Video Game Industry Confirms Thursday Meeting About Violence with Trump

ESA still says no connection between games and violence.

President Donald Trump will be meeting with members of the video game industry on Thursday to discuss gun violence and school shootings, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The Entertainment Software Association, which said last week it hadn't been contacted by the White House, confirmed today that it will be attending the meeting which it says will provide the "opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices". The ESA also reaffirmed that there is no evidence connecting video game play with violence.

“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence," the association said in a statement today. "Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the US has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation. The upcoming meeting at the White House, which ESA will attend, will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices.”

Last week Sanders said that the video game industry was among the stakeholders meeting with Trump on the issue of gun violence. She said Trump wanted to see what the game industry could do "on that front as well."

"This is going to be an ongoing process and something that we don't expect to happen overnight, but something that we're going to continue to be engaged in and continue look for the best ways possible to make sure we're doing everything we can to protect schools across the country," she said. 

Last month, Trump brought up the potential impact of violent media and video games on school-aged children.

"We have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it," he said at the time. "And also video games. I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts."

He went on to say movies are "so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved." He then wondered if some type of ratings system is necessary to fix the issue, but it's not clear if he's referring to an overhaul of the current ratings systems for games and movies (which do take violent content into account) or an entirely new system.

Last week, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held a press conference along with members of Congress to discuss

In the discussion Rep. Marsha Blackburn(R-Tenn.) noted that one of the things that a lot of "young moms" have asked that the group look at is "entertainment and the video games, the rating system, the movies - how things are approved and what children are being exposed to, and especially children that have some of these mental health issues. And they feel that has a role to play."

Trump followed up saying that he thinks that's an important point.

"The video games, the movies, the Internet stuff is so violent," he said. "It’s so incredible. I see it. I get to see things that you wouldn’t be — you’d be amazed at. I have a young — very young son, who — I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, how is that possible? And this is what kids are watching. And I think you maybe have to take a look at it. You know, you rate movies for different things. Maybe you have to also rate them for terror, for what they’re doing and what they’re all about.

"It’s hard to believe that, at least for a percentage — and maybe it’s a small percentage of children — this doesn’t have a negative impact on their thought process. But these things are really violent."

Blackburn said the chief concern surrounding violent media is whether it is desensitizing children to violence.

This wouldn't be the first time that members of the White House have held discussions with the video game shooting in the wake of a school shooting. Following the 2013 school shooting in Newtown, then President Barack Obama asked then Vice President Joe Biden to conduct a series of meeting with a variety of sectors including mental health, education, movies, TV, gun owners and the video game industry. Following that meeting, Obama issues 23 gun violence reduction executive actions in a nationally televised address. Among the 23 was a Presidential Memorandum calling for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct further research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence.

That research was never conducted because Congress never provided the money for the research. A CDC spokesperson told Glixel last month that the request for the money was not even on the most recent budget.

Patrick M. Markey, a professor of psychology at Villanova University, and Christopher J. Ferguson, a professor at Stetson University, both authors of “Moral Combat: Why the War on Video Games Is Wrong," recently wrote an opinion piece for Glixel detailing the numerous studies which show that video games and school shootings or violence in society aren't linked.

"At present we know that the majority of scholars who study video games are skeptical of links with violence in society," they wrote. "Only about 10 to 15 percent of scholars believe in such links, indicating this is clearly the minority opinion. What is more interesting is that age is a strong predictor of attitudes among scholars. Older scholars and those who don’t like kids are more likely to believe violent games are bad. In 2013 a group of over 230 scholars wrote to the American Psychological Association expressing concern that the APA should no longer release statements implying links between violent games and societal aggression. And in 2017 the APA’s own Media Psychology division released a policy statement requesting that politicians ... refrain from making these kinds of claims."

The game industry has long operated a voluntary ratings system through the Entertainment Software Rating Board. In 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment.