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Congressmen Want Warning Labels on All Games

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.