The National Committee for Games Policy was an organisation that purportedly was set up to police and monitor the video game industry for any misbehaviour from game publishers, the studios they support, or the developers themselves, as well as advise US lawmakers and politicians on issues they might be commenting on or writing laws for. “Was” is the operative term here, because the NCGP was an organisation, right up until the steering committee resigned on 12 January 2018. It is now closed indefinitely.
In the final twist to a bizarre series of events that began when the NCGP unceremoniously announced their formation, the final tweet sent out by the organisation’s director, Kenneth Tran, was short and to the point.
The rest of the NCGP’s Tweets have been deleted, and its other social media sanitised. It no longer bears links to Kenneth Tran or the NCGP’s website. Except Reddit though, that’ll always be on the internet. Kenneth Tran’s Twitter has also been sanitised, with only a link to the 7gatekeepers website on his bio (which was a little rabbit hole that Tran set up, and then turned into a marketing website). At last count, the NCGP had 25 members in a sub-committee and seven affiliates.
In a short-lived attempt to figure out what was going on behind the scenes, I actually joined it. While none of what I learned as a result is particularly interesting now (they had spies within the organisation, politicians were allowed to join and not tell anyone, including being able to influence things in the background), the entire thing was almost set up to fail, as if it was just another prank by Tran to get people interested in him and talking about what he was doing via the NCGP’s social networks. The NCGP was also registered as a section 527 organisation under US law, which means that it is legally a lobby group that pays off politicians to motivate for changes in policy and law on their behalf.
I contacted Jack Wegrich, co-founder of the NCGP, a friend of Tran’s, and the organisation’s 17-year old vice chair, to ask him about why he resigned from the organisation. Wegrich resigned from the organisation because Tran was unable to separate his personal views and opinions from those of the NCGP’s, ruining the organisation’s PR image.
“By disastrous past I was simply referencing his inability to separate his personal endeavors from the NCGP,” said Wegrich in an email. He told me that the breaking point was seeing a 20-minute video posted on the NCGP’s Twitter by Tran trying to “defend his personal reputation and the mission of the NCGP from the ‘mainstream media’. I realized after this that the organization was unsalvageable and that I would have to return to the drawing board on the whole idea”.
Wegrich also shared how the social media fallout happened:
“I was originally to be in charge of social media and started managing the account like it was a grassroots campaign. After approximately 24 hours I left cell service on a trip unrelated to the NCGP, and so he managed the account from Tuesday onward. I was simply not around to check any of that. There wasn’t any major friction, I would have preferred to avoid engaging with the press over Twitter, believing it to be unprofessional, but that’s just a preference. The only real problem was when he tied his own personal reputation and face t9 the organization. The plan was always to eliminate our public involvement as soon as some of the more reputable people involved shed their anonymity. Realistically, I should have realized we were doomed as soon as the press coverage took off; the plan was to avoid that until we actually had something to show the press.”
The steering committee was also a bit muddled up because it wasn’t fully formed. The majority of decisions were taken by Tran and Wegrich on their own, with occasional input from Danial Doan, co-founder of Black Shell Media, a digital marketing company that approaches indie game developers to promote their games.
“The others were just placeholders. The real people involved would have stepped up to take those positions later,” Wegrich said. “Once the negative press started coming in, the people the plan hinged on were unwilling to admit involvement.”
Emails to Kenneth Tran for comment went unanswered at the time of publication.