Trump's Video Game Summit: Developers On One Side, Partisan Hack Puritan Cosplayers On The Other

from the cool dept

As we wrote about, the White House’s announcement of a summit with video game executives was initially a one-sided affair, with nobody in the video game industry having any idea what Sarah Sanders was talking about. The White House clarified afterwards that it would be sending out invites to industry representatives after the announcement — which is weird! — and it made good on that promise. We learned several days later that several invites had been accepted from within the industry, such as Robert Altman of Bethesda, Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two, and Michael Gallagher from the Entertainment Software Association. These are pretty much the names you would expect to be called to discuss video game violence, given the games produced by each organization, such as the Grand Theft Auto series.

Less expected was the list of fierce video game critics that were also invited, including Brent Bozell and Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Hartzler has been an avid critic of violent video games, while remaining a staunch supporter of gun rights, while Bozell is the founder of the Parents Television Council. The PTC is exactly the type of organization you’re already imagining: a money-making machine built on the premise of the desire for a puritanical entertainment culture and one that is about as partisan as it gets. One other attendee at this summit of great minds was Retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who trains police and advocates that they use more force rather than less, apparently at least in part due to his belief that officers that kill suspects will go on to have the best sex of their lives afterwards — but for some reason still insists that violent video games are horrible and anyone who disagrees is the equivalent of a Holocaust denier.

In other words, this was almost perfectly crafted to be a shit-show.

And it seems that Trump’s summit didn’t disappoint in this regard. Reports indicate that the whole thing opened up, video game execs on one side of the table and their critics on the other, with Trump showing a sizzle reel of violent video games while commenting on how awful it all is.

Trump himself opened the meeting by showing “a montage of clips of various violent video games,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri. Then, Hartzler said the president would ask, “This is violent isn’t it?”

“They were violent clips where individuals were killing other human beings in various ways,” she said.

One wonders just how violent everyone at the meeting suddenly became after witnessing this distillation of video game violence all in one sitting. For its part, the game execs attempted quite patiently to explain to Trump that science is a thing that exists, and that there have been studies done on the effects of video game violence, and how this is a meeting that never should have been called to order in the first place.

“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,” ESA said in a statement.

Whereas Bozell and Hartzler came away from the meeting bewildered why their non-scientific and ultimately unconstitutional recommendations hadn’t been put in place years ago.

Bozell said he also communicated to Trump a need for “much tougher regulation” of the video-game industry, stressing that violent games “needed to be given the same kind of thought as tobacco and liquor.”

Hartzler, meanwhile, said she’s open to crafting legislation that would make it harder for youngsters to buy violent games.

“Even though I know there are studies that have said there is no causal link, as a mom and a former high school teacher, it just intuitively seems that prolonged viewing of violent nature would desensitize a young person,” she said.

“Even though science says otherwise, my magical powers granted to me by giving birth to a human being and teaching other human beings should rule the day” is an interesting argument for crafting legislation and policy, by which I mean that it’s flatly insane.

The end result of this summit is about what you’d expect. It essentially serves for public self-gratification for those that think violent media is the culprit for all of America’s violent ills, despite this media being available in roughly every other country where these same problems don’t exist. The executives from the industry did right by pointing to such antiquated authorities as science and data, while their critics were left shaking their fists with the backing of the ethereal and non-quantifiable. Those outside the meeting with other ideas for crafting policy in the wake of the Florida shooting, meanwhile, saw this as the shiny distraction it was likely always meant to be.

“Focusing entirely on video games distracts from the substantive debate we should be having about how to take guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement.

We need not agree with Blumenthal’s policy prescription to recognize that his evaluation of this latest Trump summit is almost certainly correct.

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Comments on “Trump's Video Game Summit: Developers On One Side, Partisan Hack Puritan Cosplayers On The Other”

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97 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You quibbling doesn't matter so long as Trump drives the agenda!

The only thing Trump is driving is you and the other authoritarians that refuse to realize that he is lying to them an average of 6 times a day

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/?utm_term=.97c5c48bc30e

When you abandon reality, eventually the world abandons you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m surprised people aren’t applying a form of Hanlon’s razor to everything Trump does. He isn’t racist, just stupid enough to believe that he’d rather not have bottom-basement pay immigrant workers on his “Trump”-endorsed buildings because all immigrants are “stealing” “good” jobs. (Oh, and he doesn’t actually pay the workers, either.)

