The opening of the Trump video game meeting about the connection between gun violence and violent video games was framed by an 88-second long video compilation of violent scenes from various games. Melissa Henson, a spokesperson for the Parents Television Council, said that the video, punctuated by comments from Trump pointing out how violent the scenes were, shocked the group to silence. Following the video, Trump asked the group for their comments and thoughts.
“Those from the video game industry were quick to defend [the video games] saying they were meant for a mature audience and that they weren’t intended for kids to see,” Henson said in a press call following the meeting. According to Glixel, neither Henson nor any of the other anti-video game advocates in attendance could name any of the games that the scenes came from.
Henson continued by saying that the hour-long meeting ended with no real outcome. her group believes that video games are one of three core causes of violence in America, and there was a clear sense that this was not the only time Trump intended to meet to discuss the topic. Henson criticized those in attendance from the video game industry. “What I heard in today’s meeting is that the entertainment industry is still fighting to maintain the status quo and is not ready or willing to confront the impact that media violence has on our children.” No psychologists, researchers, or scholars qualified to make that assessment were in attendance at the meeting.
The White House made an official statement on today’s meeting and the conversation that took place.
During today’s meeting, the group spoke with the President about the effect that violent video games have on our youth, especially young males. The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence. The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence.
Despite stating that there are studies that show a correlation between video game violence and real world violence, more than two decades of studies have been unable to draw any clear links between violent media and violent behaviors. The Trump video game meeting seemed to ultimately result in a stalemate of anti-game advocates sticking to the unsubstantiated ideas that violent video games breed violent behavior, and representatives of the video game industry defending the current ratings system as an effective tool for informing parents and potential players about violent media while maintaining first amendment rights.
The biggest problem with a flashy demo reel of violent scenes in games is how many of them are taken completely out of context. It contains moments from M-rated games such as Wolfenstein, Fallout 4, Sniper Elite 3, and numerous Call of Duty titles, including the famous “No Russian” mission from Modern Warfare 2 that depicted a mass shooting of civilians at an airport. That particular section was important to the story, and was meant to be an emotionally difficult scene, not one that glorified the violent moment. There was also an option for players to skip it.
While anti-video game proponents were happy to talk about the meeting, the ESA opted to stick to a rote statement regarding the discussion.
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. We appreciate the President’s receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion.
From the sounds of things, this isn’t the last we’ll hear of the White House and anti-game proponents taking up a flag against our hobby. If it’s like the past two decades, we’ll see a lot of chatter that will ultimately go nowhere, though the brazen attitudes of those against games could push this discussion further than we have ever seen before. We’ll continue reporting new developments as they unfold.