Last week, President Trump called a meeting to meet with members of the video game community in order to talk about video games and gun violence. That meeting transpired today, and according to those in attendance, the meeting did little, and wound up being generally uneventful.
This meeting was called by Trump in wake of the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida. Many saw this meeting as a distraction from more concrete gun-control measures, and other saw this as a classic move by officials to use video games as a scapegoat for gun violence. The actual meeting was closed off to the press, so all that we know of the meeting comes from first-hand accounts from those in attendance.
Along with President Trump, other members of Congress were scheduled to attend this meeting, but Senator Marco Rubio was unable to make it:
- Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)
- Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri)
- Representative Martha Roby (R-Alabama)
Members of the video game community that attended the White House today that acted as defenders of games were the following representatives:
- Mr. Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two Interactive (Former Chairman of ESA), CEO of Rockstar Games
- Mr. Pat Vance, President of Entertainment Software Rating Board
- Mr. Mike Gallagher, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association
- Mr. Robert Altman, Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media (parent company of Bethesda Softworks)
On behalf of the critics of video game violence, the following representatives also had their place during the meeting:
- Mr. Brent Bozell, Media Research Center
- Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (Ret.), “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” and “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing”
- Melissa Henson, Mother from Parents Television Council
The President allegedly opened up the meeting by showing the following video:
After the video ended, the President stated, “This is violent, isn’t it?” Although this strange opening might lead people to at first believe that talks would be about banning violent video games, there was actually little serious talk about government restrictions on content. The meeting itself mainly focused on more age restrictions and voluntary measures that the video game industry should take upon itself. “The president encouraged [game developers] to explore things they can do on their own to make things healthier in society,” said Media Research Center President Brent Bozell, “and that’s where it was left.”
A large part of the lack of productivity with the meeting probably came from the fact that the meeting was hastily arranged. Of the three critics that were asked to come – Brent Bozell, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, and Melissa Henson – none have a primary focus on video games, as they all allocate their time in areas outside of electronic entertainment. The members of congress present were also uninterested in forcing the idea that violent video games have a hand in gun violence. Vicky Hartzler was specifically more focused on non-gaming measures to solve gun violence. “Discussions should not be limited to just video games and guns,” said Hartzler’s statement after the meeting. “The President’s approach of leaving no stone unturned is prudent and similar meetings with the movie industry pertaining to gun violence on film should also be conducted.”
Members of the video game industry held their own during the meeting. The ESA, who was represented by former CEO, Strauss Zelnick, and current President and CEO Mike Gallagher, released a statement on the matter.
We welcomed the opportunity today to meet with the President and other elected officials at the White House. 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.
This would not be the first time that the White House or public officials have gone after violent video games. Jack Thompson, an American attorney, is an advocate of the belief that violent video games can breed violent people. Even former Vice President Joe Biden had called a summit meeting in 2013 similar to the one Donald Trump had called today. Some critics then even claimed that it was an unproductive event as well. Even if today’s meeting’s focus was to force the issue that violent video games can make people violent, there is a recent study that adds to the long list of scientific studies that show no correlation between violent people and violent video games. Similar studies in 2013 were also used to defend video games during the Vice President’s summit.
While critics were non-gaming focused, they all believed that government restrictions were off the table. Even though Brent Bozell is impartial to violent video games, he “[doesn’t] think there should be any government control over it.”
To make a long story short, the meeting with the video game community at the White House wound up surprisingly unfocused on shifting blame for gun violence onto violent video games. Congress, and even the representatives of video game critics, had nothing to push onto the gaming industry.