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U.S. bill proposes tobacco-style warning labels for games
U.S. bill proposes tobacco-style warning labels for games
March 20, 2012 | By Eric Caoili




Two congressmen have introduced a bill that would require almost all video games to feature a warning label concerning exposure to violent games, similar to the health warnings on tobacco products.

Called the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act (H.R. 4204, PDF link), the bipartisan bill seeks to label games in the U.S. with a message that reads "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior" on their packaging (or in another clear and conspicuous location, if distributed digitally).

"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," said Virginia Representative and the bill's co-sponsor Frank Wolf, according to The Hill.

California Representative Joe Baca, who also co-sponsored the bill, added, "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."

In a statement provided to Gamasutra, the Entertainment Software Association's Rich Taylor denied that any links exist between violent games and violent behavior: "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."

Taylor also pointed out that many video games are already labeled with ratings and content descriptors from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. If passed, the Video Games Labeling Act would empower the Consumer Product Safety Commission to label all games rated by the ESRB, with the exception of those with "Early Childhood" ratings, with the warning.

Several recent attempts to penalize violent video games have failed, such as the 2005 California law that sought to ban the sale of such games to minors without their parents' approval. The Supreme Court eventually overturned the law, and ruled that video games quality for First Amendment protections, just like books and other media.

And earlier this year, a proposed Oklahoma bill looked to impose an extra 1 percent tax on all games rated T (for Teens) or higher, which would fund anti-bullying and outdoor education programs for children -- it was eventually struck down in a 5-6 vote. New Mexico had a similar bill in 2008, which failed to clear the state legislature.


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Comments


Carlo Delallana
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Politicians should also come with warning labels.

Warning: Exposure to politicians has been linked to wasting of tax-payer money

David Gonzales
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how is it we have people this dumb running our country? :/

Joe McGinn
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"Violence! Violence! If I hear that word again I'm gonna kill somebody!"

ex-Philadepha Flyer GM Bob McCammon

Scott Lawrence
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Warning: Exposure to the bible, soda, spankings, fishsticks, pizza, or urinals have been linked to aggressive behavior more so than exposure to violent video games.

Jason Pineo
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Analogies to smoking warnings fall flat when smoking carries a clear harm thats got scientific consensus and the supposed link between video games and violent behavior is tenuous, found by people who expect to find it, and is correlative, not causal.

Next time, spend those tax dollars digging a giant hole and filling it in again. You won't save any money but you might employ a few people for a while.

Megan Swaine
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"growing scientific evidence"? Where??

Carlo Delallana
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Talk of this kind of legislation is making me angry....wait, there might be a relationship between violence and legislation!

David Pierre
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"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."

Isn't that what the ESRB is for? Maybe we should write it in all caps and bright colors.

THIS GAME IS RATED T.
FOR TEENS.
IT HAS SOME THINGS IN IT LIKE:
SUGGESTIVE LANGUAGE.
SOME MENTIONS OF ALCOHOL.
AND CARTOON VIOLENCE.
THINK OF THESE THINGS BEFORE YOU BUY THE GAME.
THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN.

Darcy Nelson
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Maybe if we put it in Comic Sans it'll stick out more to the 'concerned parents'.

Chris Hendricks
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Ideally, yes, that's exactly what the ESRB is for. Either the ESRB labels aren't big enough, or not enough parents have been given the message that video games actually have a rating system.

E Zachary Knight
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The problem is not the parents. The problem is political busybodies like Baca. He know full well that such legislation is unconstitutional and he doesn't care.

Brad Borne
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I think printing YOU ARE A BAD PARENT at the top of the box would be enough.

Kale Menges
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This witch hunt has gone on long enough. I mean, if they really wanted to "nip it in the bud", why not mandate the warnings to be displayed on TVs in general, a splash screen or something that pops up every time you turn it on? Oh wait, but that might discourage everyone from watching TV where they are forced to see campaign ads... And commercials for all their campaign contributors' products and services...

Luis Guimaraes
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Video games are a direct threat to TV.

David Gonzales
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doesn't resident evil games already do that i remember in resident evil 3 it has this warning before you go to the start menu " warning: this game contains scenes of explicit violence, blood and gore"
something along those lines, shouldn't that be enough of a warning?

Joshua Darlington
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Violent simulation releases aggressive behavior, and reinforces aggressive behavior. I'm sure the same dynamic is found in football. Humans are meat eaters, so violence is hard wired. I appreciate any scientific study into violence. Understanding violence is important for humans if we want to become an intergalactic civilization. Right? Politicians act as social conduits. Societal summation effect and balance/pivot points are part of the discourse.

august clark
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how high were you when you wrote this?

Joshua Darlington
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Duuuude.

I'm a narrative designer. I inform my work with science (stuff like: systems biology, neuroscience, ethology, anthropology, sociology, and social psychology).

I'm about stuff like this:

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-03-gun.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21601-outofbreath-cops-fail
-to-recognise-the-perpetrator.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/thought-speed-risk-tak
ing-study_b_1344656.html

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html

Chris Hendricks
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And the cycle repeats. Someone in authority says "video games can be harmful" and the community here says "nuh-uh" and gets angry at the authority figure.

How about a different approach... we're supposed to be really good at making UI, right? If parents aren't getting the message from the ESRB rating (and in many cases, aren't even aware that a video game rating system exists), shouldn't we be coming up with a better way of communicating valuable information to the users? We do this kind of refinement all the time within video games to improve gameplay... why not for the video game rating itself?

