Yesterday (August 1) saw a panel at the 2017 Games for Change Festival that featured representatives from Electronic Arts, the company behind such popular game franchises as Battlefield, Mass Effect, FIFA and The Sims, among many others, and Take-Two Interactive, the company behind the Borderlands, Bioshock and Civilization games, among many more. During this panel, these representatives discussed the policies of United States President Donald Trump and how those policies are bad for the video game industry.
According to Polygon there are three policy areas in particular that Trump is implementing in ways that damage the video game industry: immigration, education and trade. The issue of immigration has been a cornerstone of Trump’s platform since his campaign for president started in 2015. Most recently, Trump has shown support for a bill brought to the senate by Republicans Tom Cotton from Arizona and David Perdue from Georgia. This bill aims to cut the amount of legal immigrants entering the country by half. Craig Hagen, the global head of government affairs at EA, stated, “There is a constant shortage of qualified, high-skilled labor within our industry.” The anti-immigration policies perpetuated by Trump and Senate and House Republicans would make it even harder for “qualified” and “high-skilled” immigrants to enter America and get jobs in the gaming industry. Haden went on to explain that these immigration policies would worsen the industry’s problem with being short on workers educated in such fields as software engineering, game designing, data analysis and artificial intelligence.
Additionally, Alan Lewis, the vice president of corporate communications and public affairs for Take-Two, explained that, due to the current political climate, immigrants are becoming less and less interested in coming to and staying in America. Instead, other countries that are more immigrant-friendly, such as Canada, are taking all the skilled immigrants. In fact, many skilled Americans have even been wooed by Canada and have been making the move there, meaning that not only is America not gaining workers, it is losing them as a result of these immigration policies.
Hagen also goes on about how the Trump administration’s policy on education is hurting the industry domestically, while their immigration policies hurt the industry abroad. Hagen explains that this administration’s Department of Education lacks a “widespread policy program” for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, which is important for those looking for work in the game industry. If the administration’s proposed budget for 2018 were to pass, 9.2 billion dollars would be cut from K-12 education as well as higher education across the country, which means public schools would lose 13.5% of their funding, which obviously wouldn’t help the matter.
Then there’s the issue of international trade. Over the past several years, the video game industry has been transitioning from physical sales to more digital sales. During the previous fiscal year, 55% of Take-Two’s sales and 61% of EA’s sales were digital. The fact that Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the Trump administration, favors the elimination of net neutrality (the idea that all sites should get equal treatment by internet providers, rather than providers picking and choosing which sites will load better based on their own discretions) could potentially greatly harm the video game industry by diminishing digital sales. Needless to say, the elimination of a net neutral broadband internet service would also greatly diminish overseas sales of American-made games.
Although Trump claims that his policies represent an “America-first” attitude, many of his policies seem to actually hurt the American gaming industry. As a worldwide industry, thinking only of one’s own country is not the greatest business model and the gaming industry is one of many that could suffer from what Hagen calls Trump’s “short-sighted, isolationist attitude.”