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.