There existed in my soul a faint modicum of hope regarding President Trump’s forthcoming gaming ‘summit’. As a person who does sometimes question the role hyper-violence can have on children who aren’t properly raised, perhaps an honest to goodness discussion could be had with developers like Dan Houser, Ken Levine, Peter Molyneux, and others – with Donald Trump. Developers who have made incredibly violent games that had strong, artistic value – perhaps, just possibly, they could show him the way.
Instead, according to Polygon, we’re getting the guy that flat-out lied about the dangers of the WWE in the 1990s, Gaming CEOs, and a lady who is about as conservative as they come. No game developers. No creatives. All business people; those who judge the industry not by the content of its character and artistic merit, but rather, by dollars and cents and terms like “Fiduciary Duty”.
The official list of attendees includes Strauss Zelnick of Take Two Interactive, Robert Altman (no, not that one) of ZeniMax, Michael Gallagher of the ESA, Republican Representative Vicky Hartzler, and Brent Bozell of the Parents Television Council. None of whom have developed a video game.
(Yes, *that* Brent Bozell, famous for taking on World Wrestling Entertainment and losing a 3.5 million dollar lawsuit after his Parents Television Council stated pro wrestling was responsible for the death of four children.)
Trump re-ignited the video game violence controversy following comments made in the wake of the Parkland shooting; specifically in regards to what could be the root cause of mass shootings in the country. He focused on violent media: “In the wake of the parkland shooting, President Trump made statements regarding violent video games that led to the meeting: “We have to look at the Internet, because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed…We have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
That Trump chose to meet with CEOs and not creative types is an interesting – and possibly concerning, choice. Developers like Cliff Bleszinski or Jade Raymond, or the aforementioned Dan Houser or Kevin Levine, might be able to make a case for games as art, and communicate their immense value in a cultural sense. Stating that violence does not a violent person make, and to collectively shame the industry into self-censorship of any kind, would be both a violation of American principles, and stymie the creativity of some truly, wondrously, talented people with a passion for interactive storytelling.
But no. Instead, it’s those guys’ bosses….which makes sense in a way ‘games as art’ isn’t really the question here, nor is their artistic merit. The question is whether violent games be easily accessible to children; and in the absence of parents to regulate and monitor their children’s game playing habits, what is the role of business – and potentially the government – to restrict that access for their own good.
And…that’s fundamentally a question for a business person. Who knows exactly how their titles are marketed, purchased, and enjoyed. They are people of data and statistics. Are the most violent games the most popular? What is the average age of a player with these games? Would they support actual laws restricting the sale of these games to people over the age of 18?
With Representative Bobby Nardolillo introducing a 10 percent tax on M-Rated games to the Rhode Island Legislator, and Hawaiian Representative Chris Lee previously introducing legislation to regulate games with Loot Boxes in them, it’s clear people in power are willing – and perhaps eager, to legislate the content of interactive entertainment in the name of the greater good.
And as for what good will come out of the meeting with Donald Trump? You might just need a cheat code to find out.