Player vs Player: Drumph and Video Game Violence

Bill: Well, Jan, Trump held a meeting between video game executives and those who believe violence in games contribute to violence in society. It looks like nothing noteworthy came of it, although Trump did have a clip of video game violence uploaded to YouTube without an age gate. I find it hilarious that a man who is trying to say video games contribute to violence in society had a video of violent games put on a YouTube channel that children of any age can access. GG, noob.

But, I’m not here to debate the role video games play in gun violence because I think it’s a distraction technique from a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct, lies more than I sneeze, and openly talked about grabbing women by the pussy. Drumph, as John Oliver calls him, has games directly in his sights.

First comes the question I believe I know your answer to. Do games deserve the heat they’re taking from Drumph right now? Then, please dive into the swimming pool full of razorblades and weigh in on where you think this is all going. Are we in for some pain for the games industry, or will this SQUIRREL tactic fade as soon as the heat is off the NRA and AR-15 defense assault rifles?

Jan: Well, the answer to your initial question is of course, “No!” I honestly think this is much ado about nothing. It’s posturing and pandering to a small group with deep pockets that has been wanting to blame video games for all sorts of things for all eternity. The main difference is that in the current President, they’ve found someone dumb enough to listen and give them a stage. Statistics and research have always disproved any connection, but of course, facts don’t matter here.

My guess is that all this meeting and any potential follow-up will bring, in the best-case scenario, is Trump claiming that he’s made things safer by having everyone agree that violent video games have violent scenes in them. I don’t want to get into what it will do to the whole gun debate, but focusing on video games, I do think there’s room for improvement when it comes to the enforcement of some of the age rules. Do I believe that some games shouldn’t be played by children? Absolutely. Are the mechanisms in place to attempt to restrict the sale of mature rated games to minors? Yes. Are they fool-proof? No.

Let’s face it, on most websites that ask for age confirmation before letting you watch a trailer, I’m born on January 1 of whatever year a solid three rotations of my mouse wheel land on. Those checks are more annoying than useful. What’s the solution to keeping adult entertainment out of children’s hands? I’m not sure, but I can guarantee you that it’s not going to get solved by the man who’s suggesting the arming of teachers to prevent school shootings.

What about you? Are you particularly worried that Trump is going to take away your games?

Bill: I’m in Canada. The biggest impact I’ll see is if developers start changing the content of their games to make them more agreeable to Trump and U.S. customers. We might see an American port of games that shave some of the violence off, but I imagine the rest of the world will remain largely untouched by whatever dumb consequences come of this. I still don’t think anything will come from it, though.

It’s my firm belief that Trump is either an intentional or accidental evil genius. He is the master of making you talk about something irrelevant to what you want to talk about. Instead of addressing gun control, he has spent a couple of weeks hinting about video game violence as the cause of this. Now we’re sitting here having that discussion, and he’s loving it because we had to take a break from kicking his ass over the availability of guns to defend ourselves. He’s getting exactly what he wants. He doesn’t care about violence in games, and he’ll drop the subject the minute we forget to be enraged about dead kids and blood on the floors of American schools.

There’s also the possibility that this campaign against violent games will backfire. Do you really think that Rockstar is going to dumb down the next Grand Theft Auto, or that Bethesda is going to go easier on Nazis? I know Trump would embrace the latter, but I think we’ll see the opposite happen. People who make games are expressing themselves. Underneath the violent possibilities in Grand Theft Auto V were a lot of incredible moments of storytelling. Threaten to nerf that and I suspect the creatives behind those moments are going to fight back, and I’m betting they are a lot more intelligent than Drumph.

What about you, Jan? A little over two weeks from now we’ll be playing Far Cry 5 and crushing the faces of some religious nuts in violent fashion. Are we still talking about violence in video games then, or is this all just a smoke screen that will clear as fast as it appeared?

Jan: It’ll all be gone and forgotten by that time. We live in a world now where headlines have a lifespan of a few days and then we move on. U.S. politics lately have been especially prone to that kind of phenomenon. Something makes headlines and a week later it’s been replaced by the next big scandal or tragedy. So, by the time Far Cry 5 comes out, I suspect we’ll have moved on to discuss the latest lawsuit or arguing over whether the moon landing in the 60s was real, because Trump isn’t too sure.

As far as actual impact on games, I would predict it’ll be minimal to non-existent. There are a few countries out there that censor games. Germany comes to mind with its censorship of Nazi symbols in games, but the violence is still there. I can’t imagine any kind of official laws being written to somehow curb or lock violence behind a proper age gate. Not only is it technically very difficult to enforce any such rules, as I’m sure any German gamer can attest to, but it is also not politically attainable. Many Americans aren’t happy when they fear that their rights to keep firearms are threatened, and I bet just as many would be outraged if creativity in their video games were somehow limited.

Like you said, it’s a distraction. Just the topic of focus this week. Quite frankly, it’s sad that it’s even a topic at all because it’s well known to be a nonsense idea that violence in video games makes people act violently in real life. But then again, climate change is real, and there are plenty of nut jobs in the current U.S. administration that deny that. I, for one, wish we could just go back to discussing why there’s no point to revisiting Destiny 2 yet, and that the governments would govern and not waste everyone’s time with drivel.