French President Emmanuel Macron is extending an olive branch to video gamers after previously linking computer games to rioting that rocked France earlier this year.
Those comments dismayed some in the gaming community, even beyond France. Japanese game director Kastuhiro Harada tweeted in response that “blaming something is a great way to escape the burden of responsibility.”
Macron started his unusually lengthy post this weekend with a mea culpa, saying: “I startled gamers.”
He then sought to clarify his thinking and showered video games and the industry with praise.
“Video games are an integral part of France,” Macron declared.
“I expressed my concerns at the end of June because delinquents had used video game habits to trivialize the violence on social networks,” he said. “It is this violence that I condemn, not video games.”
The unrest started after the police shooting of Nahel Merzouk in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on June 27. The French-born 17-year-old of north African descent was stopped by two officers on motorbikes who subsequently alleged that he’d been driving dangerously. He died from a single shot through his left arm and chest.
In a government crisis meeting at the time, Macron accused social networks of playing “a considerable role” in the unrest and of fueling copycat violence and castigated video games.
“Among the youngest (rioters), this leads to a sort of escape from reality. We sometimes have the feeling that some of them are living out, on the streets, the video games that have intoxicated them,” Macron said.
His latest post, however, struck an entirely different tone.
“I have always considered that video games are an opportunity for France, for our youth and its future, for our jobs and our economy,” he said.
The industry “inspires, makes people dream, makes them grow!” Macron continued.
He concluded: “You can count on me.”