He’s just bought into the same tired arguments about immigrants that all but the upper classes dismiss. They’re rich, so they should know what’s fact, right? /sarcasm

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

One of his sons made that very argument in his defense. ‘Look, he has pictures that include black people, he can’t be racist!’

Ignoring of course that just because you have a picture with someone, or even spend time with them, does not mean you necessarily like them, and that people will suck up to wealthy people if they think it will benefit them.

hij (profile) says:

Reporters took time to document this

There is no point to having a Washington press corp. All they do is document whichever ring in the circus is lit up on a given day. Letting people know that extreme partisans yell at each other across the table or a serial adulterer had an affair with a porn star is simply not relevant to anything. People love to complain that people are ill informed yet are silent when this is the kind of drivel we have to wade through. If it were not for two bit, hyper focused bloggers like on techdirt I would be completely lost.

Sharur (profile) says:

Re: Reporters took time to document this

I disagree. This is news. It may not be what we want to hear, or we want to happen, but it has happened and it potentially important and relevant. If it leads to an attempt of censorship, the early warning could be valuable in thwarting it.

Would you say the same if it was “violent internet content” rather than “violent video games” in the crosshairs? It would just be the next iteration of the SOPA/PIPA/SESTA/BS hydra to pop up.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Reporters took time to document this

I think his point is that the press should be critical of whatever any government person says. Should that criticism be negative? Not always. But the other position is to be a mouthpiece for government rhetoric, and that is not the job of the Fourth Estate. They should analyze, and give voice to a variety of points of view, not just regurgitate.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Reporters took time to document this

I think his point is that the press should be critical of whatever any government person says. Should that criticism be negative? Not always. But the other position is to be a mouthpiece for government rhetoric, and that is not the job of the Fourth Estate. They should analyze, and give voice to a variety of points of view, not just regurgitate.

hij (profile) says:

Re: Re: Reporters took time to document this

I agree it is news. It is also inane and not important. This kind of meeting only results in smoke and confusion, and it does not result in policy. If this were taking place in a legislative hearing, then it would be important and worth paying attention to. In this setting it is simply a publicity stunt that only serves to distract from other things that directly impact people’s lives. (I do not want to hear about those other things, either, but recognize they are important and worth paying attention to.)

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Reporters took time to document this

Even as a publicity stunt, It has value. Reporting on the event only if it ‘results in policy’ misses value to the ongoing democratic process.

Ars Technica recently did some great research on the Biden meeting on the same topic ~8 years ago, and how he interacted with industry reps, and how his mind changed, and his approached changed, as information was provided to him. It shows a clear process of Biden taking the talking points he was given, going in with an open mind, and changing his mind as clear scientific evidence was presented to him.

Reporting on the Trump Meeting, shows a very different picture. Yes, it is similar to the pictures they keep painting of the Trump administration. But this news shows the current Administration’s apathy for science and data based law making. It highlights the ‘publicity stunt’ nature of the Administration. This can help push Republicans to not re-nominate Trump under pressure from constituants to whom this subject matters (for or against, he did neither side favors with this stunt), and may provide ammunition for democrats up and down the card. It has value beyond the Legislative value.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Reporters took time to document this

Ars Technica recently did some great research on the Biden meeting on the same topic ~8 years ago, and how he interacted with industry reps, and how his mind changed, and his approached changed, as information was provided to him. It shows a clear process of Biden taking the talking points he was given, going in with an open mind, and changing his mind as clear scientific evidence was presented to him.

Letting yourself be trumped by facts isn’t leadership. Leadership is trumping the facts, and its only fake news who wants to report about the sad loser facts.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Reporters took time to document this

I do think that, to a certain extent, they’re taking the bait here. This is a distraction created by the NRA, just like "let’s arm teachers" is. Any reporting on this should come from that perspective: this is happening because the NRA is trying to distract the public from talking about gun control.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re:2 this is happening because the NRA is trying to distract ...

… the public from talking about gun control.

So how well is it working? A number of forums (like this one) are pointing out the First Amendment implications of trying to clamp down on movies and video games. Is that having an impact? Does framing it as a Second Amendment versus First Amendment smackdown help to make it front and centre in the public awareness?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Reporters took time to document this

Heh – When the huge student walk out occurs, I wonder what they will be talking about. Guns? Voting? I do not think the NRA has been very successful this time. The Russians did not get their moneys worth – lol.

