Trump’s take on gaming and violence was wrong in the ’90s and it’s twice as wrong now


A cobbled-together meeting at the White House is the latest chapter in the long, misguided crusade against video games. It would be comical if the country were not in a bitter ongoing debate about gun control and the safety of children; but since we are, it’s frustrating that time is still being spent on this long-settled “debate” instead of on practical matters.

The administration invited, on rather short notice, several major game studios, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, Entertainment Software Association, and several groups that have worked to limit violent games. Ostensibly the meeting was to hear both sides of the argument, though as with so many other issues, the scientific consensus is considerably more one-sided.

No link between gaming and real-world violence, or deleterious emotional or cognitive effects, has been established by any credible study. And over and over again major groups publish peer-reviewed work showing the absence of any link. One 2014 study even went so far as to conclude that “videogame consumption is associated with a decline in youth violence rates.”

Far from being impartial, the position of the White House itself is clear from the sizzle reel it published, apparently cut from violent games shown or reviewed on popular YouTube channels.

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(I don’t expect it will stay up for long, since one of the creators of the footage is sure to issue a takedown notice.)

Trump said in February that “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” but did not say who those people were, or whether they had actually looked into the topic.

At the same event he said “You see these movies, they’re so violent and yet a kid is able to see a movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved. Maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”

There is, of course, a rating system for that: the ESRB. Every game shown in the reel above is age-restricted.

In a statement regarding the meeting today, the White House said:

During today’s meeting, the group spoke with the President about the effect that violent video games have on our youth, especially young males. The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence. The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence.

No word on whether the President acknowledged the many studies that indicated no correlation, or even a negative one.

The argument clearly espoused by the Trump administration was wrong in the ’90s, when it was first advanced, and it’s doubly wrong now. Video games have become the most popular and widespread hobby on Earth, yet we have not seen violence erupt among young people the way one would expect from pervasive effects on aggression and empathy.

We have, on the other hand, continued to witness endless violence in our own country that has nothing to do with games. It’s sad and embarrassing that this ridiculous argument is still underway at the highest levels while deliberately ignoring years of research.

Spend a week fielding sensitive HR complaints in ‘Grayscale’ web game


If you’re looking for a way to close out your week that’s entertaining, edifying and looks like you’re doing real work, check out Chimeria:Grayscale, a game where you act as an HR person dealing with everyday office problems via email. Okay, maybe it doesn’t sound that exciting, but there’s more to it than that.

As the game’s creator, MIT CSAIL’s D. Fox Harrell, explains in an interview with… well, MIT, the game is more about identifying and navigating the subtleties of sexism.

The messages from other employees have embedded within them evidence of different types of sexism from the Fiske and Glick social-science model.

We chose this particular model of sexism because it addresses this notion of ambivalent sexism, which includes both hostile sexism — which is the very overt sexism that we know well and could include everything from heinous assaults to gender discrimination — and what they call “benevolent sexism.” It’s not benevolent in the sense that it’s anything good; it’s oppressive too. Fixing a woman’s computer for her under the assumption she cannot do it herself, these researchers would say, is “protective paternalism.”

The problems sent to you, the new HR hire, range all over, and your responses (it’s a kind of choose your own adventure thing) embody responses that may or may not acknowledge the dynamics at play.

This one was kind of a no-brainer, especially since your own notes make a point of watching out for Stan. Unfortunately, we’ve all met Stan.

There’s no big pay-off; the game takes perhaps 10 or 15 minutes to play through, and you don’t get like a certificate of non-sexism at the end or anything. But there are different outcomes depending on how you handle some situations, so you might want to play through more than once.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting (if brief and necessarily basic) look at some of the conflicts and tensions that exist in an office and the variety of responses people and the company they work for might decide on. If nothing else it may serve as a reminder that HR reps are people too.

Featured Image: Tetra Images/Getty Images

Facebook adds support for live streaming and video chats to Messenger games


Last November, Facebook launched Instant Games, a new platform for gaming with friends inside the Messenger chat app. Today, the company is announcing a couple of notable new features for this gaming platform, including support for live streaming via Facebook Live and video chatting with fellow gamers.

The idea with Instant Games is to boost people’s time spent in Messenger by giving them something else to do besides just chat.

It also serves as Facebook’s newest attempt to return to dominance in social gaming. The company’s gaming platform years ago had earned a peak of a quarter-billion dollars per quarter on its 30 percent tax on in-game purchases, and it leveraged Facebook’s network effects to help games go viral.

But with the shift to mobile, Facebook’s position in gaming declined. These days, people spend more time gaming in native mobile apps built for iOS and Android devices.

When Instant Games first launched it offered 20 games across 30 markets, including titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends Frenzy. Now that number has grown to over 70 games from more than 100 developers worldwide, the company says, including recently launched Tetris.

It will soon add other big names, like Angry Birds (built by CoolGames, who also built Tetris); Sonic Jump from SEGA; Disney Tsum Tsum, published by LINE; and a new game from Puzzle & Dragons maker, GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.

To mark its one-year anniversary, Facebook is also debuting a couple of new features for its Instant Games: live streaming and video chat.

Live streaming begins rolling out today.

The feature, powered by Facebook Live, lets Messenger users broadcast their gameplay to their Facebook Page or profile. To use live streaming, you just tap on the new camera icon at the top right of the screen while gaming, then add a short description to be shared alongside your post. To start recording, you press the “Start Live Video” button.

The live broadcast is then shared to your Page or profile. When it ends, friends and fans can watch the saved recording.

With the live streaming feature, Facebook is playing catch up rivals like Twitch, YouTube and Microsoft, all of which today offer their own tools and services for live streaming games. However, in Facebook’s case, the addition is more casual – it’s more about sharing with friends, not monetizing a community through subscriptions, game sales, or custom chat icons, as you’d find on Twitch or YouTube, for example. (At least, not yet).

Facebook says it will soon start testing a feature that lets users video chat while gaming, as well. The feature will initially debut next year in Zynga’s Words with Friends, before expanding to other titles.

According to the company, over 245 million people video chat every month on Messenger. That makes for a large potential audience for a video chatting feature, which adds interactive element to the gaming experience. The feature will also challenge other popular video chatting and hangout apps popular with teens and young adults, like Fam, the app for group video chat via iMessage, for example, or Microsoft’s Skype, among others.

As part of today’s news, Facebook shared a few stats from its gaming partners. You can see these below: