Shares of the biggest videogame makers tumbled on Monday after President Donald Trump blamed the industry for contributing to a culture of violence in the US.
“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” Trump said at the White House after mass shootings killed 30 people. “This includes the gruesome and grisly videogames that are now commonplace.”
Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive Software all fell at least 5% following the remarks, showing investors are worried about a backlash against shooter titles like Call of Duty and Fortnite. Trump’s remarks weren’t the only headwinds for the stocks. The Nasdaq fell by the most since May over renewed trade tensions with China.
The industry contends that there’s no link between their games and real-life violence. But the companies have frequently been blamed for violent incidents over the years, by both Republicans and Democrats.
“More than 165 million Americans enjoy videogames, and billions of people play videogames worldwide,” the industry’s trade group, the Entertainment Software Association, said Monday. “Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the US.”
Companies adopted a movie-style rating system in 1994 — under congressional pressure — that limits sales of the most graphic games to customers over age 17.
“It’s too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence,” Trump said. “We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately. Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life.”
Representatives from the industry met with the president in the White House in March last year, following the school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.
Research on the subject has been mixed. The American Psychological Association found a link between violent videogames and aggression in children, although not necessarily lethal violence. A study published in May in the Journal of the American Medical Association said children who play violent videogames were more likely to show dangerous behaviour with guns.
Mass murderers from Columbine, Colorado, to Christchurch, New Zealand, have been gamers.
Trump isn’t the only one taking up the issue. Politicians such as house minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, and Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, also a Republican, blamed videogames in the wake of the latest shootings. — Reported by Nick Turner, with assistance from Vivek Shankar and Justin Sink, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP