The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), a charity representing video game enthusiasts in the US, has announced the formation of the ECA Institute to carry out research and lobby law-makers.

The new institute will conduct research and polling into free speech, universal broadband, network neutrality and consumer protection.

Hot topics at the Institute promise to be: gaming and the environment; fair use, copying and piracy; fighting anti-games legislation and taxation; and access to games for the disabled.

A voice for gamers

It will publish reports, provide consultation and expert technical analysis and attempt to "shape both public discussion of its priority issues and decision makers' understanding of gamers' needs and concerns."

Of interest to anyone hoping to make a career in the gaming industry, the ECA Institute also aims to develop and foster game education programs and assist students with scholarships and financial aid. Cash to make (and presumably play) games sounds like a sweet deal to us.

Formed in 2006, the ECA's mission is to give game consumers a voice and to ensure that elected officials hear their concerns and appreciate the growing influence of the gamer demographic.

Gamers represent nearly fifty percent of the US population and spend $12 billion (£8.5 billion) annually on gaming, yet as a group are continually overlooked by both politicians and the mainstream press.

You can check out the website of the Institute, which is sponsored by games and media companies including TechRadar.com's parent company, Future Publishing PLC, at www.ecainstitute.org.