Today, President Trump brought together top executives from the gaming industry, parent groups and members of Congress for a meeting to discuss violence in video games. Announced last week as part of President Trump's response to the Parkland shooting, the meeting was hastily assembled and has been criticized as a deliberate distraction from more concrete weapons control measures.
The process was closed to the press, but, according to all the reports, the meeting was strange. The president opened the meeting by showing a superposition of hypervital game scenes compiled from the Twitch and YouTube transmissions, a compilation that was then published on the official White House YouTube account. According to The Washington Post, the president asked the group, "This is violent, is not it?" After the video finished.
Attendees said that there was very little talk about government restrictions on content (which would present significant legal challenges), and the conversation focused on stricter age restrictions or voluntary measures that could be undertaken by the industry itself. "The president encouraged [game developers] to explore things they can do on their own to make things healthier in society," said the president of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell, "and that's where it was."
In part, that may be the result of who attended. None of the three conservative critics present focuses particularly on video games, and each is better known for his work in other areas. The member of the TV Council of the parents Melissa Henson writes mainly on the liberal values in Hollywood, whereas the lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman specializes in teaching military tactics to the police officers. (He was quoted as saying to the officers: "It's your job to put a piece of steel in your fist and kill those bastards when they come to kill our children," in a recent profile in the Men's Journal.) Bozell himself has recently focused on raising awareness of allegedly anti-Christian intolerance in ABC's The View.
"The president encouraged [game developers] to explore things they can do on their own to make things healthier in society"
On the industry side, Rockstar Games CEO Strauss Zelnick and Zenimax CEO Robert Altman were invited, as was Mike Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association.
Members of Congress seem to have been disinterested in forcing the issue. In a statement after the meeting, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) focused on non-gaming measures. "Discussions should not be limited only to video games and weapons," said Hartzler's statement after the meeting. "The President's focus on not leaving stone unturned is prudent and similar meetings should be held with the film industry about armed violence in films." Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was included in the White House announcement, can not attend due to scheduling conflicts.
The gaming industry, for its part, has remained firm. "We welcomed today the opportunity to meet with the President and other elected officials in the White House," the Entertainment Software Association said in a statement. "We discussed the numerous scientific studies that establish that there is no connection between video games and violence, the First Amendment protection of video games and how our industry's rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment decisions."
A recent study from the University of York supports ESA's claim, and found no evidence of a link between violent video games and violent behavior. When former Vice President Joe Biden faced violent video games at a similar summit in 2013, the industry used the same lack of scientific evidence to convince him to back down.
"There is a program that contains absolutely absolutely amazing violence."
It is still a mystery where Trump will come on the subject and how that could translate into a real policy, but even the toughest critics in the room seemed to think that direct restrictions on violent content were off the table.
"I do not think there should be any government control over that," Bozell told The Verge. "But there is a programming that contains absolute and amazing violence, we have all seen it, is it appropriate in a civilized world to have that? Or could the industry listen to the best angels of its nature and say: we just do not want to do it, voluntary form?
Without voluntary industry restrictions, the result is likely to be a retread of President Trump's previous proposal to arm teachers, also widely criticized as a distraction tactic. Congress is expected to vote next week on the first school safety bill since the Parkland shooting, allocating $ 50 million a year for teacher training and reinforced classroom doors, among other things. The bill does not contain any weapons control measures.