Speaking in a recent episode of CNBC’s financial talk show Mad Money, Take-Two Interactive chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said the suggestion that videogames cause real-world violence is “disrespectful” to victims and their families.
“This is a terrible tragedy, a senseless tragedy. It’s fun to talk about entertainment, but lives were lost,” Zelnick said. “The truth is, it’s disrespectful to the victims and the families to point the finger at entertainment. Entertainment is part of people’s daily joy, and it’s consumed worldwide, and it’s the same worldwide. Gun violence is uniquely American. And that has to change, and it will only change if we address the real issues.”
As the publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series (among others), Zelnick knows a thing or two about campaigns to blame games for violent behavior. Take-Two was a favorite target of disgraced former attorney and anti-game crusader Jack Thompson (Thompson once ratted out Strauss to Mrs. Zelnick, and I’m not making that up), until Thompson agreed in a lawsuit settlement to stop threatening to sue Take Two and attempting to block the sale of its games.
Zelnick’s comments follow a statement made earlier this month by US president Donald Trump, who in the wake of mass murders in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, called out “grisly and violent videogames” for the influence they have on young people.
“It is 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.”
Zelnick said that if evidence was ever found indicating that a game caused violent behavior, he would stop selling it, “in the same way that I wouldn’t choose to market substances that cause people to get sick.”
Despite the absence of that evidence, the US government has continued with efforts to link videogames to gun violence, instead of, for instance, guns.