Politicians call for cigarette-style game warnings

Cigarette packs around the world are emblazoned with public warnings, announcing clearly the various ways that smoking can harm your health, and the health of others. Now, two U.S. politicians would like similar labels attached to video games.

Joe Baca (D-Calif) and Frank Wolf (R-Va) have submitted the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act H.R. 4204, which would see a simple sticker affixed to every video game released in the United States, except for those labelled EC (Early Childhood). This includes games rated E for Everyone and E10+ for those aged 10 and over, regardless of whether or not the game is considered violent.

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

According to Baca, the video games industry has a responsibility to inform parents and families of “potentially damaging content” in its output, and it has “repeatedly failed” to live up to it.

[img_big]center,7524,2011-11-16/MP_360_LowRes_04.jpg,Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster would receive a label[/img_big]

Wolf adds:

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.

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.

It didn’t take long for the games industry to react, with trade body the Entertainment Software Association responding via Game Informer, where SVP of communications Rich Taylor labelled the bill “unconstitutional”.

The Entertainment Software Association supports providing parents with complete and useful information so they can make informed purchasing decisions. The current video game rating system does so and has been lauded as the leading rating system in the entertainment industry.

Taylor goes on to point out that Baca has introduced the same bill (or variations on a theme) in six successive Congressional sessions, dating back to 2002. The bill itself is full of “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.

Instead, as Taylor points out, there is a considerable amount of recent academic research that suggests and demonstrates that video games provide innovative learning and assessment tools for young people, particularly in core subjects including engineering, mathematics and technology. The ESA recommends Representatives Baca and Wolf take a look at those studies, as well.

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