President Donald Trump plans to invite representatives from the video game industry to the White House, an administration official told NBC News on Friday — just days after the president suggested that there is a link between violent games and mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida.
"I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts," Trump said last Thursday during a meeting about school safety.
Trump is by no means the first politician to say that bloody, brutal video games can lead to real-world violence. Mitt Romney, for example, once blamed the Virginia Tech and Columbine massacres on "pornography and violence" in music, movies, TV shows and video games.
But what do researchers make of these claims? A growing number of them say there is no evidence of a link — and yet some groups (including the National Rifle Association) continue to foster that perception. Here's a look at the scholarship.
"It's hard to attribute video games to any kind of violence in society," said Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University in Florida. "We're not able to find any evidence to support this idea."
Ferguson is joined in that view by Whitney DeCamp, a professor of sociology at Western Michigan University, who says the relationship between video games and violent behavior is insignificant and trivial.
The Supreme Court in 2011 dismissed any link between game violence and real violence when it ruled, 7 to 2, that California could not block the sale of violent games to kids. Justice Antonin Scalia, a hero in the conservative movement, wrote for the majority:
"Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media."
Forty-nine percent of American adults play video games on a computer, TV, console or portable device (like an iPhone), according to a 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center. And another 10 percent consider themselves to be “gamers.”
The American public is fairly divided on the question of whether violent games are tied to violent behavior.
A slight majority (53 percent) disagree with the statement “people who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves,” according to Pew. But 40 percent say there is a relationship between game violence and actual violence.
Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, has castigated the entertainment media for its purported role in contributing to mass shootings. After the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, LaPierre blasted the video game business as a "corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people."
Gun control is surely not the issue - traditional family values have been demonized and attacked. It starts with the family and how you’re raised. Video games, movies and music all promote violence. It’s a societal issue.
In his comments last week, Trump appeared to side with the NRA view of the video game industry. But his comments were quickly challenged by several researchers — and at least one survivor of the Parkland shooting.
“My friends and I have been playing video games our whole life and never … have we ever felt driven or provoked by those actions in those games to do something as horrible as this," Samuel Zeif told CNN last week. "I don’t think anyone is.”
“It’s a video game," he said. "Something happens, you restart. We know that’s not how life is.”