What happened at today's White House meeting on videogame violence

US president Donald Trump opened today's meeting with representatives and critics of the videogame industry by playing "a montage of clips of various violent videogames," according to this Washington Post report. The clip, which can be seen below, includes scenes from Call of Duty games, Dead by Daylight, Sniper Elite 4, and The Evil Within. Rep. Vicky Hartzler told the paper that Trump asked other attendees, "This is violent, isn't it?" while it played.

The meeting was described by Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council as "respectful but contentious." Her organization believes that a "steady diet of media violence is having a corrosive effect on our culture," while game industry executives maintained that there was no connection between violent media and violent behavior in the real world. 

Brent Bozell of the Media Research Council appeared to take a harder line, however, calling for "much tougher regulation" of the game industry, akin to the approach taken to tobacco and alcohol. "I think [Trump] is deeply disturbed by some of the things you see in these video games that are so darn violent, viciously violent, and clearly inappropriate for children, and I think he’s bothered by that," he said. 

Bozell also dismissed a statement from Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal which described the effort to blame videogames for gun violence as "an unacceptable excuse to avoid talking about serious policy proposals." 

"I would ask them respectfully for once to stop playing politics. If you care about this issue, you will look at Jonesboro, Ark.; Columbine; Newton, Conn.," Bozell said. "In so many other places where you had mass shootings by children and every instance I just gave, that child who was the shooter was watching violent videogames." 

Following the meeting, Rep. Hartzler released a statement on Twitter praising the president's effort to solve the problem of violence in schools and society, and suggested that it should actually be broadened. 

"I believe the solution to curtailing violence lies in an all-encompassing approach, focused on several different factors that may contribute to school shootings," she said. "Discussions should not be limited to just videogames and guns. The president's approach of leaving no stone unturned is prudent and similar meetings with the movie industry pertaining to gun violence on film should also be conducted."

The ESA issued a statement of its own following the meeting, saying that it "welcomed the opportunity 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 videogames and violence, First Amendment protection of videogames, and how our industry’s rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices," it said. "We appreciate the President’s receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion." 

I'm not sure how much appreciation a conversation of this sort really deserves, although I suppose it would be impolitic to suggest that the exercise was pure pandering and otherwise a complete waste of time. The ESA's diplomatic response contrasts with a much firmer statement from the IGDA, which did not attend. "Let's be blunt on video games and gun violence—we will not be used as a scapegoat," the organization said yesterday.

This may not be the end of it, as a Trump rep said yesterday that this is "the first of many with industry leaders to discuss this important issue."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.