ESA fights Trump’s proposed videogames crackdown


US games industry trade body the Entertainment Software Association (known as the ESA) has defended videogames in the wake of comments made by President Trump apparently aimed to deflect the blame for recent US mass shootings in Texas and Ohio onto videogames.

Following the shootings, at least one of which was carried out by a white supremacist (a section of the US populace widely held to have been encouraged by a string of anti-immigrant comments made by Trump since he became President) Trump said in a national address that he would: “Stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to start immediately.”

Right-wing US politicians seized on a comment in a manifesto posted to 8Chan by Patrick Crusius, who killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas on Saturday 3 August. In it, he wrote: “Don’t attack heavily guarded areas to fulfil your super-soldier COD fantasy. Attack low security targets.” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (a Republican) used that to claim Crusius was: “Living out his super-soldier fantasies on Call of Duty,” despite the obviously contemptuous tone of Crusius’s reference to Call of Duty. Along with the fact that earlier in the manifesto, he said: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

In a statement, the ESA said: “There is no question that our society has endured far too many tragic incidents of violence. These horrific acts understandably drive us to look for solutions. But blaming the media – and video games in particular – distracts from the underlying issues at play and tarnishes the incredibly positive impact video games have in our society.

“You don’t have to delve deeply into this issue to grasp the essential facts. The same video games played in the U.S. are played all over the world by 2.6 billion people, but the U.S. stands alone in incidents of mass violence. Time and time again, the research confirms that there is no evidence linking video gameplay to violent behaviour. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Surgeon General, and UNICEF (the United Nations’ children’s welfare organization) are just some of the experts that reviewed the research and found no link between video games and real-world violence.”

President Trump’s comments about videogames in the wake of the Texas and Ohio mass-shootings caused the share-prices of various US publishers to drop, including those of Take-Two Interactive, Activision and Electronic Arts.

US developers’ trade body the IGDA also released a statement in the wake of the shootings, reiterating the ESA’s assertion that games do not breed violence.

Trump has previous as far as blaming mass-shootings on videogames are concerned: after the Parkland, Florida mass shooting in February 2018, as we reported, he summoned various US games industry luminaries to the White House for a fractious meeting.

Meanwhile, Trump’s Republican party continues to receive the vast bulk of the political funding dished out by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the US’s most powerful pro-gun lobbying outfit. As CNBC revealed, this year alone, the NRA has spent $1.6 million lobbying against more stringent checks for those who wish to buy guns in the US.

Whether Trump’s bluster following the latest mass-shootings in the US (of which there had been 255 in the first 217 days of 2019) will lead to some sort of anti-videogames legislation remains to be seen. But we’ll keep you posted on any developments.