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Call of Duty, Fallout, Sniper Elite and Wolfenstein all shown in Trump ESA meeting

The much-discussed meeting between president Trump and the ESA occurred yesterday and was opened by a montage of violent scenes, taken from a number of popular games – mainly from a few years ago. The montage was then posted to the official White House YouTube channel, where it still sits, somewhat at odds with the usual content of Trump speaking on various topics.

The montage, which had no regard for context and mixed up plot-specific cutscenes with more open world gameplay, is at least an impressive compilation of some pretty visceral stuff. It was shown to those at the meeting, which included ESA and ESRB representatives as well as campaigners against video game violence – notably from the Parents Television Council – a long-running, pro-censorship, conservative group.

The ESA said in a prepared statement: ‘We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry’s rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices. We appreciate the President’s receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion.’

Rolling Stone reported that the meeting felt like an opening for a longer process of debate, although nothing official has been announced in this respect. 

The Trump administration may not have reached out to anyone to organise this meeting before announcing it, but it did come together with surprising speed. Whether the ESA should have been drawn into such a debate, given the clear First Amendment status of video games inevitably makes any actual attempt to change or curtail their content a non-starter.

"They started by showing some violent video games and [Trump] was pointing out how violent those scenes were. I think for many of us there, there was a shocked silence," said Melissa Henson, a spokesperson for the Parents Television Council. "Those from the video game industry were quick to defend, saying they were meant for a mature audience and that they weren’t intended for kids to see." Rolling Stone reported.

Once again the whole debate falls back on the usual ‘won’t anyone think of the children’ line. As if society should censor everything that could possibly be considered harmful for an eight-year-old. The industry has been through this all a umpteen times, and the results are always the same – blame is attributed without proof – and then everyone gets back to work as usual.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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