since he kept gushing about how much he liked "Grand Theft Miami." But he did seem to have a basic knowledge of someone who had actually picked up a controller. Even though he got the name wrong, he seemed to understand the difference between GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas. At one point his aide jumped in about how much he loved Halo, Call of Duty, and a slew of other FPS's. Yes, these lawmakers loved games where you blow shit up real good. And they weren't afraid to admit this to people they didn't even know.
Common sense suggests there are probably many folks in government who like videogames. You just never hear about them in the press. Lawmakers mentioned in the gaming press usually want to ban games, and lawmakers mentioned in the non-gaming press usually want to ban games. I'd never had the experience of meeting a politician who said to me "What's wrong with shooting games? I love shooting games!"
This all took place at a local Boston event funded by the ESA, sort of an attempt to bolster friendship between game industry and government by getting them together in a room and serving them alcohol. I had gone expecting a bunch of guarded old men who were terrified of these new fangled whatchamahozits. Instead I got a dude dressed like Ted Koppel telling me how he loved to rock out to 80's music while building his criminal empire.
Later that night I was at dinner with a few Boston area developers. I thought I'd be cool and show them my "M" key chain. The ESA had a table with a little fish bowl filled with ESRB key chains. Cute as this was, there only seemed to be "E" and "T" key chains. Naturally I asked the lady standing by where all the "M" key chains were. She replied in a hushed voice that she had hidden them because "everyone wants them." She discretely snatched me one, and I walked off thinking I was special. However, I was dismayed to discover a fellow at dinner had an "AO" key chain, which he brandished at me triumphantly. He said he got it from the same lady, but he had to ask for it. I immediately realized it hadn't even occurred to me to ask if they had "AO" key chains. Why would they? There aren't even any AO games... are there?
I realized afterwards that this situation was a perfect metaphor for the rating system itself. "E" and "T" were out there for everyone to see. Everyone knew about "M" but you needed permission to get them. And no one knew about "AO" and people acted like they didn't exist.
Everyone at dinner was as surprised as I that there were "AO" key chains. We all wanted one, but we couldn't think of how to get them save for e-mailing the ESA.