CEO, Entertainment Software Association
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Current residence: Washington D.C.
- JD, University of Chicago, 1995
- BA, History, Clark University, 1992
Selected work history
- CEO, Entertainment Software Association, 2019-present
- SVP and General Counsel, Entertainment Software Association, 2015-2019
- Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property, Viacom, 2007-2012
- Senior Counsel and Cochair, Entertainment and Media Law Group, Kaye Scholer, 2006-2007
- Recording Industry Association of America, 1999-2005
- Clerk, Judge David Nelson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, 1995-1996
As CEO of the largest video-game trade association, Stanley Pierre-Louis sits at the intersection of technology, the arts, and intellectual property, focusing on issues like net neutrality and cybersecurity for member companies that include Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Microsoft. His tenure at ESA coincides with what he calls the gaming industry’s “golden age”—the better to advocate for recognition of video games as an art form and highlight the sector’s cultural, economic, and scientific contributions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What do you consider a landmark career moment? What lessons have you learned over the course of your career?
I have to say, early in my career I got to work on some groundbreaking litigation that had cultural impact, and that really shaped how I thought about the intersection of law and policy, and the role of technology. And that was the work I did at the Recording Industry Association of America.
I think it was my first day of work, where we’re talking about this company called Napster and what to do about it. They were starting to take off, and there was clearly going to be a major impact on the recording industry. And how are people going to interact with music now that there is a new form that’s unlicensed and yet you have an industry that’s still bustling and trying to support the careers of artists and songwriters and the like? How do you address the public interest in a case where many members of the public have opposing views about the propriety of that kind of a system coming to bear and at the same time, the social interaction that it creates around people loving the content that our member companies are creating?
Who influenced your career the most?
It’s hard for me to isolate one person because each of the places where I worked I learned just an enormous amount. If I’m really looking at what’s inspired my career, it probably goes back to my parents more than anything else, because they are the most consistent element of my career. My parents came from Haiti when they were in their teenage years; it was a very poor island. They had to have this combination of resilience and grit and humility and gratitude.
There’s a memory I have of when I worked at this law firm when I was in college. It was one of my summer jobs, and I was literally delivering files; lawyers requested them, because that’s how we did it back then. And one of the partners at the law firm—he was one of the Black partners at this firm—would sit me down every once in a while to find out what my career goals were because I was delivering these files—he wanted to know what I was up to. He later ends up becoming a U.S. district judge in Columbus, Ohio. And so whenever he comes down I get to see him, which is a great treat.
You’ve been very outspoken on the application of video games and related technology like augmented reality to other fields. I was wondering if you could speak a little more on the benefit of these technologies.
I grew up with this belief that the arts and technology and all of the things that we learned from it will impact us in positive ways, and a lot of my career path focused on this intersection of the arts and entertainment and technology, what we now call intellectual property. Early in my career, I looked for opportunities for assignments that related to copyrights and trademarks and technology.
The transition to ESA really was looking at another way of deepening the relationship on the tech side, so that I could marry all the backgrounds I had on intellectual property with the emerging technology sector. Looking at the new technologies that are being created around interactive entertainment, what you see is there are opportunities for people to interact not only with the medium but with each other. And that’s why it’s driven a lot of the growth in the video-game sector. What you’re seeing is people love playing great games, they love playing on great platforms and great devices, and they really love being able to connect with others.
And that’s been proven probably the strongest during the COVID crisis, where people were asked to stay home, isolate, wash hands, and do things that didn’t consist of human interaction.
And what most parents who have kids found out was your kids are part of this digital playground; they’re not just playing the games. … That’s what’s driving a lot of the connections that they have with their friends.
What are the most important policy issues for you and your industry right now?
Certainly, intellectual property is one of our deepest priorities because everything we do is intellectual property. Another long-standing interest for ESA has been First Amendment protections. We’ve been one of the leading groups in speaking out on the importance of free expression and protecting the rights of everyone to speak, and so we’ve been party to several amicus briefs.
Overall, one of our big priorities has been reintroducing and refreshing people’s view about what video games are. Forty-one percent of video gamers are women. … When you look at the population of players over 50, it’s about the same as those under 18. You will become surprised at the demographics that the game is inspiring. AARP does periodic studies on the use of video games with older populations. They’ve seen huge spikes in older populations playing video games.
We’re also a tech industry, which means that anything that the tech space is facing, we’re facing—privacy considerations, concerns about usage, concerns about monetization. The Federal Trade Commission has reviewed for years how the various entertainment industries do at protecting minors, and we have been the leader of that group; they have said that we set the standard beyond any other form of entertainment. Back when people went to stores, if you went to buy a DVD or some other form of content, you were less likely to be carded than for a video game because we had training programs in place.
Has the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests affected your advocacy efforts?
Obviously, this is a different time in our, I would say in this nation’s, corporate history, where companies are actually engaging in the public dialogue. We have members large and small, and some of our members aren’t simply games companies—so, for example, AT&T owns Warner Brothers and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, which makes their Harry Potter game that’s coming out, or the LEGO games—and each of them has statements to make. I don’t know that that was true, you know, three years ago, five years ago—that corporations were speaking out as much as they are now. So I think one big change is when companies are willing to speak out on their own.
That also creates opportunities to say, “Where are we as an industry and where are we as a society where things we can do have impact?” And so I met with our board about opportunities to help increase pipelines for not only Black and brown people but also women.
It’s been easy to have a conversation with allies and other partners in the D.C. area to say, “Here’s how we can collaborate on increasing opportunity,” because at the end of the day, if you’re able to use this moment to increase job opportunities and to increase internships, increase exposure that people have, then it creates this modeling where people can try it. … Because it’s in my personal interest, but it’s in our industry’s interest, to have more diverse voices creating games that people like and think are interesting and speak to different voices.
From a diversity perspective, what has changed in the government-affairs industry since you came to Washington? What changes would you like to see in the future?
I think most things are driven by markets and few things are driven by feelings. For example, if you look at the construction of the House, you probably have the most women who’ve ever been serving in the House, and if you look at the minority caucuses, you’ve probably got the largest numbers they’ve had. And with that comes more hiring of people who maybe resonate with those members of Congress or their staffs, and with that comes the need for the government-affairs community to figure out that they need to relate to you in different ways. And I think what draws it in many ways is the fact that you’re seeing the diversity occur in the sphere where you’re trying to influence, and so that is as much a driver as anything else. … I think that’s had a huge impact.
In this moment, every one of our member companies is looking more aggressively at HBCUs, looking to hire more Black engineers. And right now, I think 25 percent of the Blacks that have engineering degrees come out of HBCUs, something like 47 percent of Black women with some kind of engineering degree come out of HBCUs. So if you’re not recruiting at those schools, you’re missing opportunities to really bring in the best, the brightest. What I try to do in my role is doing the outreach to let people know that these opportunities exist. So I’m excited about what that future looks like.
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