In the wake of mounting pressure surrounding gun control, Donald Trump has attempted to shift the current focus of public scrutiny by kicking off a video game witchhunt.
The White House recently released a video showing off some of the more violent moments from recent Mature-rated video games, all out of context, so that there’s nothing on display but pure, unadulterated gore.
The message that the video is intended to convey is simple, especially considering the wider context of this discussion: according to the President, mass shootings are the result of inappropriate levels of violence in video games.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 2002 and the heyday of Jack Thompson. Or, indeed, 1993, and the government investigations that led to the creation of the ESRB.
We’re right back where we started, with politicians attempting to blame video games for every single problem that besets the rising generation, despite the complete lack of scientific evidence that might support these claims.
(As an aside, one wonders whether Trump would be so eager to jump on the anti-video game bandwagon if he was aware that this issue essentially created Hilary Clinton’s political career. Chances are, he’s oblivious to the history of this particular debate.)
Needless to say, the gaming community has not responded positively to Trump’s attempt to blame video games for all of his problems.
Perhaps the best response has come from the Games for Change movement, which offers an alternative video mash-up, showing many of the beautiful, calmer, quiet moments from modern AAA and indie games.
This is utterly beautiful.
In fairness, many of these clips do come from games that feature violence in some way, but this isn’t exactly a series of grotesque moments from “Sniper Elite”. Mixed in are scenes from games like “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”, “Celeste”, “Ori and the Blind Forest”, “Firewatch”, and many other games that embrace alternative gameplay mechanics that don’t rely on gunplay.
The message here is also clear: video games can be beautiful, poignant, and meaningful. This art medium doesn’t deserve to be unfairly labelled as damaging simply based on a small sample of some of the more gruesome titles on the market.
The equivalent would be a politician trying to make a claim that movies are bad for children by creating a mash-up of scenes from “Saw” films. It’s not representative of the medium as a whole, and it ignores that there’s already a system in place to keep children from seeing inappropriate material.
The ESRB exists to keep violent games out of the hands of minors. If the M rating system isn’t working for games, then the issue here is on making parents aware of what they’re allowing their kids to play, rather than blanket banning offensive content.
But, hey, this issue really isn’t about gaming at all. To a certain extent, even buying into the White House’s sudden reactionary claims about the dangers of video games helps to obfuscate the true issue at play here.
America’s issue with gun control is not going to go away simply by censoring violent video games. The problem runs deeper than that, and as this tired point of argument rears its head yet again, it’s hard not to think of a “Penny Arcade” comic from eighteen years ago.
How sad that we haven’t yet moved on from this argument in all this time.