The Internet exploded when it found out that Trump was arranging a meeting with video game executives, industry specialists, and state representatives to learn more about the violent effect of video games on today’s young adults.
In what appears to be an effort to learn more about whether video games cause young adults to behave violently, Trump invited several individuals in the video game industry (as well as three Republican state representatives) to have a discussion about the effect of video games on our nation’s youth.
Supposedly, the meeting opened up with Trump presenting a minute-and-a-half long video shown below showing scenes ripped from various play-throughs of games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fallout 4, Wolfenstein: New Order and more. Apparently the room was silent, but Trump interjected with, “This is violent, isn’t it?”
Among the invitees included Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, and Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby. Out of the three, Hartzler seems to be the most concerned about the impact of media and the violence stemming therefrom and has previously cited video games as an active contributor to violent behavior.
Representing the video game industry was Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB (who has unfortunately been referred to as “Mr. Vance” due to a mistake in CNN’s report); Michael Gallagher, President and CEO of the ESA; Robert Altman, Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media (the parent company of Bethesda); and Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take Two Interactive.
Likely critics of the video game industry included Brent Bonzell, President of the Media Research Center (MRC); Melissa Henson, Mother from Parents Television Council (PTC); and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the author of various books such as Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing published in 2016.
Each of these individuals has, in some form or another, made it clear that they believe video games (or the media in general) is a huge contributor to violent behavior in today’s youth. For example, Bozell reported in a 2013 article that “Democrats isolate the inherent evil of a gun almost as if it’s self-shooting, while denying our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters.” The Amazon.com summary of Lt. Col. Grossman’s above-mentioned book states that “[it] will become the focus of a new national conversation about video games and the epidemic of mass murders that they have unleashed.”
Henson told Kotaku that “the tone in the meeting was information-gathering. It was a fact-finding meeting.” She also reported that Trump asked questions and was “genuinely interested in hearing from all sides and getting all perspectives.”
At this point, there is plenty of scientific evidence backing up the assertion that video games are not the cause of mass-shootings or violent behavior. As recently as January 16, 2018, the University of New York did a study with 3,000 participants and concluded that they found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.
While we don’t know what will happen at this point, it is definitely too soon to worry about whether Trump is going to ban violent video games. The fact that this conversation is happening should not be a surprise. Back in 2013, a nationwide conversation similar to this one happened following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook. As Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile stated in his recent interview with NPR, “the problem is that we’re seeking a simple solution to a complex problem.”
Author, Caroline Womack, is a 2L at Quinnipiac University School of Law and primarily studies intellectual property law, focusing on video game and internet law.