Trump, Guns, And Video Games, By Viral Awesome Staff
The recent Parkland High School shootings in Florida prompted yet another examination of the content found in video games as politicians struggle to place blame for the deadly phenomenon of public violence that has gripped the United States in recent years.
One side of the aisle is pointing their fingers squarely at US gun laws and regulations, claiming that they are too lax and the ease with which people can purchase high-powered guns without undergoing rigorous background checks, psychological evaluation, or gun safety training. The other side cites the increased violence in popular media, particularly in video games, as being a source for the epidemic of public violence that afflicts the United States.
For those of you new to this debate, both of these positions remain relatively unchanged since the Columbine High School Massacre back in 1999. Back then the popular game that captured the attention of the public was DOOM, now those who seek to blame video games have more of a selection of titles to choose from but the debate remains relatively the same.
And that’s what makes the recent meeting between US President Donald Trump and video game industry insiders so puzzling: Upon its announcement, no one was really sure who was attending this meeting. In fact, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the meeting between the US President and the video game industry, many industry leaders looked towards one another to see who had accepted the invite. The Monday prior to the scheduled conference the Electronic Software Association (ESA) said it received an invitation and would be attending. The ESA is a lobbying group for the video game industry and firmly believes that, “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,” according to Kotaku.
Among the organization’s duties are representing the interests of the software industry, holding the annual E3 show, and “defending video games.”
The press, eager to find out details about the meeting, was somewhat stymied by the conference’s last-minute convocation. Indeed, as hastily organized as it was the sit down between the two parties also seemed somewhat vague in purpose if not execution. No one really knew what to expect out of the meeting other than that video games, in some way, would be blamed for the Parkland School shooting and other similar incidents.
Lasting approximately one hour with no conclusions derived from the meeting, the two sides largely engaged in a discussion and viewed a highlight reel of violent footage from video games that the Trump team assembled.
Speaking with the ESA, heads from Bethesda, as well as the Parents Television Council (who infamously supported a California law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to young children, which was ruled unconstitutional) and Trump’s staff discussed the issue in broad terms. The White House released the following synopsis of the hour-long meeting: “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.”
What is controversial about this position is there are yet no studies that tie violent video game play with actualized violence in the real world despite the popular attribution.
Melissa Henson from the PTC, when asked by Kotaku about the President’s statements on the matter, said he was genuinely interested in hearing from all sides and getting all perspectives.”
While the clip of violence in video games played, the President did allegedly point out the extreme violence depicted but Henson for her part, could not identify the games in the presentation though Kotaku reports that Wolfenstein, Fallout 4, and Call of Duty were part of the presentation.
For its part the ESA stuck to its guns, defending both the rating system and pointing out that school shootings and mass public killings using guns are a uniquely American phenomenon while these games are sold worldwide. The PTC identifies mental health and relative access to guns as contributing factors to gun violence ahead of violent media leading some to speculate that this issue is one of mental health treatment and gun regulations rather than entertainment types or expressions. No conclusions were drawn from the meeting and it largely went the same direction as a 2013 meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden who met with the industry in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings.
No concrete action items came out of the meeting and it was shortly overshadowed by Trump’s trade policies regarding steel. As to whether there will be more meetings in the future remains a question.