Opinion: Trump's meeting about video game violence is hilariously one-sided

Jake Hughes
March 08, 2018 - 11:30 am

I've been a gamer my whole life. My first console was the Atari 2600, to completely date myself. I have vivid memories of being eight years old in my dad's office room upstairs at our house, playing Doom 2. I specifically remember putting in the infamous "I-D-D-Q-D" God mode code, and punching demons until they exploded into a fleshy pink mist. I would giggle uproariously as I took a shotgun to a zombie soldier's head, take pleasure in their pained cries and gleefully exterminate their comrades. As I got older, the games only got more violent: Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Grand Theft Auto 3 and the list goes on.

I say all this to assure you that if there was a link between video games and real-life violence, I'd make the Manson family look like the Brady Bunch. So, it irks me when I heard that President Trump is hosting a meeting at the White House today. In recent interviews, Trump has been hinting at blaming mass shootings and violence on violent imagery in TV, movies and video games. This is not a new phenomenon.

Video games have been the target of choice for politicians since they started getting more "realistic." Those old enough might remember former Senator Joe Lieberman ran a campaign against the original Mortal Kombat, asking politicians to outright ban violent video games. Later on in 2005, then Senator Hillary Clinton introduced legislation to make it illegal to sell or rent games rated "Mature" or "Adults Only" by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

So, in the wake of yet another mass shooting, it's not surprising that President Trump is calling this meeting. What is surprising—or some may say not so much—is how laughably lopsided the meeting is. CNN's Jake Tapper recently got ahold of the list of attendees, and it reads like a who's who of the "video games are evil" crowd:

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has not outwardly shown a disdain for video games, but he has a habit of following the conservative crowd. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), who has been vocally against video games for a long time. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), who again, has not said anything about games before, but she, like the others, is a Republican, and apt to blame societal woes on anything that she doesn't like.

But it's not just politicians. Also attending is Brent Bozell from the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group that has been blaming mass violence on video games since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Melissa Henson from the Parent's Television council will be there, a woman who has gone on record multiple times blaming Hollywood, television and other media for the "downfall of society." Retired LTC Dave Grossman will also be in attendance. Surely, a retired soldier would not make such baseless accusations... except for the books he wrote, like “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” and “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing.”


Fortunately, we do have some high profile people on our side. Robert Altman, the Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Studios—the parent group of Bethesda Studios, the publishers of Doom, the Fallout series, and other violent games—will be there, as will Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the minds behind the Bioshock, Borderlands, and XCOM games. As shown, these guys preside over some of the mos popular, and most violent, games out there, so they're likely to stick up for their industry. Patricia Vance from the ESRB will be there, and while they may not be the most popular entity, it's likely they will stand up for games. Finally, Mike Gallager of the Entertainment Software Association, who has at multiple times on the past gone on record stating the truth: that in the 20 plus years we've been studying them, there has been no conclusive link between violent video games and violent behavior.

So, including Mr. Trump, that's seven people at this meeting who will likely agree that video games and violent media are at least partially to blame for recent mass shootings, and only four who will argue against it. Not the best of odds, I know. But to make you feel better, I can tell you with something nearing certainty that nothing will come of this meeting. The absolute worst thing they could say is, "We need to keep a close eye on this issue," and then everyone will forget about it... until the next incident of mass violence. Because Games, music, and movies are the perfect scapegoat for these types of situations.

Historically, the liberals have wanted to ban games. In this day and age, it's more my fellow conservatives I'm worried about, with their adherence to so-called "traditional family values," which basically translates to "anything I don't understand is the Devil." Games are scary, loud, colorful, and they command attention, but they are still relatively new. Gaming as a whole didn't become mainstream until the turn of the century. Before that, it was seen as just a kid thing, because only kids were playing them. But now, those kids are grown up, and guess what? They're still playing games, and shockingly not committing mass violence.

Now, have there been mass violence scenarios where the shooter played violent games and listened to violent music? Sure, but I could list a litany of things that they also had in common, such as a history of mental issues, or a lack of a family support structure. That is the root issue here: people always want to blame the outside for their children's problems. "Oh, it's not my fault that my child is such a bad seed! No, no, it's.... uh, it's that Call of Duty game and those scary Metallica records!" Heh, first and foremost, if Metallica is your measure of "violent lyrics" please don't Google Cannibal Corpse.

More importantly, it most certainly is your fault. Most of these killers come from broken homes, lacking in guidance or support. That's not to say that single parents can't do just as good a job as two-parent households, it's more about the child never being told right from wrong, never taught that violence isn't the answer.

To make a long story short(too late), this meeting is a farce. Nothing of value will come of it and if there is, it was already decided by President Trump before the thing even happened. This is a hastily put together ploy by the president to take attention away from guns and mental health, a way to say, "See?" "We're doing something," without actually doing something. And again, there has never been a proven psychological link between violent behavior and video games.

Take it from a guy who, again, has been playing Doom since age eight and listening to death metal since age 13: violent media doesn't make you crazy. Crazy makes you crazy.