Trump Meets With Game Executives, Watches Clips Of Violent Video Games

US President Donald Trump spent an hour today talking to partisans on both sides of the violent video game debate, without any sort of conclusive outcome. The White House also ran a reel of violent video game footage.

President Donald Trump. Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

The meeting was held following the US president's remarks linking video games to violence in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida last month that left 17 people dead. "I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts," Trump said.

While tongues in Washington wag at the chance to tell wild Trump stories, attendees made this meeting, which was closed to press, sound tame. In attendance to rep the video game industry were the head of the ESA, a DC-based publishers' lobbying group; the head of the ESRB ratings board; and the chief executives of Bethesda and Take Two. Repping the anti-gaming side were an author of books that claim violent video games train killers and a member of the Parents Television Council, which supported the California law to criminalise the sale of violent video games to children which was ruled unconstitutional in 2011.

"During today's meeting, the group spoke with the President about the effect that violent video games have on our youth, especially young males," the White House said in a statement. "The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence. The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence."

Despite the White House's statement, there have actually been no studies indicating a correlation between video game violence and real violence.

Melissa Henson, program director for the PTC, said in a conference call today that "the tone in the meeting was information-gathering. It was a fact-finding meeting." Attendees described the expected clash of views, with the gaming people standing by the ratings system and saying games aren't the problem, while the violent-game critics asserting that violent games are bad for kids.

Asked by Kotaku if the President said anything surprising or impressive, she said, "No, not in particular. He was asking questions, genuinely interested in hearing from all sides and getting all perspectives."

The most provocative thing about the meeting may have been the presentation of an 88-second reel of footage from violent video games. It contains footage from M-rated games such as Wolfenstein, Fallout 4 and Call of Duty, including the notorious No Russian mission that allowed players to witness or participate in a massacre of civilians at an airport. The video is currently hosted on the White House's YouTube page, unlisted. The clips appear to be ripped from YouTubers' footage of the game as well as from the gaming outlet Giant Bomb.

Early in the meeting, clips of violent games were displayed for the attendees to watch. "While the clips were playing, he was pointing out how violent those scenes were," Henson said of the president. "While he was doing that, there was silence around the room." Henson said she was unable to identify any of the games in the clips and, when asked, said no specific games were mentioned during the hour-long session.

The ESA did not offer any interviews regarding the meeting, sticking to a bland statement: "We welcomed the opportunity today to meet with the President and other elected officials at the White House. 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. We appreciate the President's receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion."

In prepared remarks, Henson noted: "What I heard in today's meeting is that the entertainment industry is still fighting to maintain the status quo and is not ready or willing to confront the impact that media violence has on our children."

While the PTC's position is that science shows that video games can cause aggression, there has been no scientifically proven link between games and violence, let alone school shootings. Decades of research has failed to come up with any correlation between violent video games and actual violence. The ESA, as well as many players of violent video games, have pointed out that violent games are popular globally but that gun violence is only rampant in the United States.

Even the PTC, in a conference call, ranked violent media (including movies and TV) as its third-leading contributor to gun violence, trailing access to guns by those who shouldn't have them, followed by mental health.

It's unclear what, if anything, will happen next. A similar listening session hosted in early 2013 by vice president Joe Biden following the Sandy Hook school massacre in the fall of 2012 went nowhere. This meeting, which ended just before Trump's announcement of his controversial steel tariffs, also concluded with a whimper. "We just sort of all shook hands," Henson said. " I think the door was left open for further conversations about this."

Representatives from Take Two and Bethesda did not reply to requests for comment by press time.


Comments

    That 88 second reel could easily have been made up from a variety of films, quite a bit of the content shown was from cutscenes and non-interactive sections of gameplay... If I cherry picked some of the heinous shit I'd seen in movies I'm pretty sure I could shock a room into stunned silence too. Hell, I could cherry pick scenes from Event Horizon alone and have a similar impact.

    I cant believe this conversation is still going on... games aren't the problem, and nor is the violence in them... specifically if you're going down the 'think of the children' route... none of these games have been rated appropriate for children. An 88 second show reel of G rated games would probably result with the audience being stunned into spontaneous outbursts of 'awwww'.

      Event Horizon was such a great movie, I went into that thinking it was some kind of Star Trek knock-off... surprise!

    Well, as a deflection tactic it has done its job. Don't expect anything else to happen unless gun control lobbyists step up their game and more deflection is needed.

