Following multiple mass shootings over the weekend, President Donald Trump condemned “gruesome and violent video games” for contributing to the “glorification of violence in our society” in a press conference Monday morning.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which rates video game content and bills itself as the “voice and advocate for the video game industry,” issued a response to Trump’s comments Monday. “More than 165 million Americans enjoy video games, and billions of people play video games worldwide,” a spokesperson for the ESA said. “Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the U.S.”
In March 2018, Trump invited video game executives, parents’ groups and members of Congress to the White House to discuss the issue of violent video games and effects they may have on users. Representatives from the ESA were in attendance at the meeting.
“Video games contribute to society, from new medical therapies and advancements, educational tools, business innovation, and more,” the ESA said.
Game industry talent and execs also voiced concerns over Trump’s comments. “On behalf of everyone here at Take-two, we’re parents, siblings, sons and daughters and we’re sickened and saddened by these tragedies. But blaming entertainment is irresponsible and moreover it’s disrespectful to the victims and their families,” Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick told The Hollywood Reporter. “Entertainment is consumed worldwide. It’s the same worldwide. Gun violence is uniquely American and we need to address the real issues.”
God of War director Cory Barlog tweeted, “Wait…that’s it??? Violent video games and mental health? Not the high powered weapons of war being sold to civilians by the millions that are actually being USED to carry out these acts of domestic terror??”
The Trump administration had previously criticized the video game industry in February 2018 in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting.
The debate over violent video games is nothing new and has bridged across the political aisle. In 2005, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton called for a ban on sales of mature games to minors, promoting legislation that would make it a criminal act. “We need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco, alcohol and pornography,” Clinton said at the time. “If you put it just really simply, these violent video games are stealing the innocence of our children — and it is certainly making the job of being a parent even more difficult.”