Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Congressmen Want Warning Labels on All Games

By - Source: GamePolitics | B 71 comments

If the bill is passed, video games with an "E" rating and above will be treated like a pack of cigarettes, sporting health warnings.

On Monday Congressmen Joe Baca (D-CA.) and Frank Wolf (R-VA.) introduced a bill that, if approved, will force game publishers to print warning labels on their products similar to those found on cigarette packages and cartons. The bill is H.R. 4204, or Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, and asks for the label to read:

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

There are obvious reason why cigarette packages don warning labels by the Surgeon General. But as numerous reports have indicated in the past, there are mixed views as to how violent games play a role in a user's behavior. Studies have shown both the positives and negatives of game playing in general. but politicians like to focus on the violent library and the bad behavior stemming from their gameplay.

To be fair, gamer parents are better equipped to police titles when it comes to their children than non-gaming parents. Thus, we have a rating system that's already in place. Unfortunately, that just may not be enough, and lawmakers want to step in and help make the scenario perfectly clear for everyone. Thus, sponsors backing the proposed law claim violent games pose as a serious health risk, pointing to recent studies from the Pediatrics Journal, the American Psychological Association, and the International Society for Research on Aggression University of Indiana which all point to a link between playing violent video games and aggressive behavior in children and teenagers.

"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," Congressman Joe Baca said. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility. Meanwhile research continues to show that playing violent videogames is a casual [sic] risk factor for a host of detrimental effects in both the short- and long-term, including increasing the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior. American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products."

If the bill is passed into law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will be required to release a list of rules regarding when, how and why a game must have a warning label. According to the bill, warning labels must be issued 180 days after the game receives its rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. And if it receives an "E," "E10+," "T," "M," or "AO," it's going to have a warning label regardless. The only rating left out of the bill's banhammer is "EC" or "Early Childhood."

"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," Congressman Frank Wolf said. "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."

Will a warning label printed on a game's packaging be enough to alert uninformed parents? Probably not. Here's the full bill in its entirety:

To require certain warning labels to be placed on video games that are given certain ratings due to violent content.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION REGULATION.

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.

(b) WARNING LABEL CONTENT.—The warning label required under a regulation issued under subsection (a) shall be placed in a clear and conspicuous location on the packaging of the applicable video game and shall state: ‘‘WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.’’.

(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.

Discuss
Display all 71 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 47 Hide
    wmalinowski , March 21, 2012 12:42 AM
    Maybe we warning label on congressmen for stupidity......
  • 32 Hide
    _Cubase_ , March 21, 2012 1:00 AM
    "Warning... Gaming may result in congresspeople!"

    If I read that I might have to give up gaming and take up smoking!
  • 31 Hide
    AznCracker , March 21, 2012 12:54 AM
    lololol.. do they honestly think those huge labels on cigarette boxes actually deter smokers?? Why would it work on video games? If a person wants something, they will buy it.
Other Comments
  • 47 Hide
    wmalinowski , March 21, 2012 12:42 AM
    Maybe we warning label on congressmen for stupidity......
  • 31 Hide
    AznCracker , March 21, 2012 12:54 AM
    lololol.. do they honestly think those huge labels on cigarette boxes actually deter smokers?? Why would it work on video games? If a person wants something, they will buy it.
  • 32 Hide
    _Cubase_ , March 21, 2012 1:00 AM
    "Warning... Gaming may result in congresspeople!"

    If I read that I might have to give up gaming and take up smoking!
  • 23 Hide
    erunion , March 21, 2012 1:11 AM
    Of course these silly labels aren't about deterring consumers. These congressmen lack the power to censor video games so they are looking for other routes to menace the video game industry.
  • 24 Hide
    alidan , March 21, 2012 1:12 AM
    sure, they can put the lable on the game boxes, only if they shave off 10$ a game because they are ruining the box art

    you know, i put up with small lables, but if this goes through, 1/4th the box will be devoted to a retarded lie.
  • 21 Hide
    Devoteicon , March 21, 2012 1:13 AM
    This will not inform the unformed parent. It will instead do nothing but mislead them. It'll make them think that every game has some sort of violence in it and therefore should not be bought. What's wrong with the current rating system? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • 9 Hide
    bystander , March 21, 2012 1:14 AM
    I always have to wonder about these steadies about violent behavior and video games. If they simply take a look at gamers who play violent games and compare them kids who don't play violent games or video games at all, how are they to know if the games caused violence or if kids who are more violent by nature like to play violent games?

