As if the U.S. government didn't have enough real issues to deal with, two Congressmen are currently pushing a new bill that would require all video games to wear a warning label not unlike the ones found on cigarette boxes. The health issues named would be different, but the idea is the same.
If passed, the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, or H.R. 4204, would attach health caution to any games rated above "Early Childhood" by the ESRB. The message "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior" will be printed on warning labels or, in the case of digital titles, included in some other way.
Virginia Representative Frank Wolf, one of the bill's two co-sponsors, insists that parents need to be warned of the health risks video games pose on children:
"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."
The bill's other sponsor, Joe Baca of California, called out the gaming industry on its failure to inform parents of the "damaging content" often found in video games:
"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. They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility."
Needless to say, the industry isn't letting this bill go through without a fight. The ESA's Rich Taylor responded by denying any links between violent games and violent behavior, noting that "numerous" scientific experts and courts have already failed to establish evidence of cause and effect. He also reminds everyone that games already have prominent rating and content labels.
"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."
This certainly isn't the first time we're seeing lawmakers target the gaming industry, and it's not going to be the last. Past attempts have been mostly unsuccessful, however.