At long last, the highly-anticipated meeting regarding video games and violence in the U.S. will be held today; and thanks to a tweet from CNN’s Jake Tapper, we finally know who will be in attendance.
If you were at all under the impression that this wouldn’t be a farce of a meeting where a group of uninformed individuals try to blame the recent spate of mass shootings in the United States on video games, then it’s time for a reality check.
This list is as lopsided as it gets and it doesn’t help that the list — which is from Donald Trump and the White House itself — is filled with errors. If the level of effort that went into this list is at all indicative of the effort that will go into this “conversation,” then it may actually be an even greater waste of time than I initially feared.
Here is a list of who (and who isn’t) going to be in attendance:
US Members of Congress:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)
In what should surprise no one, all of the people here are Republican. Vicky Hartzler is a frequent critic of video games, so we already know where she stands on the issue; and needless to say, her colleagues will stand with her too. It would have been nice to see a democratic counterpart who is interested in the subject, such as Maggie Hassan, included here, but that would have made this discussion fair and balanced. We can’t have that.
Mr. Strauss Zelnick (CEO Of Rockstar Games)
First name on the external participants section and things have already gone awry. Strauss Zelnick isn’t the CEO of Rockstar Games, as that would be Terry Donovan. Rather, Zelnick is the CEO of its parent company, Take-Two Interactive.
Mr. Brent Bozell (Media Research Center)
One section of the MRC on its website reads:
“The Media Research Center’s unwavering commitment to neutralizing left-wing bias in the news media and popular culture has influenced how millions of Americans perceive “so-called” objective reporting.”
I think it’s pretty clear which side of the line Bozell falls.
Lt. Col Dave Grossman
This retired military man has authored two books: “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” and “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing.”
The first one has no bearing here, but the second is literally a book that makes a direct link between video games, aggression and mass murder in the United States. Again, we already know what he’ll bring to the table.
Mr. Pat Vance (President of the ESRB)
Last time I checked, the president of the ESRB was a woman by the name of Patricia Vance. So, chalk that up as another mistake on behalf of the White House.
Mr. Mike Gallager (President and CEO of the ESA)
The ESA runs the ESRB, so I’m assuming that he’ll argue in defense of video games alongside Vance and Zelnick.
Mr. Robert Altman (Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media)
It wouldn’t be a meeting about violence and video games without someone attached to DOOM, the original violent video game panic title. Considering that DOOM is one of the company’s biggest IPs, it would be rather odd for Altman to turn heel and argue on the side of those directly linking video games and violence.
Interestingly, President Trump’s brother, Robert, is also on the board of ZeniMax, but that’s not really important here I suppose.
Melissa Henson (Mother from Parents Television Council)
Regarded as an “expert on how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large,” Henson has authored several articles linking entertainment and the ills of American society, such as: “#MetToo Fails to Address Hollywood’s Penchant for Marketing Sex-Soaked TV to Kids” and “Big Mouth” is Coming to Netflix on Friday: Beware of this Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.”
Granted those aren’t about video games, but considering that she already links entertainment and the ills of American society together, there’s no reason why she won’t make a similar leap with violent video games and mass shootings in the United States.
With all the attendees listed it’s clear that this is going to be a rather lopsided “discussion.” At best there’s going to be four industry figures arguing against the notion that violent video games are responsible for turning children and teens into school shooters, while there will be seven people — including Trump himself — who are poised to argue that this is indeed the case, despite there being no scientific evidence available to back such claims.
And scientific evidence is the key here, because there are no scientists who will be present there at all. Regardless of what side you’re on, this should disturb you immensely. In a subject that explores the intersection between psychology, entertainment and violence, you’d think that someone who can offer a reasoned, impartial and informed view on the matter would be the first person Trump would book, but he didn’t.
All in all, I find it hard to imagine that this will amount to anything more than a waste of time for anyone tuned in on the matter. Despite, many people — including game journalists — who have at least asserted that there is a link between violent video games and mass shootings, the fact of the matter is that the science has yet to back or refute such claims. A negative can’t truly be proven here, but there is certainly no definitive evidence that affirms the positive.
Let’s be clear here: violent video games are available around the entire world, yet the United States stands unparalleled in the mass shooting department. Clearly, there’s a reason for this epidemic and the blame more likely has to do with us as Americans than video games.