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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

President Trump and the Roundtable on Videogame Violence

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Fortunately, it doesn't seem like anything is going to come from it.

After we regretfully told you that someone is feeding anti-videogame crap into President Donald John Trump's ear as it relates to videogame violence and shootings, the President last week decided to take the “very complicated and very big deal” and listen to people who know what they're talking about in a room with people who... do not. Basically, that means you put a room together with anti-gaming politicians and interest groups with industry lobby organisations like the Entertainment Software Association and the ESRB.

Then you listen.

Unfortunately, the roundtable was closed off to the media, so we don't actually know what happened. That makes writing commentary on the meeting difficult, doesn't it? Accounts described it as a listening session, and it seems the people more likely to talk about the experience were the anti-game people rather than the pro-game people, who either said nothing or put out meaningless statements.

One thing we know for sure is that the meeting began with this 88-second video montage (compiled from clips of YouTubers, without asking permission because FAIR USE) of very violent, M-rated moments. Just letting you know that it's embedded below after the page break, and I wouldn't watch it if you don't want to see, you know, gory content. Even the thumbnail is... unsettling. It also has one of the most lopsided (in the negative direction) Thumbs-Up to Thumbs-Down ratios on YouTube.

The assumption is that the White House put the video together, but it's always possible one of the anti-game groups put it together. Either way, President Donald John Trump reportedly remarked on how violent the footage was, and the pro-gaming guys said it's meant for Mature audiences and not kids.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare II No Russian shooting civilians airport
It's unclear if the Administration knew EXACTLY what they were doing by putting “No Russian” in the montage.

No one really knows what happened for the rest of the meeting, but no action plan was put together and no next steps were formed. I strongly suspect that the President wasn't paying attention to the meeting and was instead thinking about what he would be doing an hour later, being signing tariffs on foreign imports for aluminum and steel. He cares far more about that than some videogame meeting he haphazardly put together. KoopaTV readers should already know that the President doesn't exactly have a core set of values on anything besides, say, immigration and trade, and he's definitely not a policy guy and just doesn't care about these peripheral issues. Not a very ideal characteristic of a president, I guess. (Why doesn't he make abolishing Daylight Saving Time a core belief?)

Too bad readers at other sites don't have the same context. They'll think President Donald John Trump actually cares about this stuff. He hasn't cared about games since Microsoft never made Trump the RPG 14 years ago.

Still, others in the game industry are taking this to heart, so Games for Change put out this video to counter the White House one:

This video was much more positively received by the gaming community. I see it as some in the gaming industry trying to disown games like Call of Duty, which, quite frankly, I'm totally fine with doing. I'm not interested in playing any of the games that were in the video shown by the White House, so if we can rebrand gaming as an activity marked by the more artistic projects rather than the violent, gory ones, that's more power to the industry.

If President Donald John Trump is able to ignite that discussion within the industry and have that balance of power and reputation shift from the violent shooter crap to more respectable stuff, then this would be quite worth it. If he is going to go pull a Hillary Clinton and start attacking gamers’ and the industry’s First Amendment rights, then that's another thing entirely and we'll vigorously oppose that just like we did with Hillary.

Update 3/14/2018: Gaming writer Katherine Cross wrote an opinion article on Gamasutra today, with her basic thesis being that the fact the roundtable even exists is evidence that “the enemy” of the gaming industry is “the political right.” As a member of the political right, I have a lot of issues with that statement. I agree there are a number of social conservatives who have their priorities messed up (...which would be most of them), but the fact that President Donald John Trump is president and he is the least social conservative Republican president in many decades should tell you something about their waning influence within the Republican Party or the conservative movement. Yes, the social conservatives appeared in his roundtable, but he actively sought a balance of opinions for that roundtable because he doesn't have an opinion on it.

Katherine Cross somehow believes that President Donald John Trump “always truckles to the GOP party line, in the end.” Her representation for what the GOP party line is on the First Amendment and games is not only not based on statistics, but her representation of President Donald John Trump's adherence to the GOP party line is also inaccurate. She missed his entire appeal to the voters (running against BOTH parties) and apparently doesn't keep up-to-date on the news or the extremely contentious primary that saw candidate Trump at odds with the Republican establishment (or “GOP party line”) on many issues. As mentioned in this article yesterday, the President has signed a new round of tariffs. Republicans are deeply against those tariffs.

Katherine Cross discusses how game developers are diverse — so is the Republican Party. To that point, if you poll a lot of conservatives, you're going to find that a lot of them don't want the First Amendment tarnished any more than the Second Amendment. I can't give you an exact number, since that poll doesn't exist, but according to the ESA, 48% of gamers self-identify as conservative. That is higher than the general population, so that should tell you something.

Speaking of the ESA, Katherine Cross also believes that the ESA should have never attended the roundtable, which is absurd. The ESA is our lobbying group. If the government is holding a special event concerning your lobbying group's special interest, then if you're not in attendance and trying to influence the government at that event, you are doing a terrible job as a lobbyist. I prefer my lobbying groups to be effective. Shouldn't you? How do you expect to educate government officials on your point of view if you boycott them?

Holding a listening session is not an insidious activity. How about writing legislation to regulate the sale and production of videogames, like the standard-bearer of the political left, Hillary Clinton, did? ...Well, that's sure insidious. Katherine Cross should not let her personal ideology get in the way of an objective view of the facts. As a matter of fact, Katherine Cross name-dropped the game Choice: Texas, which KoopaTV has a lot of history with. I ultimately wrote a review of Choice: Texas, and while I disclosed my personal ideology upfront, I also tried to minimise my ideology's influence as I wrote the review. Katherine Cross and others who think like her should try doing more of that. There is nothing wrong with having an ideology and allowing it to guide your views and interpretations of events, but don't ignore facts or make stuff up. 

Ludwig wishes the world knew more about the events of the meeting than the trickle of details that have been shared, but it appears that outside of the gaming industry, this meeting was just another meeting on the President's schedule and didn't make the big headlines (tariffs) of the day. KoopaTV will keep a close eye out on any upcoming legislation, if any, that may follow from this. Ludwig generally supports industry self-regulation, which has been what is happening. He believes conservatism extends well past social conservatism, and hypothetically, not all left-wingers have the same anti-gaming views as Hillary Clinton, who never repudiated her's.

The President goes to lots of roundtables. Here's one he's a lot more interested in, on immigration.
President Donald John Trump continues to get the gaming industry against him for singling out violent videogames in relation to mass shootings.


  1. The #GameOn trailer was a nice rebuttal to the cherry-picked compilation from the White House. Games are not all about violence. While I dislike gory games, I do not want them banned. I can easily avoid them thanks to the ESRB which exists for a reason. The ultimate factor that should decide what should be produced is the consumer. If it is violent games consumers want, then so be it. They are still a medium of art that can express thought provoking stories in an interactive way that cannot be performed through any other medium.

    1. You could also say the #GameOn trailer was also obviously cherry-picked.

      Social conservatives would support banning or whatever they want to violent videogames for the reason they oppose drug usage or gambling: they say it's not just a decision that affects you, but also others around you and is dangerous.
      After all, if the social conservatives are somehow correct and games cause people to be violent, then it's the job of the government, whose job description is to protect people from violence, to do something about that!


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