President Donald Trump held a closed-door meeting regarding video games and violence. The president was joined by publishers of video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Doom.
The roundtable discussion attempted to determine whether violent video games played a role in desensitizing players and contributing to the likelihood that they will commit violent acts.
The meeting was part of Trump’s response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month, in which 17 people were killed. Among other proposals, including arming teachers and taking guns away from mentally ill people, Trump has suggested that violent video games and movies have contributed to the frequency of mass shootings in America.
In Thursday’s meeting, the president said that some studies have found a link between real violence and video game violence. The media was not permitted to attend the meeting.
Those who attended the meeting were shown a short video that showed violent imagery from video games, like Fallout, Call of Duty and Wolfenstein.
The video game footage appeared to be ripped from peoples’ YouTube channels. Watermarks and logos were seen at the bottom corners of some of the footage clips.
“We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry’s rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices,” said the Entertainment Software Association.
While a video game rating system is in place, teens and children still play games labeled for older players, argued Melissa Henson, program director at the Parents Television Council.
“Video game industry representatives say (violent games) are … only ever intended to be played by adult players, but they must surely be aware that kids are playing them despite whatever their intentions might be,” said Henson.
Brent Bozell, founder and president of Media Research Center, said that parents and retailers are also responsible for keeping violent video games out of the hands of young children. Bozell suggests treating video games like tobacco or alcohol products.
Bozell said the president appeared to be uncomfortable with the depictions of violence in the games shown in the footage.
“I think he’s 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,” said Bozell.
While some studies have suggested that violent video games can increase aggression, the rate of violent crimes has declined as video games have increased in popularity.
In 2011, Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed a link between aggression and violent video games when writing his opinion in the Supreme Court decision to overturn California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors.
About 11% of the video games sold in 2016 were rated for players aged 17 and older.
Despite being presented with evidence to the contrary, Trump appeared to have the same opinion after the meeting: that violent video games contribute to real-life violence.