    You'd have to force kids to play violent games against another group who was forced not to, in order to come up with meaningful data. All the comparisons I've seen have not been done this way, which leaves you with the "what came first, the chicken or the egg" type of question.
  • 13 Hide
    klavis , March 21, 2012 1:18 AM
    When something physically impacts your health, no questions asked, like cigarettes a warning is reasonable and the responsible thing to do. Something like this for video games is ludicrous, as most people here would agree. You might as well put a warning label on anything. Butter eating to much will cause clogged arteries. Salt, eating to much will cause higher blood pressure. This is a waste of everyone's money and time.
  • 30 Hide
    pythy , March 21, 2012 1:36 AM
    While they're at it, why don't they put labels on everything else:
    Kitchen Knife - Have been known to cause bodily harm if used incorrectly
    Alcohol - Consumption may cause liver and brain damage
    Motor Vehicles - Known to cause harm to human lives and property damage
    etc...
  • 18 Hide
    klavis , March 21, 2012 1:42 AM
    I'm tempted to write my congressman to tell him to tell the other congressman to shut the hell up and work on something important. Actually I'm more than tempted, I will write a letter, but I'll be a bit more polite.
  • 0 Hide
    klavis , March 21, 2012 1:44 AM
    Hell, I think I'm going to write a letter to my congressman to tell that congressman to shut the hell up and work on something else, something actually important. I will probably word it a bit better though.
  • 5 Hide
    ch9199 , March 21, 2012 1:44 AM
    I've been playing violent video games off and on for 30 years, but things have changed in the last few years. I think the level of realism now makes games fundamentally different with regard to how they affect players, especially young players.

    Decades ago the military changed from using regular targets to using man-shaped silhouettes because they found that soldiers would freeze in battle when they had to shoot an actual person. The man-shaped silhouettes fixed this to a significant degree.

    It seems reasonable to infer that spending hours a day training to eviscerate real-looking and screaming characters in a video game would also make it easier in real life.

    The unbelievable gore now is a lot different than the spray of red pixels from games when I was a kid. I'm not sure warnings will help, but we should probably start looking more seriously at the issue.

    What I would really like to see, are industry standards on some system which allows the gamer to control the level of gore in games from the menu, from none to whatever the designers dream up. Add meaningful parental lockouts to that, and then we could all decide for ourselves.
  • 4 Hide
    weatherdude , March 21, 2012 1:45 AM
    Really now, "E" and above? Oh those sad sad American congressman. I wonder if they own computers or any window into the wider world. I really hope they're just politicking for votes because the idiocy of labeling a video game rated below "M" and the non-existent "AO" as harmful is beyond belief.

    Perhaps the label should just say "WARNING: Playing this video game may lead to mild to moderate mental stimulation. Critical thinking and problem solving has been linked to early death."

    Sigh... please tell them to do something more productive.
  • 10 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 21, 2012 1:45 AM
    Change: "Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason."

    -Quoted from Despair Inc.

    pythyWhile they're at it, why don't they put labels on everything else:Kitchen Knife - Have been known to cause bodily harm if used incorrectlyAlcohol - Consumption may cause liver and brain damageMotor Vehicles - Known to cause harm to human lives and property damageetc...


    I've seen a blender with a warning of "Do not stick your hand into the blender while its operational."

    Also, several years ago, my mom mentioned that some of Caterpillar Inc's lawyers recommended adding warning labels to the machinery, stating, "Caterpillar is not responsible for any misuse or abuse of the machinery.", due to fears of someone weaponizing a bulldozer and an idiot suing CAT for the property damages and loss of lives.
  • -7 Hide
    ch9199 , March 21, 2012 1:46 AM
    I've been playing violent video games off and on for 30 years, but things have changed in the last few years. I think the level of realism now makes games fundamentally different with regard to how they affect players, especially young players.

    Decades ago the military changed from using regular targets to using man-shaped silhouettes because they found that soldiers would freeze in battle when they had to shoot an actual person. The man-shaped silhouettes fixed this to a significant degree.

    It seems reasonable to infer that spending hours a day training to eviscerate real-looking and screaming characters in a video game would also make it easier in real life.

    The unbelievable gore now is a lot different than the spray of red pixels from games when I was a kid. I'm not sure warnings will help, but we should probably start looking more seriously at the issue.

    What I would really like to see, are industry standards on some system which allows the gamer to control the level of gore in games from the menu, from none to whatever the designers dream up. Add meaningful parental lockouts to that, and then we could all decide for ourselves.
  • -6 Hide
    ch9199 , March 21, 2012 1:53 AM
    As far as the general tone of comments goes. Pretending there is not a real issue here does nothing to solve it and makes an unreasonable solution more likely when it finally comes.

    You could make arguments similar to the above for letting young children into porn movies, but it would still be a bad idea.
  • 1 Hide
    omega21xx , March 21, 2012 1:59 AM
    Putting a sticker or label like this will do nothing (although maybe make some uninformed parents panic about all games since there are plenty of E rated games with no violence)
    Anyone looking to buy cigarettes know what they are, what they will do, and so on. If they didn't know yet, they learn before they can even buy them since they teach you this in school.
  • 3 Hide
    kewlmunky , March 21, 2012 2:09 AM
    Aren't the current rating labels there so parents know what their child is being exposed to... oh wait I forgot we don't live in a world where parents take responsibility. My mistake.
  • 8 Hide
    drwho1 , March 21, 2012 2:11 AM
    Game Warning: Enjoy at your own risk.
  • 11 Hide
    jprahman , March 21, 2012 2:12 AM
    So would Angry birds need this label?
Display more comments
Tom’s guide in the world
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • UK
Follow Tom’s guide
Subscribe to our newsletter