In 2017, the APA's Media Psychology division advised officials and reporters to stop suggesting there was a connection between violent video games and real-life acts of brutality: "Journalists and policy makers do their constituencies a disservice in cases where they link acts of real-world violence with the perpetrators' exposure to violent video games or other violent media. There's little scientific evidence to support the connection, and it may distract us from addressing those issues that we know contribute to real-world violence."
The US legal system agrees. In 2011, the US Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to children. It was a 7-2 decision and the majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, a legendarily conservative voice on the bench.
"Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively," he wrote. "Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media."
This view is held by most Americans, too. A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found 53 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, "People who play violent video games are more likely to be violent themselves."
However, 40 percent of people agreed there was a relationship between video game violence and violent behavior. That's high, considering the ridiculous amount of evidence to the contrary. This theory persists, in part, because it's an enduring component of some politicians' predictable post-school-shooting talking tours.
After the Parkland shooting, Florida congressman Brian Mast told NPR stronger gun laws were not the answer, despite calls for such legislation from student survivors. Instead, Mast said, "What do we do with the biggest pusher of violence? The biggest pusher of violence is, hands down, Hollywood movies, hands down, the video game market." Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin shared similar sentiments, while Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem refused to vote on a bill banning bump stocks, arguing violent video games were the real concern.
The National Rifle Association is another loud voice in this conversation, and its leaders have long blamed mass shootings on video games. In 2012, after a shooter killed 20 children and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NRA president Wayne La Pierre said, "There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people." He was talking about video games, not the gun industry.
The NRA has donated to Mast's campaign and Bevin is "proudly endorsed" by the organization. Trump has an A-plus rating from the NRA.
"There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people."
Which brings us back to this week's White House meeting with the ESA. One week after the Parkland shooting, Trump floated the (unscientific, largely disproven) theory that video games can incite real-world violence, and questioned whether stricter regulation was necessary. These are sentiments designed to grab the attention of the ESA and video game fans alike, and they steer the conversation away from topics like gun legislation -- which is generally how the NRA prefers things.
The ESA has plenty of experience defending the reputation of the video game industry and its ability to regulate itself, and its arguments are backed up by decades of research into on-screen and real-world violence. It's highly likely that this week's meeting with Trump won't result in new federal regulations for the video game industry -- and besides, any attempts to censor would be challenged on First Amendment grounds, just as they have been (quite successfully) in the past.
It's also likely the Trump administration is aware of this stalemate. The desired outcome, in this case, is the conversation that draws energy away from a much more complicated, politically charged and emotional debate about gun control in the US -- a conversation that includes the 1,100 words above.