      The thing is, they don't really need to deflect anything. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that guns are the problem the gun lobby in the US just says "second amendment" and moves on. The general populace seems to either agree with the gun lobby or not care. The politicians, both Democrat and Republican, seem to scared to do anything. I truly believe gun control in the US is a lost cause.

    no megaton bomb, clearly they did not do there job properly in find violent aspects of videogames. I mean come on they do not have mad world, doom, the punisher (2002), postal, titanfall 2 executions or tomb raider (2013) death scenes. Just some the things which I can think of right now. Tsk Tsk clearly the dude who made that video does not play violent games enough.

    looks like snippets from COD, Fallout, Sniper Elite. honestly it shouldn't be hard to make a reel of violence in video games. I mean that's why they are rated M / MA / R (or whatever the equal is in America)

    personally my pet peeve is parents complaining about X game when clearly X game is rated M / MA / R. nobody told you to cave in to your 12 year old to a game clearly rated not suitable for them

      Games that are rated MA/R generally tend to be rated M in the states, a 17+ rating that isn't legally enforceable. (Admittedly, MA isn't technically legally enforceable here either, but the distinction between M and MA seems to be enough to at least give (some) parents cause to reconsider.) AO (Adults Only) is the next highest rating in America for games, which a significant portion of retailers refuse to stock, which obviously limits the game's exposure and affects sales figures, so some likely slip in at the extreme edge of M (similar to what we saw with MA games here, before we got an R rating) so that they can sell enough to turn a profit.

      As for why parents don't seem to take an ESRB "M" rating seriously when its recommended audience is 17+, and thus analogous to an MPAA "R" rating... no idea.

      I find the same when seeing a news item about a 14 /13/12 year old being beat-up/mugged in a park at 10pm. Every media outlet jumps on the crime, and no ones asks what is a kid doing out and about that late in the first place.
      Side issue for sure, but where is the parental responsibility?

    I'm kinda impressed he actually even bothered to looked at violent video games before demonizing them. Ok, so probably was some intern that put the video together, but it sounds like he might have watched it at some point. For Trump, that comes close to being educated on an issue. I still suspect his answer will involve walls. Maybe we should hide fortnite so he cant attack that

      Almost as if Trump isn't the person the media portrays him to be.

        The problem is that for every sensible thing he does or says, there are 2 or three nonsensical things he does. He's like one of those characters that you never know if they're just acting the fool and are actually quite sharp or if he's just a fool that gets lucky.

          Or being portrayed that way by the media because they know it sella and they want to influence opinion.

            Shame he doesn't have some sort of social media where he can send out quick messages and snapshots of his thoughts, uncensored by general media.

            That was sarcasm. His Twitter does more to sell his stupidity than anybody else ever could.

            "Portrayed that way"

            The media doesnt make up trump saying stupid shit, its caught on camera, he publicly says stupid shit both on twitter and on camera

            Like the "media" hasnt created a fake president to pretend to be trump and say dumb shit, trump does it all on his own

            Sure. Trump never said anything about "pussy grabbing" nor called Mexicans "rapists" and Nazis "very fine people". The evil media actually fabricated those words with clips of previous recordings or whatever! And you know this because he himself told you that the media is evil, and well, his incorruptible word is truth in principle even if petty reality tries to contradict it with trifling little things like "facts" or "evidence".

              Let's try not to over exaggerate things by throwing in words like conspiracy etc. I don't follow the guy religiously so I don't know the things he says or does daily and let's be honest neither do you minus what the media reports on. That pussy grabbing comment was obviously locker room talk from something like 15 years ago where he was explaining if you are famous and have money there are types of women out there who will let you do whatever to them because they only care about your fame and money. The fact that that conversation was recorded is the real problem here because you can't tell me in your entire life you haven't said something that when taken out of context or perhaps misinterpreted would make you sound like a real jerk. Not defending Trump here but I think we need to apply logic here instead letting ourselves get stirred up by the media.

              As for the other comment about me knowing these things because Trump told me, I know the media only reports on what sells or to influence a particular angle of a story because I see it all the time in the local newspaper, national news and even on sites like Kotaku. In terms on when they report on incidents I I attend and let's say someone gets put before the Court, we don't just release all the evidence for the media to splash across the front page. The media has to go with the small snippets they hear from the prosecutor during the bail hearing or what Joe Blow who lives in the street heard.

              Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a prime example of the media attempting to influence a particular opinion. Many "games" websites wrote articles about how there were no POC in the game or how one of the developers is allegedly associated with Gamergate instead of reviewing the game for the story and the technical parts. Nathan Grayson even recently wrote an article about how the game is only popular because of those two things instead of it being a good game that people actually want as opposed to being told what they should want.