Evan Combs
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That is the thing though, parents are aware of the ESRB rating. Any more a huge segment of parents actually grew up with the ESRB system, and know it just as well as they know the movie rating system. The system and the awareness of the system isn't a problem. The only problem (if there is a problem) is parents just don't care about ratings. Most parents have no problem with their tweens and teens watch an R rated movie or play an M rated game.

Chris Hendricks
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Speaking anecdotally, I can confirm that there are still parents who don't know about it and merely buy games because a friend of their child recommends it.

Ian Fisch
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Relax people. This bill won't make it through the state house. The Supreme Court made this law unconstitutional last year. No way California's gonna waste money on this crap again.

E Zachary Knight
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Well, this is the Federal Government. So naturally many within feel that US Supreme Court rulings do not apply to their agendas and as such will continue to propose legislation that is clearly unconstitutional.

Sean Conrad
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We already have the ESRB, screw off with this.

Tomas Majernik
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Coffee warning labels: Coffee has been linked with headache, anxiety, sleep changes, increased blood presure and increased cholesterol, iron deficiency anemia and various negative effects on pregnant woman and children.

But there is one difference if you think about it - coffee negative effects have already been proved, while linking violent games with aggresive behaviour is based on no scientific evidence.

If they said, it CAN LEAD in some cases (especially when played by minors) to benevolence to violence, or mood changes, I would say ok - if it necessary. But aggresive behaviour? Ehmmm...

This one seems to me just like another propaganda of politic failures who are trying to pretend they are doing something (even stupid, but still something).

Lyon Medina
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See it for what it is everyone, a motion to sway voters. This law means nothing, of course it will be turned down, but the matter of public opinion is what the true target is. When these congressman propose a law "To protect children" they are working for voter support. They want moms to support their cause and back them with votes.

The proper response to this is to let the justice do its job and revoke the law again. Pay no attention to the men(or women) behind the curtain cause that is what they want.

Nathaniel Grundy
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won't pass. this is an obvious ploy.

Mark Androvich
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Did anyone look at the actual text of the bill? The authors can't even get the ratings correct-- it should be "AO" for "Adults Only", not "A" for "Adults."

In addition, although the bill's purpose is stated as requiring warning labels to be placed on games given certain ratings "due to violent content," the bill applies to *all* games rated E, E10+, T, M and AO regardless of content. Which means that even a game such as MLB '12: The Show (Rated E, with no content descriptors) will need a warning label on it.

While I don't expect this bill to get very far, it's sad to see that these Congressmen (and their staffs) haven't done their homework. But what do I expect from a bill with no basis in scientific fact, unlike cigarette warning labels?

Titi Naburu
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We can argue that violent games allow to release anger. So instead of being violent in real like, one releases anger in a game.

Check this interview of a stunt driver (http://mylifeatspeed.com/archives/9487): "I was driving this old pickup truck with these paratroopers dropping out of the sky with machine guns. I was bashing through these peoples neighborhoods. Through fences, through their playground sets, sliding around their swimming pools, shredding their lawns, rose bushes, small trees…whatever. [...] It couldn’t have been a more healthy experience for me driving this truck. It was absolute therapy. It was anger management, it was stress relief it was everything and it was tailored for me. [...] I was like Gandhi at the end of that trip. I was at peace with the world."

Bart Stewart
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A point maybe worth making here is that most bills like these aren't dreamed up by the legislators themselves. They come from staffers who polled some constituents looking for issues that consistently register in the legislator's favor.

If Wolf's and Baca's staff were able to convince their bosses to sponsor a bill like this, it's because enough of their constituents said they thought it would be a good idea. So the real educational challenge is not with Wolf and Baca -- it's with the public who have accepted the claims of direct links between violent video games and violent behavior in gamers. Get them on your side and the politicians will follow.

Kelly Kleider
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The attempt to blame parents for a non-existent problem is interesting because often they avoid blaming parents because parents are their constituents. In this case, they have probably determined that parents don't actually think the problem is with their kid (because there is no problem), so what's the harm if there's a warning label on the game.
As many have pointed out, we already have a ratings system that people ignore. How many outraged grannies get interviewed about the disgusting content in the game they just bought for their 10 year old grandson? It's the news equivalent of shock-jockery, if there isn't a controversy give them a second to whip one up. I would love to see a reporter ask the granny why she bought a game that had a Mature rating.

@Lyon - Part of me says nothing to see here, but as others have pointed out, this is a waste of money. It will likely not make it out of committee, but it speaks to a larger trend of using laws to make a statement. Since everyone is so excited about cutting budgets, maybe the political theater budget should get a trim.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Brandon Maynes
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Wow. Pathetic. Just look at the ESRB rating on ALL video games, problem solved.

Eric Ruck
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How about, we'll agree to even consider taking them seriously as soon as those two congressmen also sponsor a bill to put warning labels on guns.

Jeff Murray
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"Surgeon General's Warning: There is no evidence at all that violent videogames cause negative behavior, but just in case they do and we haven't found it yet, you should know that there is violence in this game. It already has a sticker that says M for Mature on it and you already ignored that when you bought this game titled "Death Kill SkullF*ck Chainsaw Gang Shooter" for your 7 year old, but you must not ignore this."

Mike Pierson
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Dev test, please ignore

Trent Tait
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WARNING: Exposure to stupid politicians may incite rioting.


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