Earlier today, gamers launched a counter attack against the video game violence montage that President Trump aired. The nonprofit organisation, Games for Change, released a similar clip reel that instead highlighted the serene beauty of games. Asi Burak, chairman of the organisation, stated they wanted to show “how (games) can connect people and that they are a powerful artistic medium.” They believe Trump’s 88 second video “paints the industry with a broad brush”, ignoring the nuances between games. This comes at a crucial time for the industry, as video games are under extreme scrutiny. Is this video a good start for the defence of video games? Or will the media turn to the shock and horror of out of context violence for a scapegoat as usual?
Trump’s meeting with industry executives
Last Thursday, President Trump held an hour long meeting with industry executives, lobby groups and politicians. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and address the impact of violent video games in influencing Americans. The meeting was a direct response to the Florida shootings last month and the perceived connection between violent games and violent behaviour in children. He opened the meeting with a montage of violent video game clips. The includes slow motion kills from Sniper Elite, dismemberment in V.A.T.S from Fallout 4 and the infamous No Russian mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Rolling Stone reports that the initial response was a shocked and stunned silence. Melissa Henson, a spokesperson for the Parents Television Council, states that industry executives quickly noted that these explicit games are for mature audiences, not America’s children.
Henson, and the PTC, believe violent games are one of three causes of violence in America. She says the meeting was to discuss information rather than policy, as it ended with no real outcome. While if this is the case, the video, as Trump’s opening, immediately paints video games unfairly. The Entertainment Software Association released a statement saying they would be open to future meetings. Defending video games, they pointed to scientific research dispelling any links between violent games and behaviour. They also raised the points that the First Amendment protects games and the rating system informs parents not to expose their kids to violent video games. The general consensus is that the discussion was in its rudimentary stages. Those defending games want an opportunity to do so, dispelling myths and media panics. Those condemning games want time to gather more evidence and create effective, working policies.
Response from gamers
Gamers responded with overwhelming criticism for Trump. Taking out of context clips from explicit games, designed for adults, completely mischaracterises the debate and video games. This isn’t the first time the American media has falsely linked video games with violent behaviour in kids. The moral panic surrounding the Florida shooting echoes that which followed the Sanky Hook shootings in 2013. Games for Change president, Susanna Pollack, stated that Trump needs to “talk about all aspects of games as well as how games are played by youth and what they’re about.” Their video is a direct response and contrast of Trump’s, intended to create a more accurate and balanced portrayal of games. While it is common for mainstream media to ignore the peaceful side of video games, or even the positive side of violent games, Games for Change’s video is just a first step in improving the portrayal of games. Pollack states “we hope it helps drive more conversations around the positive nature of games,”.
While factors like mental health play a part in influencing violent behaviour, are violent games completely free of responsibility? If so, what more can gamers do to dispel the myths portrayed by the media? Let us know in the comments below.