                He's portrayed exactly as he was always supposed to be portrayed
                Say one thing, do another and whip both supporters and detractors in to a distracted frenzy, all the while the Overton window widens.

                The US has been playing this game a long time and people fall for it every cycle.
                Same hand, different puppet.

                  Here, allow me to suggest you a constructive way of responding to my apparently baffling, "tinfoil-hat over-exaggeration": Point out to me where did I over-exaggerate. What did I say that did not happen? Of the couple assumptions I made... how are they not perfectly plausible conclusions from observed facts?

                  Oooor you could just be like every other Trump worshipper and turn tail when a conversation is getting too close to having to either admit that your God Emperor may have done a thing that is not MAGA MAGA MAGA, or to loyally throw your lot with him and be seen as complicit in the sayings or deeds of his that are being protested.

                Sure, I'm pretty sure I have said things in the past that I regret, especially when I was very young and very stupid. Trump was... what 55 when he said that? Nevertheless, even if you try to dismiss it as something inconsequential from the past, or spin it as a criticism of a certain type of women (as opposed to the blatant gloating over the impunity that money gives you to do horrible things)... the main problem with that utterance is that when confronted with it, he didn't even attempt an empty apology or the kind of explanation that you spun for him. He not only dismissed it, he also complained, like you do, about the people who revealed it. And then, when people got on his case over it, he turned against the media... also, like you do.

                In other words, in his mind (and yours?) it is not bad the one who says or does horrible things in private, but rather the one who exposes it, the one who "rocks the boat".

                But sure, let us dismiss that one little thing, right? No need to make simple sentence some sort of federal offense or something. But then you start hearing all the other little things that he has said (and still says) about other people, bad or good (usually reserved for bad people) and you get a semblance of the kind of person he is, the contempt he feels for anyone who is not like him and the fury he feels against anybody who refuses to kiss his feet in meek acceptance of his power and wealth.

                  That is some tin foil hat stuff right there. I don't even know how to respond to the over-exaggeration of your reply. Think I'll just leave you to your own thoughts.

    I run D&D games for kids and at first I tried to keep the descriptions of deaths pretty G rated. But then I found out these 12 year olds were playing Fallout, Skyrim and CoD. So I fucking let loose. I'd have to really work hard to come up with anything as visceral to them as what they see in those.

    Fucking lazy parents.

      I ran a d and d game for my cousins last year (all 8-13) and I prefer the "how do you do this" let the player kill things method.

      They were deeply psychotic and it frightened me.

        They work in conjunction. Just like Mercer does it.

    I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts
    And I'm hearing more and more people say the world is flat and vaccines cause autism. Some people are idiots and their opinions should be ignored.

      To be fair trump was one of the people saying vaccines cause autism, hes only two rungs on the conspiracy ladder above flat earthism

      And hes the one who can push bullshit legislation BASED on his stupid ideas, kinda hard to ignore them then

    The one thing that gets me with the argument of violent video games kill children, is that most of the most violent games are in a fantasy setting or not set in the real world unless portraying historical events, which were pretty violent. I can't remember the last time I saw a video game being released about shooting children at a school. Kinda leaves it to tho sociopaths and the really tormented souls that can attain weapons alot easier then they can purchase a dog.

    Perhaps it would make sense to ban bad parents from having children?

      It would, but it can be hard to know ahead of time who is going to be a bad parent. Therefore, the only logical solution is to ban everyone from having children. At least in America.

    Honestly, why would you even turn up? Send in a media hack with a statement to read along the lines of "Guess what countries we sell these games in? All of them. Guess which country has more gun massacres than days in the year? Only this one".

    ...and a member of the Parents Television Council, which supported the California law to criminalise the sale of violent video games to children which was ruled unconstitutional in 2011.I'm not really sure this makes them an "anti-games" group. Isn't it a good thing to support actions that ensure violent games don't end up in the hands of those that shouldn't be playing them?

      That might be another difference between America and other countries. Game ratings are just a suggestion - it sounds like the first amendment means any kid can buy any game they like.

        If the second ammendment means any wacko can buy a assualt rifle

        Then the first means you cant restrict media because you dont like it and anyone can buy whatever media they want for thier family

        If i want to watch saw or whatever other stupidly violent cheesy horror movie, cant stop me, why would games be different?

    A real thing that exists and that was purposefully created for one use and only one use: to wound and kill.

    A thing made up of 0s, 1s, electricity and imagination, created to entertain people in the safety of their home.

    I know which one is to blame for the school shootings!

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