Tobacco-style warning on video games proposed by US bill

By Alice O'Connor, Mar 21, 2012 7:00am PDT

Once again, video games are being used for a spot of political grandstanding, and in a familiar way. Not for the first time, a bipartisan pair of US congressmen have introduced a bill that would require almost every video game box to bear a warning label reading, "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior."

Should the the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, H. R. 4204, somehow pass, it'd require the warning be placed "in a clear and conspicuous location on the packaging" of every game rated by the ESRB, except for those rated EC (Early Childhood). It makes no distinction for a game's actual content, so the warning would be slapped on Mortal Kombat and Imagine: Party Babyz alike.

"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," chief sponsor Joe Baca (D-CA) said, reported by The Hill. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility."

Co-sponsor Frank Wolf (R-VA) chimed in, "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."

Of course, no causal relationship has ever been proven.

The Entertainment Software Association responded, in a statement provided to Gamasutra, "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."

Given that such bills have failed to pass before, it's fair to predict that this one will die too, after wasting a fair bit of time and money. It's an established routine--when lawmakers try to single out video games, all they get is a costly bill.

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