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ESA hires new top lobbyist to represent gaming to U.S. politicians

ESA hires new top lobbyist to represent gaming to U.S. politicians

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Christianna Barnhart has joined the Entertainment Software Association as vice president of government affairs.

She becomes the key connection between the gaming industry’s lobbying group and U.S. politicians. In the past, this has been a critical position on matters ranging from game violence to screen time.

Barnhart is a seasoned veteran with 15 years of experience in technology policy. As the leader of the ESA’s government affairs team, Barnhart will spearhead the trade association’s advocacy efforts on both federal and state levels, ensuring that the industry’s voice is heard on key matters that impact its growth and development.

She will report to ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis.

“Christi’s legislative and regulatory experience will add depth and strength to the ESA team, and we are thrilled at the opportunity to leverage her deep expertise in intellectual property, technology and
telecommunications policy,” Pierre-Louis said in a statement. “For the past several decades, the interactive
entertainment industry has been at the forefront of technological innovation, and Christi’s experience
will be invaluable to demonstrating the impact and potential of this dynamic industry to policymakers
and regulators.”

Barnhart’s background includes a range of experiences in the public and private sectors. Most recently, she served as senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where she focused on technology and telecommunications issues. Her responsibilities encompassed areas such as telecommunications regulation, media policy, broadband deployment, content moderation, wireless connectivity, and artificial intelligence.

Prior to her tenure with the Senate Committee, Barnhart held significant roles, including senior technology and communications counsel to U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and vice president of regulatory affairs at Charter Communications.

She also made notable contributions during her time at the Federal Communications Commission, where she advised Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and managed the Rural Health Care universal service support fund.

In her new position, Barnhart will collaborate with policymakers to showcase the substantial economic impact and positive benefits that video games bring to American lives. With the video game industry representing 65% of Americans, or approximately 212.6 million people who play video games regularly, Barnhart’s advocacy efforts will be critical in ensuring continued growth and innovation in the sector, the ESA said.

The ESA has had its challenges lately. In 2023, it was unable to pull off a new Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) event in partnership with ReedPop. The group also confirmed last week it had parted ways with PAX organizer ReedPop and would not hold an E3 in 2024 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The ESA is still trying to figure out some kind of E3 event in the future.

But its core focus for the past 30 years has been on advocacy work to ensure that U.S. policy makers understand the game industry and regulate it fairly.

“For nearly thirty years, the ESA has done incredible work advancing the interests of the U.S. video game
industry and has been instrumental in ensuring the industry’s continued vitality and innovation,” Barnhart said in a statement. “I look forward to working with policymakers to demonstrate the powerful economic
impact and positive benefits video games have on American lives.”

The previous head of government affairs was Michael O’Leary who moved over to the CEO role at National Association of Theatre Owners. 

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