The students marching may not be of voting age this fall but 2020 is a different story. I wonder what kind of numbers we are talking about here.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Reporters took time to document this

It is probably both newsworthy and titillating. A win win for the newsies.

Now if they only had the right of first reporting so that no other news outlet could report their ‘breaking’ news and capture ALL the income from that report. A report that is politically important, but belongs in the Sunday edition of a British newspaper in the section where they show some naked breasts.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Yet another question

They keep picking on video games. Maybe those are the current venue. But what happened to picking on Hollywood for their everyday depictions of violence? Don’t give me drivel about ratings and how young people aren’t allowed to see violence in the movies. I’m talking about TV and cable. To a large degree that stuff is out there. And, I bet, there are a lot more teenage (and younger) eyeballs focused on violent videos broadcast by our preeminent, socially responsible, Hollywood impacted, TV and cable networks.

The answer might be found in how much Hollywood, and Hollywood related individuals, contribute to certain PAC’s and directly to certain candidates. Those, of course, who support Hollywood doing whatever it wants, and pointing fingers at Silicon Valley, which is just a target that is easy to describe.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Yet another question

The broader issue is this: How can anyone possibly claim that any kind of media is responsible for causing violence when plenty of other countries read/play/watch/listen to the same media as the U.S.—because, you know, the U.S. exports it to those countries—yet do not suffer from the same plague of gun violence as does the U.S.?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Yet another question

Oh, of course. The entire diatribe is to place blame. Someplace other than where the blame belongs. I have some ideas about where the blame belongs (parenting for one, but not only) but I am willing to state that I am not sufficient an expert to place any kind of absolute blame. I seriously doubt anyone is. I think it might take multiple experts to properly diagnose an individual. How do we get them that opportunity?

That does not mean that the issue cannot be resolved. To do so would take years, if not decades. The resolve question comes into what to do over those years and decades. Banning or controlling video games probably isn’t one of them. Controlling what one watches on TV/cable probably also is not one of them. Getting parents and other adults who are involved with young people looking for signs, then doing something appropriate about those signs (sending them for more professional evaluation and counseling would certainly be a start, which then brings up cost and what to do about that?).

Training people what signs to look for, and how to respond is the first issue. Well maybe the second, who to train might be the first.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Yet another question

I’m not so sure. Other countries have guns, though not at the same level as us. Yet they don’t have the same rate of irrational shootings as us. That leaves us with the dilemma of what the actual difference is. There are some irrational shootings in other countries (leaving out those places that have sustained conflicts for a variety of irrational reasons) but the rate per population seems significantly different.

I find it hard to place the blame on an inanimate object (the gun) rather than something psychological. Do guns contribute? No argument there, but the gun isn’t the instigator.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Yet another question

Other countries have guns, though not at the same level as us. Yet they don’t have the same rate of irrational shootings as us. That leaves us with the dilemma of what the actual difference is.

You just answered your own question there. Other countries that have both guns and access to media with violent content do not have nearly the same issues with guns because they have fewer available guns.

This is not to say that no space exists for the discussion of the effects of media on young minds. Of course it does—and I will gladly welcome it. But until someone can prove that violent media is a direct cause of violent actions, I’ll worry more about the easy availability of guns in the U.S. than the easy availability of the latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Yet another question

The easy availability of guns increases the chances of gun violence, regardless of the mental state of whoever owns a gun. A young child who accidentally shoots themselves with a parent’s gun may never have seen even a single second of violence-heavy media, after all.

Violence and crime will happen regardless of how many guns are available in the U.S.; I would be a fool to suggest or believe otherwise. But reducing the number of available guns will have an immediate effect on how much gun violence can be carried out in this country. The Parkland shooting, for example, might never have happened if the shooter had never been able to legally get his hands on an AR-15.

Guns make killing easier because “causing violent harm to living beings” is the sole reason for which guns exist. Make guns harder to get and you will make the act of murder a little harder for people with violent intent. What makes that logic so damn hard to undertstand?

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Yet another question

Moreover, American gun culture is based around the idea of violence as a solution. Got a problem? Shoot it.

Gun culture also ties into the “rugged individuality” trope and ideas of masculine competence and dominance, e.g. “Consider your man card re-issued.”

