Violent video games could become a point of public debate again, as US President Donald Trump has invoked them as a possible factor in the country's decades-long trend of school shootings, the latest of which happened last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and left 17 dead.
During a meeting on school safety yesterday covered by CNN, Trump pointed to the internet, video games, and movies as possible corrupting influences.
"We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed," Trump said. "And we have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it. And also video games. I'm hearing more and more people saying the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people's thoughts.
"And then you go a further step and that's the movies. You see these movies, they're so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movies if sex isn't involved. But killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that. And you get into a whole very complicated, very big deal. But the fact is you are having movies come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else, that maybe that's another thing we're going to have to discuss. And a lot of people are saying it."
Concern about violence in games is not new to the political scene in the US, having been a hot button topic in the mid-'90s after the arrival of games like Doom and Mortal Kombat, and again flaring up in the mid-2000s after the success of the PlayStation 2 Grand Theft Auto games. The issue was largely put to rest after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that games enjoy the same free speech protections as media like books and movies, in part because it had not been proven that the interactive nature of games makes them uniquely damaging in a way other violent media are not.
That largely squashed notions of legislative restrictions on violent games, but some non-governmental groups continued to blame games for shootings. After an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT killed more than two dozen students and staff in 2012, the National Rifle Association blamed video games, saying, "There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against own people..."
Actual legislative efforts around video games of late have centered more on protecting children from potentially predatory monetization practices than protecting them from depictions of violence.