Today, the White House issued a memorandum in which it applauded President Trump’s big plans to bolster science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs across the country. One of the video game industry’s biggest and most important groups, the Entertainment Software Association, has now released a statement applauding the new initiative, saying it could pay dividends for the United States video game industry.
“ESA commends the Trump Administration on its bold leadership in computer science education,” ESA president Michael Gallagher said. “The White House’s new STEM initiative will help grow the diverse and high-skilled workforce that drives the $ 30.4 billion US video game industry.”
“By expanding opportunities for America’s youth interested in the creative tech sector, we can generate thousands of new American jobs and achieve new levels of innovation, invention, and economic success. We look forward to working with the Administration and industry partners.”
The ESA is the organization that represents the video game industry’s interests in Washington. The group also conducts market research, provides policy and legal guidance, and working to protect IP rights. The ESA also organizes E3 every year. Its members include some of the biggest and best known in gaming, including Activision, Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Take-Two, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros.
As outlined in the memorandum, the Trump administration says it wants to “better equip America’s young people with the relevant knowledge and skills that will enable them to secure high‑paying, stable jobs throughout their careers.”
It goes on: “With the growing role of technology in driving the American economy, many jobs increasingly require skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) — including, in particular, Computer Science. These skills open the door to jobs, strengthening the backbone of American ingenuity, driving solutions to complex problems across industries, and improving lives around the world. As part of my Administration’s commitment to supporting American workers and increasing economic growth and prosperity, it is critical that we educate and train our future workforce to compete and excel in lucrative and important STEM fields.”
Trump went on to say that too many young people lack access to “high-quality STEM education,” and this puts them “at risk of being shut out from some of the most attractive job options in the growing United States economy.”
It’s not surprise that the ESA would support this initiative, given that it would theoretically help drive more people into the gaming industry.
Trump’s memorandum also states that Computer Science courses are “especially scarce” in schools today, claiming that almost 40 percent of high schools do not offer physics and 60 percent do not have computer programming courses available.
“The Department of Education, therefore, should prioritize helping districts recruit and train teachers capable of providing students with a rigorous education in STEM fields, focusing in particular on Computer Science,” Trump said. “This will help equip students with the skills needed to obtain certifications and advanced degrees that ultimately lead to jobs in STEM field.”
Trump’s message to the Department of Education is that it should make high-quality STEM education, particularly Computer Science, a priority. He called on Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education secretary, to consider this when she awards grant funds in fiscal year 2018 and beyond. Trump is directing the Department of Education to spend $ 200 million per year on the new STEM efforts.
You can read the full memorandum here.
GameSpot spoke with Gallagher at E3 this year. We asked about the Trump presidency specifically and what impact there might be on video games under his administration.
“Now we have a new administration in Washington that has brought some challenges. Everybody here is aware of them,” he said to a room of reporters. “You’re following them or feeling them. Gamers are feeling it both ways. Almost everyone in this country is a gamer, and almost 80 percent of gamers voted in the last election. Our job is to deliver the outputs and policy that extend and protect the frontiers of this industry.”
Gallagher said some of what Trump has done in office has been positive for gaming, including tax cuts and repatriation efforts. “Those two things can be fantastic for bringing capital in–more investment in the industry, more dynamic creativity, and more jobs right right here at home. That’s something we can get behind. The H1B1 Visa reform is something that is very powerful as a force for good in the industry. We’re attracting the very brightest, the very smartest, so that’s interesting.”
“It’s also our job to be clear to the administration when they’re on the wrong track.”
The ESA leader also said Trump did a good job of “holding other countries accountable” for the investments they make in US gaming. He said he hopes there can be NAFTA reform that includes digital trade. “The headliner, the No. 1 one thing the administration wants to put in NAFTA is digital trade,” Gallagher said. “What’s the leading digital trade? Ask Apple or Google where their revenue comes from. It’s what our industry is making.”
There are negatives as well, Gallagher said. He said Trump’s eagerness to make tonally-off comments and when he does anything to impact the trust people might have for the highest office in the country, that can be bad for gaming too.
“We hear from our members, we hear from their employees. The policies that appear to be exclusionary or discriminatory–we’re a worldwide industry,” he said. “Anything we do as a country to diminish this or make it appear the US is not welcoming or is not a safe place, is hurting the business. And we’ve heard that all across the industry.
“So it’s also our job to be clear to the administration when they’re on the wrong track. So when core equities are at stake, we’ll steer the administration in that direction. But remember, we have the US Constitution. This isn’t a dictatorship. Congress has a lot to say about the direction [of our country] and we’re working with them and have been working with them to make sure that. We also have the court system, which you know we’re pretty good at using. We’re good at using all of the levers to get where we need to be.”