Game maker joining gun violence discussion has a Trump on its board

Justin Sink and Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

WASHINGTON -- When President Donald Trump meets with video game manufacturers Thursday to discuss gun violence, one participant might seem familiar to the nation's chief executive -- ZeniMax Media Inc.

His younger brother Robert Trump has been on the board of the Bethesda, Md.-based producer of games like "Doom," "Rage" and "Fallout" since at least 2007. The board also includes Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS Chairman Les Moonves and former baseball great Cal Ripken Jr., according to its website.

The White House called the meeting in the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting where 17 people were killed. President Trump has said that while he supports limited new gun controls, including raising the minimum age to purchase certain weapons, he also wants to examine depictions of violence in media and improve mental health services.

Video game representatives expected to attend the meeting include Robert Altman, chief executive officer of ZeniMax Media, and Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., which makes the "Grand Theft Auto" series, The Washington Post reported. Michael Gallagher of the Entertainment Software Association, the industry's Washington-focused lobbying group, is also supposed to attend.

ZeniMax didn't respond to a request for comment after normal business hours, nor did Robert Trump's Brooklyn office.

In a meeting with law enforcement officials last month, Trump called video game violence "incredible" and said it was "hard to believe that at least for a percentage of children" that media violence had no negative impact. Trump also recommended implementing new ratings systems "for terror" so parents would know what their children were exposed to.

Accused Parkland, Fla., shooter Nikolas Cruz played violent video games as much as 15 hours a day, a neighbor told the Miami Herald. "It was kill, kill, kill, blow up something, and kill some more, all day," said the neighbor, Paul Gold.

Video games carry content ratings that suggest the appropriate age for players. Boxed versions also include rating summaries providing detailed descriptions of the content, including different types of violent or sexual material.

So-called first person shooter games have provided a boost for the industry, with revenue streams that extend beyond their initial sale to online updates with new action. The titles have spawned contests in which thousands of fans watch professionals play online and in arenas. Activision Blizzard Inc., the largest U.S. video game company, has sold franchises for its new esports league tied to "Overwatch," another hit shooting game.

The Entertainment Software Association has defended the industry's business practices. Games with mature themes are given ratings that discourage parents from buying them, the association's spokesman, Dan Hewitt, said in an email.

"Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence," the association said in a statement.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement the president hoped to "discuss violent video game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children." She said the meeting would be the "first of many" with industry leaders.

(With assistance from Mark Gurman.)

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