Gun culture subscribes to a toxic paradigm of masculinity and personal competence that infers that not having a gun means you’re weak and dependent on others for protection whereas gun owners are completely self-sufficient. That’s the problem; start there.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Yet another question

The answer might be found in how much Hollywood, and Hollywood related individuals, contribute to certain PAC’s and directly to certain candidates.

Nailed it in one. Going after them might results in some terse calls about how if movies aren’t going to be as profitable thanks to stricter limits then clearly the studios aren’t going to have as much money to spend on ‘donations’. As such, movies and tv are right out, and couldn’t possibly have anything to do with violent tendencies.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Limits what they can do long-term

As copyright and patent trolls show, just because your odds of winning in court aren’t good doesn’t mean you can’t make the other side pay, and pay dearly.

It costs politicians nothing more than some time to put together and pass a bill, whereas a company impacted has to pay quite a bit if they want to challenge it in court. The risk and cost is entirely one-sided, such that I imagine any politicians looking to ‘persuade’ companies to cough up some ‘donations’ would feel quite safe in doing so, even if the bills involved were ultimately shot down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Do we need a constitutional amendment?

“A well-trained populace, being necessary to the security of a free people, the right of the people to keep and play games shall not be infringed.”

This is hardly a new problem: There were in Britain, at one time, laws against time-consuming outdoor entertainments that didn’t involve archery–because they distracted people from practice that would make them good militia.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

The Second Amendment Is A Wonderful Red Herring

I’ve said before that the “right to bear arms” is a wonderful tool that the Government can use to take away your real rights. All it has to do is make a feint towards weakening the Second Amendment in some way, and wait for the inevitable hue and cry and strident calls of “from my cold, dead hands” etc.

Then, in the midst of this hullabaloo, it can sneak in laws to curtail your freedom of expression or some other important right. And everybody will be too distracted to complain, or even notice.

The idea that guns give you some protection against Government oppression is a complete joke. And achieves quite the opposite effect.

Anonymous Coward says:

It should be noted,

that it isn’t hard to find scientific papers to back up the positions of billion dollar industries. If recall correctly the deans of Harvard and Princeton both wrote apologist papers for bank frauds in 2008. At something like 250K$ and 150K$ each, they were certainly cheaper than litigation.

It would be remiss to assume that the game industry is any different in that regard. Meanwhile the parent grieving over a grave has exactly how much to spend on conclusion driven research?

But by all means, you can read papers that might as well be titled: “How I sucked a corporate lawyers dick for my sociology research grant”, and come to some conclusions.

There are of course, other ways to collect and evaluate data on this subject. But finding somebody with both the creds and the chops, who can do that research and still eat and pay the rent is a slightly different problem.

That somebody has an effective defense, doesn’t make them right.

There is a point where interpersonal communication becomes battery. That point has been fairly well established over several decades of clinical psychology research. The diliterious effects of TV have also been well studied. The idea that games are completely without any negative impact, given what we otherwise know, is suspect to say the least.

So get back on your fiddle, and play me a tune about the undeniable innocence of people you drink beer with. But your not doing your brand any favors.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: It should be noted,

The idea that games are completely without any negative impact, given what we otherwise know, is suspect to say the least.

On the flip side, the idea that games and other violent media are directly responsible for violent acts, gun-based or otherwise, is suspect to say the least. I was just shy of 10 years old when Namco released the original Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx-16, and I have been playing violent video games since just around that age. Am I a little aggressive? Sometimes. Do I have violent thoughts? Show me someone who doesn’t. Did watching Johnny Cage decapitate people in Mortal Kombat or Tommy Vercetti blow away people in Vice City drive me to kill or harm other people? Fuck no.

If you want to talk about what possible effects that violence-laced media has on impressionable young minds, I’m all for it. But let’s not kid ourselves in thinking that said media is a direct cause—or the sole cause—of violence in our society. And let’s not further fool ourselves by thinking that banning violent media and leaving the actual tools of violence (i.e., guns) untouched will somehow stop all the violence. After all, if the government was to ban all media with even a hint of physical violence in it…well, I am pretty sure that The Bible would sure as shit qualify.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It should be noted,

“It should be noted, that it isn’t hard to find scientific papers to back up the positions of billion dollar industries.”

It is a bit of a stretch to call that scientific, more like collusion.

“undeniable innocence of people”

Did you have a bad day? Why not tell us about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the problem is violent content...

If the problem is violent content then there are two much larger and far more pervasive and influential sources of violent content that should be dealt with first.

I speak specifically of Movies and TV, far FAR more people watch people violently killed and maimed in movies and television shows than video games could ever hope to achieve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If the problem is violent content...

Let’s not forget the nightly news.

I remember watching nightly news coverage of the vietnam war and was very grateful to have a high draft number. I noticed that such coverage was not afforded the public in any of the subsequent wars. Might be they did not want to repeat the 60s but … here we go – they really think they can start up the draft again? This will not end well.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s another gem of a quote from the WP article linked in OP.

>“I would ask them respectfully for once to stop playing politics. If you care about this issue, you will look at Jonesboro, Ark.; Columbine; Newton, Conn.,” said Bozell. “In so many other places where you had mass shootings by children and every instance I just gave, that child who was the shooter was watching violent video games.”

Really? I’ll bet in every instance, they were also drinking caffeinated soda a few days before the shooting! Do we need to ban that as well? Wait, I know what it was… it was the TERRORISTS! They breathed air, the shooters breathed air… coincidence?

Honestly though, between this and mom’s magic feelings, you can’t expect anything else. They’re convinced of the rightness of their cause. No amount of science and logic is going to have any effect on that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

““In so many other places where you had mass shootings by children and every instance I just gave, that child who was the shooter was watching violent video games.””

Interesting. I just read an article reporting on a study which concluded that 80% of mass murders were committed by someone who had no interest in video games, violent or not.

Perhaps this Bozell character is a tad biased.

Anonymous Coward says:

Recent physiological studies have concluded that playing such games may provide some people with a release mechanism for their frustrations or whatever thus avoiding a real world violent situation.

It seems that some politicians and co-conspirators want to cause rioting and mayhem in their never ending quest for superiority over all things everywhere. The end justifies the means and they do not care about anything but winning, spiteful winning – must crush your opposition whomever it is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The only study that I thought was well covered only proved that games cause temporary bouts of aggression ie. "gamer rage". Those crazily destructive videos/gifs are an extreme version, but the feelings of "ARGH! I LOST AGAIN!!" are universal.

The vast majority of gamers will feel this "aggression" subside and fuel their desire to win the game or online game competition next time.

It happens in sports, any kind of competition or betting, too, people go (temporarily) apeshit when they lose. Most won’t hurt someone, but usually express their feelings by yelling and/or hitting/throwing inanimate objects.

I’m not going to hurt, let alone kill another person just because I’ve tossed a controller across the room a few times and screamed in frustration. (What serious gamer hasn’t done this?)

John85851 (profile) says:

The end result of "I just know"

And now we see the end result of a society that thinks “I just know” is more important that scientific data.
Did Hillary Clinton run a child-trafficing ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington? “I just know it’s true” despite any evidence.
Did Hillary do something illegal by using a private e-mail server? “I just know it’s true” despite numerous investigations by the FBI that didn’t find anything.
Was Obama really born in Kenya? “I just know it’s true” despite the fact that he showed his birth certificate over and over.
Has there been any proof that the government is going to take away people’s guns, including the fact that the assault weapons ban was repealed? “I just know it’s true”.

And since our Dear Leader seems to be the master of “I just know it’s true”, of course video games cause violence.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: The end result of "I just know"

Did Hillary do something illegal by using a private e-mail server? "I just know it’s true" despite numerous investigations by the FBI that didn’t find anything.

Except they DID find wrong-doing. They just went on to say that they believed that no prosecutor would bring charges on said wrong-doing, despite the evidence… and they were right. No charges have been filed, nor are any expected at this time.

Ryunosuke (profile) says:

Trump is half right, I will give him that...

He is right that the media is a powerful influence on the minds of young people. THAT is all I will give him. What Trump and his menagerie of twat-waffles is doing, is deflecting blame from THEIR media sources onto those devil worshiping liberal hippies with their vidya games, rock and roll, comic books, D&D, and pre-marital/teen sex.

They conveniently leave out the “Everyone who is not a white male is coming to rape you in the ass and steal your job.” narrative. Or the “War on ‘Christians’/Christmas/Jesus” narrative. Or the “War on our “Southern Heritage” narrative.

And as a final thought, a post I read on Reddit: “Would you rather have these kids pretend to be spec-ops in Call of Duty/Planetside 2/Battlefield, or would you rather have them pretend to be spec-ops with an AR-15 in the real world?”

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