President Donald Trump will meet with representatives of the video game industry next week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today. The announcement comes in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.
The comment was made in response to a question from the Associated Press today at the White House briefing. Reporter Zeke Miller asked why the president was unable to get legislators to “bend to his will” on matters of gun control.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily about ‘bending to his will,’” Sanders said. “I think it’s about an ongoing discussion about the best pieces of legislation that they can put forward. Yesterday was certainly an important part of that.”
Here, Sanders was referring to a meeting with lawmakers in which President Trump said that, among other things, he would prefer to simply take guns away from violent individuals rather than follow due process through the courts. NPR described the event as “freewheeling” and President Trump’s positions as “conflicting.”
Miller’s question also comes after today’s decision by lawmakers to move on from considering any gun legislation in favor of discussing unrelated banking measures. With regard to President Trump’s will, Sanders dodged the question, and instead offered up the video game industry as a potentially more malleable target.
“The president has met with a number of stakeholders,” she continued. “Next week, he’ll also be meeting with members of the video game industry to see what they can do on that front as well. This is going to be an ongoing process and something that we don’t expect to happen overnight, but something that we’re going to continue to be engaged in and continue to look for the best ways possible to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect schools across the country.”
It’s unclear what role, if any, video games played in the Parkland shooting, where a disturbed 19-year-old man allegedly pulled a fire alarm before gunning down his classmates with an AR-15-style assault weapon. That has not stopped President Trump from pointing the finger at what he sees as an entertainment medium that glorifies killing.
“The video games, the movies, the internet stuff is so violent. It’s so incredible,” Trump said, during the same meeting yesterday with lawmakers. “I see it. I get to see things that you would be — you’d be amazed at. I have a young — very young son who — I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, ‘How is that possible?’ And this is what kids are watching.
“And I think you maybe have to take a look at it. You know, you rate movies for different things. Maybe you have to also rate them for terror, for what they’re doing and what they’re all about.”
Video games have had a formalized rating system, administered by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, since 1994.
Polygon has reached out to the Entertainment Software Association for comment.
Update: Reached for comment, the Entertainment Software Association told Polygon that neither it nor its members, which include most of the industry’s high-profile developers and publishers, had heard from the Trump administration yet.
“ESA and our member companies have not received an invitation to meet with President Trump,” it said in a statement.
The ESA describes itself as a trade association “dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games.” Its role includes lobbying activities with the U.S. government on behalf of its members, which include Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony as well as Activision, Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Square Enix, Ubisoft and virtually every other large games publisher in the multibillion-dollar global industry.
“The same video games played in the US are played worldwide,” the ESA added, “however, the level of gun violence is exponentially higher in the US than in other countries. Numerous authorities have examined the scientific record and found there is no link between media content and real-life violence.
“The US video game industry has a long history of partnering with parents and more than 20 years of rating video games through the Entertainment Software Rating Board. We take great steps to provide tools to help players and parents make informed entertainment decisions.”