US Congress calls for more stringent violence warnings on video games

US Congress calls for more stringent violence warnings on video games

You are going to react to this post in one of two ways: by reaching for your pitchfork, or by saying ‘about time’ in your head. The Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, known as H.R. 4204, is out to make warning stickers on video games all the more potent.

Sponsored by Joe Baca (D-California) and Frank Wolf (R-Virgina) in the House, the bill is very short, and direct. At less than two pages, it defines what a video game is, and what the new label should say. We begin with the definition:

(c) VIDEO GAME DEFINED.—As used in this Act, the term ‘‘video game’’ means any product, whether distributed electronically or through a tangible device, consisting of data, programs, routines, instructions, applications, symbolic languages, or similar electronic information (collectively referred to as ‘‘software’’) that controls the operation of a computer or telecommunication device and that enables a user to interact with a computer controlled virtual environment for entertainment purposes.

Right, and if your video game is rated A (for adult), or M (for mature), and contains violence, then it has to get the following label, right?

‘‘WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.’’

Well, no. That’s not the case. Yes, that is the correct and proper warning that the bill stipulates, but it appears that all* video games will be forced to carry the slogan:

(a) REGULATION.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission shall promulgate regulations to require the warning label described in subsection (b) to be placed on the packaging of any video game that is rated ‘‘E’’ (Everyone), ‘‘Everyone 10+’’ (Everyone 10 and older), ‘‘T’’ (Teen), ‘‘M’’ (Mature), or ‘‘A’’ (Adult) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

So, if you are a video game, of any sort, stripe, rating, or ilk*, you are going to be slapped with the warning label. And Congress wonders why it is so reviled. Now, there is the usual horrified pandering going on with this bill. From Wolf, one of its  co-sponsors:

As a parent and grandparent, I think it is important people know everything they can about the extremely violent nature of some of these games.

There is a key word there: some. The bill doesn’t reflect that sentiment in the least. Now, the gamers among us are likely sure to point out that the science behind the link between violent video games and violent behavior is disputed. You can bone up on the con side of the discussion here, and here. I don’t think that we have time to litigate the issue today.

So there you have it, Congress is out to save you from the big bad world of video games.

*We’re exaggerating here a bit, there is one video game rating that doesn’t have to receive the phrase: games rated C for ‘Early Childhood,’ but that is a small quibble.

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