The 2016 electoral process is well under way, and so far it's proven to be interesting -- almost humorously bizarre in some cases. We've watched as the almost comically large group of contenders has slowly been whittled down; the culling starting even before the debates. Now that the contenders have been pared down to a more reasonable number, we thought we'd take a look at their attitudes toward gaming culture.
While video games obviously aren't major talking points in this year's campaign -- all the available slots are filled with things like national security, the economy, and education -- it doesn't mean that the candidates don't have opinions on the subject and topics related to it. And paying attention to these opinions is important. Aside from the obvious topic of whether or not video games cause children to become more violent, politicians' opinions on the topic -- and those related to it -- can impact everything from freedom of expression to copyright law.
It's important to keep in mind that video games are no long a niche hobby; they're a $90+ billion dollar a year industry that employs hordes of developers, writers, artists, programmers, and more. And...most of the people playing games are people of voting age.
So, knowing this, we've done a little research and have found statements made by the candidates expressing their opinions on gaming and its industry.
A long-time favorite for the Democrat nomination, Hillary doesn't have the best track record with gamers. In 2005, she introduced the "Family Entertainment Protection Act," suggesting that violent video games needed to be treated the same way as "tobacco, alcohol, and pornography." The goal of the act was to discourage the sale of Mature and Adult Only rated games to minors. Clinton stated that she wasn't trying to take games away, just protect children from "a small subset" that are harmful to them.
More recently, the Clinton campaign seems to have embraced video games -- even sharing images of the former First Lady playing a Game Boy while on a flight in 1993. She is reported to have picked up the hobby while spending time at her father's bedside prior to his death.
Whether or not this means Clinton has actually changed her opinions on "violent games" is a little uncertain. But it does seem her campaign is at least beginning to understand that a lot of people play video games and that interest is worth playing up to.
The dark horse of the Democrat party, Bernie hasn't said much on video games. But! It seems there was a browser-based game made in 2006 as part of an effort to get him elected to the Senate. The game tasks the player with flying (as Bernie) a hydro-plane, dodging enemy right-wingers, fat cats, and bags of flying money. You can also grab Hydrogen to keep mini-Bernie alive longer, and fact sheets to use as ammunition against your foes.
The man making other countries ask, "You mean this wasn't a joke?" whenever his campaign is mentioned, hasn't shown much love for video games in the past. In 2012, he took to Twitter to decry video game violence, stating that it was "creating monsters!"
Video game violence & glorification must be stopped—it is creating monsters!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 17, 2012
This tweet was resurrected last year when Trump, or one of his account managers, retweeted a GamerGate member showing support for him.
"@CommissarOfGG: You are being attacked from all sides, yet you have the people's hearts. Just be calm and trust yourself. We love you."— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2015
Chances are that the entertainer-turned-Presidential hopeful didn't really know or care what GamerGate was and just thought he was retweeting someone showing him support. The retweet doesn't necessarily indicate that Trump's opinions on violent games have changed over the last four years.
Senator Cruz may be the only potential candidate going full tilt for the "nerd cred" vote. Cruz spoke with The Daily Beast in May of last year, stating that not only was he a gamer, but he had the potential to become so addicted to it he has to refrain from owning a console.
He added that he'd been playing games for most of his life -- even owning an Atari 2600 when he was a kid and wasting too much time in money in arcades. According to his roommate in college, he's apparently pretty good at games too.
Interestingly, the only time Cruz has mentioned video games in a political way was in reference to the use of drones. At a Foreign Policy Initiative forum in D.C, he noted:
“There are also concerns from the perspective of national security. No administration has used drones as aggressively as has the Obama administration. And I’m worried about what I would call video-game warfare.”
Dr. Ben Carson is a bit different from the rest of the Presidential hopefuls, in that he's not a career politician. He's a Doctor. In fact, he was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. So, the few times he's addressed video games, he appears to have done so in that capacity -- as a Doctor. In an interview with The Best Schools, he was asked about his stance on getting children to turn off the TV and other gadgets and read books instead.
Carson responded to this inquiry by stating that he'd had a lot of parents ask him about medicating their children for ADD before he retired and how it's become more common when it used to be a rare thing:
"And I’d ask them a couple of questions: I said, 'Can they watch a movie?' 'Oh yeah, they can watch movies all day.' 'OK. Can they play video games?' 'All day and all night.' I said, 'They don’t have ADD.' I said, 'Here’s what I want you to do: wean them off that stuff and substitute time with you, reading a book and discussing it. And then let’s talk about it in three months.'"
He goes on to add that the primary issue is that thanks to the speed at which electronic entertainment happens, it sets children's brains on "super zoom," preventing them from paying attention. The solution, he says, is to get them to slow down so that they can digest the material they're being given.
The youngest candidate in the Presidential race, Rubio believes himself to be pretty tech savvy, and even admits that children are not only pretty adept with tech, but are learning skills from games without even realizing it. At a campaign stop in Tennessee, he used Minecraft as an example of that stating:
"If you play Minecraft, you're basically writing code when you're converting a hammer into a pickax."
He's not wrong about Minecraft. While a lot of people play it just to play, Mojang has worked hard with other organizations to create a variety of educational and social applications...including having children redesign spaces in the real world.
And there you have it. Our Presidential hopefuls' thoughts on video games, violence, and education. Some of the responses are pretty reasonable and measured. Some candidates appear to have changed their opinions over time -- although whether that's genuine or just part of the campaign, we'll have to wait and see. And others...well...you know.
It's an interesting mix of opinions, and I have to admit that some of them surprised me a bit. Whether or not that would be enough to swing my vote in their direction is an entirely different matter, however.
Author's note: There is one more current Presidential candidate -- John Kasich. However, I was unable to find any previous remarks by Kasich on the subject of video games.