At White House Meeting, Video Game Industry Denies Role in Gun Violence

Video game executives, lawmakers and experts met with President Donald Trump on Thursday as part of an ongoing discussion of gun violence and school safety.

One of the participants in that meeting described a vigorous and intense back and forth discussion between the video gaming interests and outside experts arguing over the connection between violent media and video games and violent behavior.

“The president was sincerely interested in asking questions and seeing what the industry was willing to do,” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (ret.) told Sinclair Broadcast Group. “The industry made it very clear that they were not willing to do anything.”

Grossman, author of “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing,” said that while the meeting was not conclusive the president was engaged and looking for ways to address gun violence and school safety.

During a separate meeting on school shootings last month, the president suggested that there should be more strict controls and rating systems on video games.

“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” Trump said, suggesting “we have to do something.”

Grossman said the representatives from the gaming industry and the president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ERSB) affirmed to President Trump that their rating system is effective.

When challenged by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., about applying their rating systems on online sales, the gaming executives argued that a credit card purchase was sufficient proof of age. They firmly fought against the idea of enforcing content ratings by legally restricting sales to minors.

In 2011, The ESRB and Entertainment Software Association were among the parties in a landmark Supreme Court case that determined video game sales may not be restricted by law because they are protected under the First Amendment.

“The industry refuses to accept any responsibility,” Grossman continued, citing media reports that the 19-year-old alleged Parkland shooter spent hours every day playing violent video games. “They do not accept any responsibility for anything that happens.”

Grossman’s research is assigned reading in the U.S. Marine Corps and in universities across the country. One of his core conclusions is that the popular first-person shooter games do not just desensitize players to violence, but train them to overcome the natural human aversion to kill.

The point-and-shoot video games mimic the training and conditioning used to help soldiers overcome that natural resistance. “A flight simulator teaches you to fly, murder simulators teach you to commit mass murders,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting was the first of many with industry leaders to discuss “violent video-game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children,” the White House said in a statement released earlier in the day.

Other attendees have been tight-lipped about what went on behind closed doors, but as Grossman described, the room was stacked with participants who are sharply divided on the issue. […]

The most recent Surgeon General’s report to address the issue was published in 2001 and found, that “the impact of video games on violent behavior remains to be determined.”

Since then, video game sales have more than tripled in the United States and numerous studies have been conducted, both independent and paid for by parties who have a stake in the outcome of the research.

Overall, the independent research has shown there is a correlation between increased aggression and exposure to violent video games, both in the short-term and over time, said Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research.

“When you look at studies conducted by independent researchers who do not have some financial interest in what the outcome of the study is going to be, you see a clear relationship between violent games, violent movies, violent TV and more aggressive behavior,” Zuckerman explained.

By 2015, the American Psychological Association concluded that while the research is more complex than a simple causal relationship, “violent video game use has an effect on aggression.”

This is true especially when individuals are engaging with the violent media, such as playing a game, rather than passively consuming it.

“Obviously it’s not the only thing going on here,” she continued. That is why she believes it is difficult to try to retroactively prove a causal relationship between a mass shooter’s video gaming habits and the act that person commits.

“There are a lot of factors involved and violent video games is one of them,” she said of recent mass shootings. “But let’s be clear about this, access to weapons is the most important aspect of this because the most harm is done when kids have access to weapons.” […]

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