President Trump's Video Games Meeting Included A Violent Game Montage
Trump's roundtable with the games industry has taken place.
President Donald Trump's administration today hosted a roundtable meeting to discuss the subject of violence in video games and their effects on young players. It brought together various representatives from the video game industry, including the heads of the ESA, ESRB, and Take-Two, as well as lawmakers and individuals who have assigned blame for violent incidents to video games in the past. Although it was closed to the press as it happened, here's what we've since learned about the discussion.
The White House has yet to comment on the meeting. In lieu of an official transcript, we only have after-the-fact comments and a Washington Post report to clue us in as to what was talked about. Trump apparently started the meeting by showing off video of unspecified violent games, which has since been released on YouTube. It shows particularly violent, context-free moments from Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (the infamous No Russian scene), and The Evil Within, among others. You can watch it below.
According to the report, there were calls from those in the meeting, including Media Research Council president Brent Bozell, for "much tougher regulation" that would treat games like tobacco and liquor. In a statement released on Twitter after the meeting, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (a Republican from Missouri) said that she believes in an "all-encompassing approach" and that discussion should not be limited to just video games. She called for similar meetings to be held with members of the movie industry, adding, "Today's meeting was an opportunity to learn and hear from different sides to violence in schools. I believe significant progress was made today, and my hope is that we can build on the progress in the future."
Sen. Marco Rubio (a Republican from Florida) pointed out there has been "no evidence" suggesting the Parkland shooter was motivated by playing video games. He added that he wants to "mak[e] sure parents are aware of the resources available to them to monitor and control the entertainment their children are exposed to."
The Washington Post story offers little of the games industry's side during the meeting, except to say they refuted the alleged connection between games and real-life acts of violence. The Entertainment Software Association, the industry's lobbying group that is also responsible for organizing E3, was also in attendance and released a statement this afternoon.
"We welcomed the opportunity today to meet with the President and other elected officials at the White House," a spokesperson said. "We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry's rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices. We appreciate the President's receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion."
Although he was not in attendance, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (a Democrat from Connecticut) issued a statement decrying the attempt to deflect attention from the issue of gun control. "I'm willing to look at anything and everything that may help address the gun violence epidemic that has swept our country--including addressing the culture of violence many see in America today," he said. "But there is an urgent need now for meaningful action on extreme risk protection orders, expanded background checks, and banning assault weapons. Blaming video games or the entertainment media for the 90 American lives lost every single day to gun violence is an unacceptable excuse to avoid talking about serious policy proposals."
Today's meeting was hastily announced last week in the wake of the recent tragedy in Parkland. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would be "meeting with members of the video game industry to see what they can do on that front." At the time, no specifics were shared about who would be involved, and the ESA said it had not heard anything about it. The specifics of the meeting then came into focus this week, though a list of attendees was not made public until less than a day before it was set to take place.
Trump has suggested that violent video games are a problem in the past, tweeting that they are "creating monsters" back in 2012. After the shooting in Parkland, he referenced how he's been told "the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people's thoughts." He went on to suggest that a movie and or video games rating board is needed, despite the fact that those already exist in the US in the form of the MPAA and ESRB.
More broadly, lawmakers have taken issue with violent video games for more than 25 years. An uproar around the violence in games like Mortal Kombat is what led to the founding of the ESRB, which is a self-regulatory body. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, then-Vice President Joe Biden also met with the games industry to discuss violence, though that ultimately had little impact in terms of legislation. Most notably, a 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court struck down a bill that would have blocked the sale of violent video games to minors.
Studies have yet to connect the motives of shooters with a connection to violent video games. In fact, there's research that suggests school shooters may be less interested in violent games than other people. The ESA has frequently cited the fact that games are played internationally as further evidence that they are not to blame: "Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the US has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation," it said recently. A recent Washington Post story further suggests this is a US-centric problem.
Video games often take the blame at times like this, but whether any of this talk results in real legislation remains to be seen. Drafting laws is a challenging process, and without a convincing scientific argument, it may prove difficult to pass a bill. One thing is for sure, though: This is unlikely to be the last time we see politicians pursue this path.
Thumbnail image credit: CBS News