White House Remains Focused on Video Game Violence

As advertised, video games were the focus of the White House meeting Thursday (March 8) on media and violence, prompted by the Florida school shootings.

That's according to one of the participants, Parents Television Council program director Melissa Henson, who when asked whether they had talked about network TV violence and whether she had the sense the President was looking beyond video games, she said: "No, the focus of the conversation really was video games," though she added that PTC research showed the problem went beyond video games.

Her invitation by the White House suggested that the Trump Administration could be looking beyond video games to TV, and that is still not beyond the realm of possibility--PTC has been pushing the administration to widen its net to broadcast TV violence.

But Henson said in a press conference following the meeting that the meeting remained focused on video games--the meeting kicked off with clips from violent video games that drew what Henson called a shocked silence and the President's commentary on how violent they were. She said she could not identify which games the clips were from.

Henson said the President did not appear to have come with an agenda or a proposed course of action, but characterized it as a listening session.

She also said the video game representatives defended the clips as from games that were for mature audiences and never meant for children.

Henson said she had expected that defense, didn't buy it--they had to know kids would also get access to the games--but hoped the discussion was the first step toward media reform.

The White House confirmed that video game focus in a summary of the meeting: "Today, President Trump and senior members of the Administration met with leaders in the video game industry and experts on violence to discuss violent video game exposure and its impact on our children.  To date, the Administration has led many discussions about how to prevent violent behavior in our schools, with a focus on stopping those intent on committing mass murder.  During today’s meeting, the group spoke with the President about the effect that violent video games have on our youth, especially young males. The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence.  The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence. This meeting is part of ongoing discussions with local leaders and Congress on issues concerning school and public safety and protecting America’s youth."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.