Proposed US bill seeks warning labels on videogames

Two US congressmen are proposing a bill that would require all videogames rated E (Everybody) and up to carry a warning label.

As reported by The Hill, Congressmen Joe Baca (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, H.R. 4204, on Monday. If passed into law, every videogame not rated EC (Early Childhood) would be forced to carry a label which says, “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.” Baca and Wolf claim that evidence is mounting which states that playing videogames has a negative affect on mental health.

“The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers — to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products,” said Baca. “They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility.”

And Wolf, “Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents – and children – about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior.”

This is not the first time this bill has been proposed, as previous attempts in 2009 and 2011 failed to become law.

The Entertainment Software Administration, a trade body which represents videogame publishers in the United States, has responded accordingly, telling Game Informer: “The Entertainment Software Association supports providing parents with complete and useful information so they can make informed purchasing decisions. The current video game rating system does so and has been lauded as the leading rating system in the entertainment industry.

“Unfortunately, Representative Baca’s facially unconstitutional bill—which has been introduced to no avail in each of six successive Congressional sessions, beginning in 2002—needlessly concerns parents with flawed research and junk science. Numerous medical experts, research authorities, and courts across the country, including the United States Supreme Court, exhaustively reviewed the research Representative Baca uses to base his bill and found it lacking and unpersuasive. Independent scientific researchers found no causal connection between video games and real life violence.

“We would commend Representatives Baca and Wolf to the reams of bourgeoning academic research demonstrating that video games can be innovative learning and assessment tools in engaging and educating America’s youth, especially in core subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math.”

So, yes, the legal dramatics still rage on. By now, you probably know which side of the battle line you stand on. Will this bill be declared unconstitutional? If passed, will the label only serve to boost sales, similar to what happened with the “Parental Advisory” label debate years ago in the music industry? Does Super Mario actually make kids want to jump on turtles?  It would appear that the jury is still out on this one. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go play some videogames.