Over the past few weeks, video games and the U.S. government have overlapped more than usual, with conversations taking place in response to a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Here’s a run-down of the recent political news updates that have potential to affect video games.
On March 8th, President Trump met with members of The Entertainment Software Association to have what they called a “fact-based conversation” about video game violence. The White House published a ‘violent video game’ reel (below) that President Trump showed at the beginning of the meeting, with Washington Post reporting that he asked the group: “this is violent, isn’t it?”
In attendance at the meeting were Members of Congress Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Vicky Hartzler. Alongside the CEO of the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) and members of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board), only two video game publisher executives were present, being the CEO of Take-Two Interactive (parent company of Rockstar Games), the CEO of ZeniMax Media (parent company of Bethesda Softworks). Outside of the industry, guests included Dave Grossman, author of “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression and the Psychology of Killing”.
While we don’t know the exact details of the meeting nor any proposed outcomes, the ESA put out a statement saying that its representatives focused on the many studies that disprove the correlation between real world violence and video games. “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,” the ESA said.
The meeting was in direct response to the following:
On February 22, U.S. President Donald Trump pointed to mature content in video games as a potential cause of youth violence during a meeting on school safety. He said, “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that’s the movies. You see these movies, and they’re so violence, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”
While there are rating systems in place from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for films and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for video games, it’s possible Trump was suggesting a government-run rating system should replace those.
NEW: President Trump to meet with members of the video game industry next week as part of discussion on school safety, Press Sec. Sanders says. pic.twitter.com/XcUetGVBzy
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 1, 2018
On March 1, it was announced that President Donald Trump was scheduled to meet with “members of the video game industry” to discuss violence in games. The news came from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, via NBC News’ Peter Alexander on Twitter.
At the time, the Entertainment Software Association, of which many major video game publishers and developers are members, told IGN that its members have not received an invitation to meet with President Trump about video game violence.
On March 2, Peter Alexander tweeted an update, saying that White House officials told him “invites to video game companies will be going out in the coming days.”
According to Kotaku, the meeting was unorganized and solid information was “hard to come by”, and two of their sources described it as “wildly frustrating”.
On February 23, the Republican member for the Rhode Island State House, Robert Nardolillo, proposed a tax increase on games with ratings of M or higher, by 10%. The tax increase would be used to fund mental health provisions in schools.
“There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not,” Nardolillo said in a statement. “The bill would give schools the additional resources needed to help students deal with that aggression in a positive way. Our goal is to make every school in Rhode Island a safe and calm place for students to learn. By offering children resources to manage their aggression today, we can ensure a more peaceful tomorrow.”
Nardolillo did not provide sources to substantiate the claim that children who play violent video games act more aggressively than those who do not.
On March 2, a 16-year-old boy in Illinois was arrested after posting a video of himself on Snapchat, playing an undisclosed violent video game with the caption “Y’all need to shut up about school shootings or I’ll do one.” The young man was supposedly “annoyed” by social media conversations that took place in the wake of threats to his own school that resulted in the school closing its two campuses as a safety precaution. The defense argued that the teen’s video was a joke, but the prosecution rebutted this position and banned him from playing violent video games.
An NRA-endorsed game called NRA: Shooting Range was also recently removed from the iOS app store, though this is an isolated incident that does not seem likely to influence any other games. You can read more about that story here.
IGN previously covered a decade-long study of over 11,000 children in the UK which concluded video games have no impact on behavior, attention, or emotional issues in children. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court struck down a California law banning the sale of violent games to children on First Amendment grounds, establishing a national precedent. For more information on the topic, read IGN’s in-depth piece on violent video games.