The Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying arm of the video game industry that also oversees the medium’s content ratings system, confirmed today that it will in fact meet with President Donald Trump this week, according to Rolling Stone. The meeting, which will involve discussions of violent games and real-world gun violence, will take place on Thursday, March 8th. It may include representatives from the world’s largest video game publishers and developers.
The ESA, which contends that there is no scientifically proven link between video games and violent crime or behavior, includes representation from Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Ubisoft, among others. It is unclear at this time which companies plan to send to representatives to the White House.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent shockwaves through the game community last week when she said Trump had planned a meeting with the industry to discuss links between consumption of video game violence and the committing of real-world violence. The comment was specifically related to Trump’s evolving and at times confounding response to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month, which has reignited the debate around gun control and violent media. At the time, neither the ESA nor the largest American game companies had seemingly been made aware of the supposed meeting with Trump.
While Trump has not definitively stated that he believes violent games or other media lead people to commit acts like school shootings, he has pointed the finger at games for “shaping young people’s thoughts,” adding that “we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it.” It’s unclear if Trump, or people close to the president, believe the industry needs potentially unconstitutional regulation or simply more robust content warnings. Complicating the matter is the fact that the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups tend to use violent media as a way to deflect criticism of gun control and prevent legislation related to the access to firearms.
In a statement issued today, the ESA finally confirmed the existence of the meeting and its plans to attend. The company’s full statement reads as a staunch defense of video games, which notably are protected under the First Amendment after a landmark 2011 Supreme Court ruling designated games as art with the same protections as film, TV, books, and other forms of artistic expression. Here is the statement in full:
Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence. Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the US has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation. The upcoming meeting at the White House, which ESA will attend, will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices.