By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After criticizing video games in the wake of a school shooting in Florida last month, U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with industry executives on Thursday to discuss what the president believes is a link between the games and violent acts.
Trump, a Republican, cited the influence of video games after a 19-year-old gunman was accused of killing 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida and injuring more than a dozen others. “I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts,” he said last month.
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The White House said that Thursday’s meeting will be the first of several and will include an industry trade group, conservative activists and members of Congress, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Also attending will be executives from two video game-makers, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, which owns Rockstar Games Inc, and ZeniMax Media Inc, which owns Bethesda Softworks.
The purpose of the meeting will be “to discuss violent video-game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.
Trump has made the issue personal by mentioning his concern for his 11-year-old son, Barron. “I look at some of the things he's watching, and I say, how is that possible?” he said last week.
The president also has spoken for the need for a new ratings system for games. Currently, the industry employs its own system, which rates games for violence and sexual content.
Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association, whose CEO will attend the White House meeting, said studies have established no connection between video games and violent conduct.
“Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States,” Hewitt said. “Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.”
In addition to Take-Two and ZeniMax, the association's members include some of the biggest names in the industry such as Electronic Arts Inc, Activision Blizzard Inc, Nintendo Co Ltd, Sony Corp and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
It will not be the first time video game-makers have been called to the White House in the wake of a school shooting. In 2013, then-Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, met with industry leaders after the massacre at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school that left 26 dead.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by James Oliphant; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)