So the big White House summit on video game violence is today (the White House finally let the industry officials know they were coming to it), but unfortunately, there's no one there that's really qualified to speak on the subject in any authoritative manner. Ironically, even though the current administration has said some studies show a correlation between violent video games and increased violent tendencies in those who play them, they couldn't be bothered even to invite a psychologist that designed or conducted any of those studies.
The invitees to the meeting on video game violence at the White House are perplexing. One one hand you have Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two, Pat Vance of the ESRB, Mike Gallagher of the ESA, and Robert Altman of ZeniMax Media. Those all seem like good choices if you want to speak with a group that knows the industry and how rating classifications are assigned to games. Also, President Trump's brother Robert is on the board of Zenimax, which probably made Altman a shoe-in.
However, everyone else invited seems like they were picked out of a hat. Let's take a look at our all-star lineup:
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
- B.A. in Political Science, University of Florida
- J.D. in Law, University of Miami School of Law
Marco Rubio has received $3,303,355 in campaign donations from the National Rifle Association, doesn't believe in climate change, opposes net neutrality, and isn't a member of any committee in which video game violence would be an issue. Likely invited because he's from Flordia, and I guess that's understandable.
Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
- B.S. in Education, University of Missouri
- M.S. in Education, University of Central Missouri
No idea why she was included. She sits on no committees where video game violence is an issue. Also, doesn't have the background to make any reasonable judgments concerning video game violence, though she has been known to rattle about them before.
Representative Martha Roby (R-AL)
- B.A. in Music, NYU
- J.D. in Law, Samford University
Roby votes along party lines, and while I couldn't find anywhere she specifically spoke out against video games, she seems like someone that can be counted on to echo whatever Rubio and Hartzler say.
Brent Bozell, Media Research Center
- B.A. in History, University of Dallas
Bozell is the man behind the conservative content analysis organization Media Research Center, and he founded the Parents Television Council and CNSNews. Once said President Obama looks like a "skinny ghetto crackhead," on Fox News (to be fair he also said Newt Gingrich looked like a car bomber). Has a long history of being pro-censorship. Wants to "neutralize left-wing bias in media."
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (Ret.), Author
- M.Ed. Counseling Psychology, University of Texas
Grossman is probably the closest thing to a qualified psychologist this panel has, but he has an incredible bias against video games (and no background in clinical or child psychology). Wrote Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence. States that techniques used by armies to train soldiers to kill are mirrored in video games and that playing them hardens children emotionally to the act of killing. Calls first-person shooter games "murder simulators."
Melissa Henson, Mother, Parents Television Council
- B.A. in Government, University of Virginia
Henson's qualifications for being at this meeting are apparently that she's had children, writes on the PTC blog once a month, and appears as a talking head on TV, radio, and newspapers every once in a while. Profoundly offended by primetime sitcoms. Somehow thought that #MeToo was an excellent opportunity to talk about how "sexualized" Fox's The Mick is.
Why is This so Dumb?
Well, it's obvious what the non-video game industry panel members have in common. They're all completely ready to throw video games under the bus for the Florida shooting, are conservative, and allies of the NRA and other gun lobbyists. I'm not on the "ban all guns" bandwagon personally. I think that shooting can be a fun and safe hobby given the right circumstances, but it's evident that a lot of changes need to be made in a lot of different areas before we see public shootings in the US disappear.
I don't have all the answers to the quandary the nation is facing right now, but I do know this meeting is farcical at best and malicious at worst. Getting a bunch of second-string pseudo-experts that don't have the educational or professional background to make any rational decision about the link between video games and violence isn't going to help anyone.
The fact that this whole effort is so transparent is the most mind-boggling facet of the whole thing. You'd think they'd at least get a sociologist or a psychologist at the White House meeting, or maybe even include a Democrat to make it appear bipartisan. This whole thing is just one more distraction, so the government doesn't have to deal with the multi-faceted issue we saw in Florida recently.