But it's far more likely that the task force is its own primary outcome. A year and a half ago, after former Vice President Al Gore made a booster's appearance at a games industry conference, I wrote an essay titled "Why Debates About Video Games Aren't Really About Video Games." The context was less charged, but the lessons are the same: The actual use, function, or content of games never has a place in political discussions about games. Instead, games are cogs in someone's favorite discourse machine. Not just negative ones like gun violence, but also apparently beneficial ones: a commitment to STEM education, a generic technological wherewithal, an empathy with the social practices younger voters, and so on. Whether for good or for ill, games become instruments in public debate rather than as mechanisms through which players can participate in a variety of activities—including reflecting on the very debates they now serve as puppets.
As it happens, that's just what happened to games (and popular media more generally) in the NRA's good guy with a gun response to the Newtown shooting. Guns aren't a factor in gun violence for the NRA—rather, games, media, and law enforcement failures must take the blame. Once the terms of the debate are set like this (and set they very much were thanks to the over-the-top bravado in this press conference) then it's very hard to extract oneself from the debate without shifting the frame, without changing the terms of the debate.
I certainly believe that the White House would like nothing more than to see an end to mass gun murders in America's elementary schools. But the fact remains that gun violence takes place every day, all across this country, at a rate of dozens of deaths a day, and as the leading cause of death among African-American youth. But when the vice president establishes a task force on gun control and violence that includes the media industries that the NRA has once again chosen as their patsies after a particularly heinous and public example of gun violence, all it can do is shift attention away from guns.
Among my colleagues in the games industry, many have followed Lynch's lead in empathizing with the Biden commission, arguing that it would be a mistake to shun the vice president's invitation for feedback, to spurn the opportunity to make a case for our medium. And neither Kris Graft nor I disagree. Rather, we urge citizens to see that invitation for what it really is: a political operation meant to produce a feeling of progress, a sense that the key topics are "on the table." You can't lose when you invite input, because anyone who doesn't respond will appear to have ceded their position, lost their chance.
The truth is, the games industry lost as soon as a meeting was conceived about stopping gun violence with games as a participating voice. It was a trap, and the only possible response to it is to expose it as such. Unfortunately, the result is already done: Once more, public opinion has been infected with the idea that video games have some predominant and necessary relationship to gun violence, rather than being a diverse and robust mass medium that is used for many different purposes, from leisure to exercise to business to education.