Take-Two chief executive officer Strauss Zelnick is on something of a victory lap. The publisher had one of the best earnings reports of the season. This is due to a variety of games, such as Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2, and NBA 2K. The company also has high hopes for the upcoming shooter Borderlands 3, which is debuting in September. And Zelnick talked about all of that when he went on Mad Money for an interview with host Jim Cramer yesterday.
But the Take-Two boss also addressed the recent mass murders in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which right-wing swindlers are attempting to link to video games as part of a transparent effort to draw attention away from guns and white nationalism.
As GamesBeat PC gaming guest post editor Rowan Kaiser documented last week, Walmart, Disney, and more are all taking the right-wing’s bad-faith bait about video games and violence. But Zelnick countered that narrative.
“It’s fun to talk about entertainment, but lives were lost,” Zelnick said. “It’s disrespectful to the victims and the families to point fingers at entertainment. Entertainment is a part of people’s daily joy. And it’s consumed worldwide. And it’s the same worldwide. Gun violence is uniquely American. That has to change, but that will only change if we address the real issues.”
Zelnick did not address the real issues
Zelnick stopped short of going into those real issues. And in that regard, he is right in line with the rest of the video game industry, which doesn’t want to take the blame for violence but also doesn’t want to have a real conversation about the actual causes. When someone like him says that “we need to address the real issues,” that “we” rarely actually means anyone involved at the executive level of a gaming publisher.
And Cramer did not push Zelnick on this. Instead, he asked if Zelnick would pull a game if he found out it did cause violence. The Take-Two chief executive agreed that he would.
“In the same way that I wouldn’t choose to market substances that cause people to get sick,” said Zelnick.
Take-Two and other gaming companies can point to empirical data about why video games aren’t responsible. Former Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime did exactly that on his Twitter account.
Facts are facts. pic.twitter.com/sSEbdYZcgE
— Reggie Fils-Aime (@Reggie) August 6, 2019
But unless the gaming industry is able to stand up and take the next step to join the conversation about why guns and white supremacy are the actual problems, it’s just going to find itself taking the blame following the next tragedy as well.