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VIDEO GAME WARNING LABELS?

13 Jan 2009

GamePolitics reports that California Rep. Joe Baca (D) has introduced HR 231, which would require a warning label -- similar to those found on alcohol and cigarettes -- to appear on all video games rated T (Teen) or above. The proposed text of the label reads:

WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.

It's interesting to me that the "warning" calls out "other violent media", yet Rep. Baca does not propose applying this labelling to movies, music, books, or indeed, any "other violent media" at all.

Rep. Baca comments on the motivation behind the bill:

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.  Meanwhile research continues to show a proven link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young people.  American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products.

I think Rep. Baca, like so many politicians these days, is out of touch with reality. The ESRB ratings are larger, more prominent, and more detailed than similar ratings for other media, which suggests the video game industry is rather adeptly living up to its social responsibility to inform consumers. Perhaps consumers -- parents, specifically -- should live up to their social responsibility to educate and involve themselves in their childrens' media consumption?

Furthermore, these much-vaunted "studies" have yet to prove causation. There's a lot of correlation out there, but that could as easily mean that violent personalities are attracted to violent games, as that violent games create violent personalities.

Rep. Baca concludes his comments with:

I am proud to introduce the Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2009, and am hopeful my legislation can work to stop the growing influence of violent media on America’s children and youth.

I wonder if he'll be as proud when the State of California has to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees after his bill is defeated in court. I've lost count of how many such bills have died in just such a way -- we're probably hovering near 10, by now -- and not a single one has ever survived.

Coming, as this does, right on the heels of rumors of new Jack Thompson-influence anti-game legislation in Utah makes me think that 2009 is going to be another year of political battles for gamers and game developers.

Posted In:

politics video-games