Trump Vs. Video Games: What To Expect From Tomorrow’s White House Meeting

Trump Vs. Video Games: What To Expect From Tomorrow’s White House Meeting

Tomorrow, the White House will hold a meeting with members of the video game industry to talk about gun violence. Few people know who will be at that meeting or why it is taking place, but one thing is clear: Like all things involving the Donald Trump administration, the process has been a mess.

Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool (Getty Images)

Since well before he was elected President of the United States, Trump has had a vendetta against violent video games, writing on Twitter in 2012: “Video game violence & glorification must be stopped – it is creating monsters!” Now, in the wake of the February shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead, Trump is reigniting that old fire. In comments shortly after the shooting, he suggested that violent media led to violence, and now, with this meeting, he is taking more tangible action.

The meeting has been a debacle from the start. Reports for the past year have pegged the Trump White House as sloppy, unprepared and disorganised, and by all indications, this planned meeting has followed that same pattern.

The chaos started last Friday, when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump planned to meet with “members of the video game industry to see what they can do on that front”. This was news to the video game industry, whose representatives told Kotaku that day that they had not been invited. The next day, Sanders said invitations were going out the following week. Then earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game lobbyist group, said that it had received an invitation and would be attending. As part of a statement, the ESA added, “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 ESA serves a number of functions, including putting on the E3 trade show, representing big publishers’ business interests, and defending video games. It did the last in 2011, when its lawyers successfully argued to the US Supreme Court that a California law criminalising the sale of violent video games to minors – something not on the books for violent movies, music or other entertainment – violated the First Amendment.

Since Monday, we’ve heard from people involved with the process that the White House meeting has remained unorganised, and that solid information has been hard to come by. Two people involved have described it as wildly frustrating. Nobody knows whether the meeting will be televised, although it appears to be closed to press.

Trump’s reclusive brother, Robert Trump, serves on the board of directors for Zenimax, the company behind game publisher Bethesda and all of its subsidiaries. Bethesda makes many excellent games, some of which, such as the 2016 reinterpretation of Doom, are both gory and rated M for players age 17 and older. In a manner of speaking, violent video games are in fact part of the extended Trump family’s business. We’ve heard Robert Trump plans to attend, although based on how this process has gone down so far, it’s impossible to say that anything is a certainty.

A White House spokesperson told Kotaku this week that it will provide more details on the meeting Wednesday night in its regular Daily Guidance report. The White House also plans to release a full list of attendees today.

When asked by Kotaku if they will be attending this meeting, representatives for EA and Activision referred us to the ESA. Microsoft declined to comment, and reps from Sony, Ubisoft, Take-Two and Nintendo did not respond.

One person who’s angling for an invite is Jack Thompson, the attention-hungry disbarred lawyer who has waged a crusade against video games since the 1990s. In an unsolicited email to me last week, Thompson wrote, “So, Jason, is Trump going to meet with Mexican drug cartel lords to ask them what to do about the opioid crisis. I need to be in that meeting, and I’m working on it, trust me. Jack Thompson (yes, THAT Jack Thompson).”

One thing’s for certain: Trump isn’t gathering video game executives to talk about what might be coming in Friday’s Nintendo Direct. They will be talking about violence in video games.

Researchers have spent decades studying the links between violent games and real violence, and have failed to come up with any correlation. There are conversations worth having here, ones about how video games affect our brains (who among us hasn’t rage-quit or gotten a bit too angry in a heated competitive match of StarCraft or Counter-Strike?). There’s room to talk about the links between video game companies and gun manufacturers, or the psychological tricks that video games use to keep people hooked on loot boxes. But this meeting will not feature those conversations. It will be about the least nuanced – and most easily disproved – issue of them all. Like when former vice president Joe Biden met with video game executives after the Sandy Hook shooting, this meeting will likely lead to no legislation or policy changes, but it will certainly make for good theatre.


  • I feel Trump the businessman blackflip artist will do his standard “We’re in full support of the games industry. Everything’s great etc etc” tweet because that’s the audience in front of him at that time

    and overall, everyone will remain as confused as always to what he is actually going to do about anything…

    Seems to be his governing style for the last year and a bit.

  • I just really hope they know how to write a trump memo. Otherwise no matter what they say he won’t take it in.

    The idiot in chief didn’t even know games and movies already have ratings.

    And if Jack Thompson gets in, it’ll just be a train week.

  • Oh well, if publishers and devs have to move out of the US, perhaps the Australian game industry can benefit somehow.

    • Canada and parts of Europe would still be better for most businesses until Australia decides to give tax benefits to the games industry :/

    • If we had a competent government who could see this as an opportunity and took steps to lure the industry here, but well…….

  • I think Tump’s main priority as far as the video games industry goes is actually getting Microsoft to redesign their controller to better suit his tiny hands.

    • As a side note, it’s interesting how humans tend to use physically demeaning language to render someone who inspires fear and/or hate less monstrous. We’ve seen it famously with Hitler’s somewhat disputed monorchism/cryptorchidism and with Napoleon being derided for his supposed lack of height. Now we’ve got Trump and his small hands.

      • It’s been a political propaganda tool for as long as politics have been around and works both ways, you could write a book on how politicians market themselves and how their enemies seek to diminish them.

        I always roll my eyes when our politicians get photographed buying a pot from the local RSL like a “normal person” or start dumping colloquialisms, only to call out other pollies for doing it.

        My all time favourite has to be Rudd visiting a strip club.
        How the opposition thought that wasn’t going to diminish him in the eyes of everyday Australians eludes me.

    • Or something batshift insane..

      Either/Or the underlying factor is he is so unpredictable. His ego thinks he has all the answers and everyone is telling him no!

  • More flip flopping, divisive and aimless nonsense for the purpose of getting people at each other’s throats rather than the core issues.

    They have been doing this shit for a long time, give the people what they want, be it a hero, a villain or both.

  • the one thing we can be sure that will come out of this meeting will be trump boasting about how productive it was & how great his ”people” are…

  • This will end up with the passing of the Speilberg Act, where all firearms in any game released in the USA will have to be replaced with walkie talkies.

  • “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.” True

    Clearly Trump and the NRA are saying there is both something mentally wrong and inferior about American’s that makes them unstable when consuming this media that doesn’t occur anywhere else 😛

  • I hope he has to run around collecting coins and dodging exploding barrels. Maybe rescue a princess.

  • ESA vs NRA(by proxy). Should be a good fight!

    Dumb arse proxy probably doesn’t realise he has vested interests in both.

    • No it wont… thats a heavy weight that has bought all the judges and is proven undefeated despite being unpopular is protected by a silly rule… vs a small nerdy kid who likes computer games.

      ESA is 100 million dollars per election and 20 years too late to throw its weight around Capitol Hill.

  • Maybe the NRA will try to give Trump a rifle and award like they did his buddy Ajit Pai.

  • Trump needs something to sacrifice to the NRA soon because for some reason this particular massacre isn’t fading from people’s minds so quickly so there’s a definite chance he comes out in belligerent, senile grandpa mode and starts laying all the blame on the games industry during the meeting and starts free associating incoherently when someone has the temerity to point out all of the countries that have both video games and no gun massacres.

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