As video game creators prepare for E3, the annual gaming trade show and public exhibition, the head of the industry’s trade group is squaring off against the National Rifle Association over that group’s continued suggestion that video game violence is a factor in recent real world school shootings.
Last month, Oliver North, the new president of the NRA, blamed a “culture of violence” (including video games) for events like the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas that left 10 dead and the Parkland, Fla. school shooting. Mike Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, says that argument is a smokescreen.
“We know the NRA makes those arguments,” he said. “We also know they’re going to bear the burden of history. We will continue to be successful with policy makers as the industry continues to grow.”
Gallagher was present earlier this year at a summit convened by President Donald Trump focusing on violent video games. After that meeting, he says, many senators in attendance were convinced there was no connection between games and real world violence.
“We have an ever-growing number of policy makers that reject the notion,” he says. “We have a number of champions [for] the industry.”
Critics have long sought to tie video games with real world violent incidents. Political pressure began to grow in the early 2000s. The furor escalated to the point that California attempted to restrict the sale of violent video games to children in 2005. The Supreme Court struck down that law in 2011.
The NRA has long tried to shift the focus to games. After the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., then-executive vice president Wayne LaPierre pointing to mature-rated games like Grand Theft Auto. Experts, though, dismissed the link then as well.
Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M, said, “As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth.”