A meeting was held at the White House in March 2018 by President Donald Trump to discuss violence in video games. Aside from the President, other lawmakers, video game industry professionals, and media critics attended. The critics and lawmakers that were invited were only right-leaning, which speaks volumes. But most damning, as far as the goals behind the meeting were concerned, is the video that was shown there. At almost a minute and half, this video featured a cherry-picked sequence of random video game violence clips. It was published as an unlisted on the White House YouTube channel, but at the time of this writing had been viewed over 1.3 million times.
The fact that the White House chose to put this video on YouTube is a little bit confusing. As in, video game violence is really bad, and you shouldn't make it accessible to children, but we'll post it on a website that is viewed by millions of children without even an age gate. But that is a topic for another day. Right now, we're taking a look at one effect the release of this video has had. The non-profit organization Games for Change has published a similarly short video on YouTube in protest of the original Trump-backed one. The Games for Change collection of clips shows moments from video games that are incredibly beautiful. The massive mechanical beasts walking through fields and forests from Horizon Zero Dawn, the sun rising and setting in Minecraft, and Ellie petting a giraffe in The Last of Us are all in it. It is a highlight reel of beauty and love in video games.
I absolutely applaud Games for Change in making this video, as they are trying to show that violence is not most video games' main focus. Some people seem to think that headshots in Sniper Elite or Call of Duty are all that video games care about. They don't see the love between Chloe and Max in Life is Strange or the beauty of the sea in ABZU. It's incredibly important to know that video games are as varied as film and television. They cover all facets of life, both light and dark, as they should. It's good that Games for Change made an effort to point this out.
However, the Games for Change video falls flat in a variety of ways. First, it's an emotional response rather than a logical one. Emotional responses will not garner as much favor as logical ones. The Games for Change video is a knee-jerk reaction to a very serious issue. For me, it felt a little bit like a child arguing with a parent, “You think video games are just violent? Well... they can be pretty too!” Unfortunately, pointing this out does nothing for the subject at hand. The problem here is thinking that video game violence causes real life violence. Showing that video games can be beautiful is not a logical counter-argument.
There's also the fact that Games for Change was using the White House's tactics against them. As I've already mentioned, the original violence in video games piece showed only select bloody, gory, and violent moments. Some of the footage was even nine years old. The video is like looking at statistics or charts. The rankings on such charts can be skewed to make the visuals work for either side of an argument. This is exactly what's being shown in these two opposing videos. You can pick and choose clips from video games to show that they're violent, or beautiful, full of love, or full of hate. It doesn't prove anything.
This video, however good the intentions were, will not further the video game violence argument. So some games are pretty! That's not going to stop some people from saying they make people violent. It might make them admit that not all video games are violent and “bad," but it won't take any wind from the sails of their argument. As much as I appreciate the effort Games for Change was trying to make, it's unfortunately not going to have the desired effect. All it does is showcase some of the best moments in video games.
What do you think about the two videos? Sound off below!