In March, representatives from the video game industry met with President Trump to discuss video games in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting. One of the attendees was Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two Interactive. Now, Zelnick is speaking about that meeting for what appears to be the first time–but he isn’t saying much. Speaking to Mad Money’s Jim Cramer this week, Zelnick was asked directly how the meeting went. “It was interesting,” Zelnick said, leaning forward in his chair and appearing to chuckle in a somewhat awkward exchange with the fast-talking Cramer. Pressed for more details, Zelnick gave a diplomatic response.
“I haven’t talked a lot about it publicly. The truth is, when you’re asked to show up and have a conversation on a serious topic, you show up,” he said. “Our position is plain.”
Zelnick went on to say that it’s not true that Trump was picking on video games during the meeting. “Not at all,” Zelnick said when Cramer said video games were not being singled out during the meeting. As we reported previously, Trump also discussed violence in film during the meeting.
Take-Two is a member of the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the video game industry’s interests in Washington. The group attended the meeting with Trump and, while we don’t know exactly what was said, it is likely the ESA pointed to studies that have shown there is no link between violent video games and violent behavior.
In addition to Zelnick, Trump’s brother Robert Trump–who is a member of Bethesda parent company ZeniMax’s board of directors–also attended the meeting. A number of lawmakers also were there, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Trump has suggested that violent video games are a problem in the past, tweeting that they are “creating monsters” back in 2012. After the shooting in Parkland, he referenced how he’s been told “the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” He went on to suggest that a movie and or video games rating board is needed, despite the fact that those already exist in the US in the form of the MPAA and ESRB.
More broadly, lawmakers have taken issue with violent video games for more than 25 years. An uproar around the violence in games like Mortal Kombat is what led to the founding of the ESRB, which is a self-regulatory body. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, then-Vice President Joe Biden also met with the games industry to discuss violence, though that ultimately had little impact in terms of legislation. Most notably, a 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court struck down a bill that would have blocked the sale of violent video games to minors.
Studies have yet to connect the motives of shooters with a connection to violent video games. In fact, there’s research that suggests school shooters may be less interested in violent games than other people. The ESA has frequently cited the fact that games are played internationally as further evidence that they are not to blame: “Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the US has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation,” it said recently. A recent Washington Post story further suggests this is a US-centric problem.
For more on Trump’s White House meeting about video games, check out GameSpot’s full report here.