US Congressman Wants To Slap Cigarette-Style Warning Labels On Video Games

It may have been in early 2009 when US Congressman Joe Baca first got the idea that video games should be slapped with health warnings. He wrote a bill that would mandate it. It went nowhere.

He did the same thing in 2011. That bridge went to nowhere, too.

If he was a predictable legislator, he would be doing this again in 2013, but California Democrat Joe Baca has thrown us a curveball. Yesterday, he introduced the newest version of his "Violence in Video Games Labeling Act".

He wants this label on every video game: "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behaviour."

Let's look at how the Congressman has evolved his position through the years.

Here's 2009 Joe Baca, while announcing his plan to put health warnings on video games:

"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," said Rep. Baca. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility. Meanwhile research continues to show a proven link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young people. American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products."

Here's 2012 Joe Baca, while announcing his plan to put health warnings on video games: :

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

What a difference three years makes!

The Congressman has been concerned that playing video games affects kids' brains. He has referred to studios by the Pediatrics Journal, the American Psychological Association that "all point to a link between playing violent video games and aggressive behaviour in children and teenagers". We may not be axe-murderers here at Kotaku, but that doesn't completely disprove these studies. At least one of them shows that images of gamers' brains are different from those of non-gamers' in a way that suggests that games may make kids prone to being more aggressive.

But video games are protected speech, you might say. And cigarettes are not. Shouldn't games be treated more like that speech stuff? Music and TV shows are rated voluntarily by the industries that produce them, as are games, but the game ratings system isn't sufficient, the Congressman says.

And so we have Congressman Baca's evolving bills.

2009 version:

111th CONGRESS 1st Session

H. R. 231 To require certain warning labels to be placed on video games that are given certain ratings due to violent content.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES January 7, 2009

Mr. BACA (for himself and Mr. WOLF) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL 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 T (Teen) or higher by the Electronics 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: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media 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.

2011 version:

112th CONGRESS 1st Session

H. R. 400 To require certain warning labels to be placed on video games that are given certain ratings due to violent content.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES January 24, 2011

Mr. BACA (for himself and Mr. WOLF) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL 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 T (Teen) or higher by the Electronics 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: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media 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.

2012 version:

112th CONGRESS 2d Session

H. R. 4204 To require certain warning labels to be placed on video games that are given certain ratings due to violent content.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES March 19, 2012

Mr. BACA (for himself and Mr. WOLF) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL 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.

Notice that the 2012 bill expands the target. Baca wouldn't just label games rated T and up anymore. No, he's digging in. The warning's gotten sharper, too.

Congressman Baca's earlier game-labelling bills died in committee in 2009 and 2011. We'll let you know what happens to the 2012 edition.

Baca's press department, whose staff has been recycling the Congressman's quotes about video game labelling since 2009, did not return a request for comment about the new bill and why the Congressman feels so passionately about this issue.


Comments

    I'm going to listen to the TROLLLOLOL song now.

    How can the bill possibly pass. There is such a thing as truth in advertising laws.

    And I know, as well as any mature gamer, that THERE IS NO FREAKING LINK BETWEEN VIOLENCE AND VIDEO GAMES.

    The problem is an out of control ADDICTION.

    But I stop here - I am using what was once called common sense which is now rare sense.

      I'm going to a mental health forum later this year which has a speaker on violent media and devolopmental psychology, it will be interesting to see what his research found.

      I think gamers are just are retarded as anti-video game advocates, just the mere suggestion of the POSSIBILITY of a link between violent behaviour and video games gets idiotic responses like:

      'I am using what was once called common sense which is now rare sense.'

      LOL. You go gurrrl.

      And before you try and label me a puritan, I am playing L4D2, uncersored, cos its more fun. I just dont get buttfrustrated when someone suggests its not good for me.

      Time to grow up kids and learn reasonable debate.

        The addiction is a proven consequence of having an addictive personality rather than violent video games, a phenomenon that is becoming more and more common in modern society as we bring in the innately repetitive hobbies such as gaming.

        The studies have proven that the act of gaming stimulates parts of the brain linked to addiction which in turn results in an enhanced reaction when the activity is terminated suddenly or when frustration sets in

          Now THAT is interesting.

        There is nothing idiotic about my response Sam. Common sense clearly states that the problem is addiction, not the video games themselves.

        In fact, Penny Arcade (till this day) have the best description of how idiotic this believe in a so-called link is (NSFW: language): http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/1999/04/14

        However, as I learned the hardway, the problem with common sense is it's not common anymore.

        There are far worse additions out there - grugs, alcholo, etc. Does anyone play attention to these? No, it is aways the video games that are used as an easy target.

        I admit, typing in caps is not the wisest of moves and I should not have done that. However, this scape goating is getting old and really needs to come to an end.

        IIRC the research that keeps being mentioned on those "links" basically stated that its not the video games per se causing the "aggresive behaviour" but the level of competitiveness and stress involved in a game that causes such behaviour. So a puzzler may invoke a feeling of frustration whilst FPS make invoke flat out competitivess. Both were counted as "aggressive behaviour" of course one can appreciate the fine difference between feelings of frustration and full out aggressive competitiveness

        It also pretty much said that the level of reaction was pretty much on par w/ say sports fans being exposed to the same stimulus watching a close match of their favourite sports. It's basically the competivie nature of the medium not the medium itself thats causing "aggressive behaviour"

    Before video games are labelled with their dangers, could you please get around to labelling movies, television, music, radio and books in a similar fashion KTHXBAI

    Slap on the label, I don't care. It won't affect what games I purchase lol.

    WARNING: Being a politician distorts your perception of reality and makes you holier than thou.

    "WARNING: People with established aggressive and addictive behavioural tendencies are more likely to play violent video games"

    Exposure to ignorant and deliberately mis-informing politicians gives me my rage...

    http://www.deviantart.com/download/214306999/no__meme_by_dylrocks95-d3jlcc7.png
    No.

    The link between sports and aggression is much stronger (and the link between hot weather and aggression is more amusing).

    Dude just likes his easy targets. I'm fairly sure that aggression, as defined by these studies, doesn't even fit the common usage of the term.

      All I'm saying is that sunshine should have a warning label.

    As a Gamer, I can see where he is coming from. But I think he has missed that game do already have warrings on them. There called ratings.

      Also, just an idea here. Maybe someone could fund some reserch in to agresiveness and sports, and then compar it to video game aggrestion. I would wager that they are not very differnt. If that is the case, then we should also have waring lables on Teenis rackits that say 'WARRNING: UESING THIS MAY COURSE AGGRESTION'.

        Maybe they need a warning on video games that says: "WARNING, PLAYING VIDEO GAMES MAY MAKE YOU SPELL LIKE AN IMBECILE".

        Agreed. I imagine a lot of sports, particularly contact sports, would increase aggression.

    So basically he's gotten stupider?

    They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility. Meanwhile research continues to show a proven link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young people.

    Yes there's a link, no it's not proven, nothing in empirical research is ever 'proven.'

    Then

    They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility. Meanwhile research continues to show that playing violent video games is a casual risk factor for a host of detrimental effects in both the short- and long-term, including increasing the likelihood of physically aggressive behaviour.

    Research doesn't 'show' it suggests, and there's none that suggests causation, merely correlation.

    So he's a stupid liar... big surprises all round.

    All the studies I've read found that violent games can help calm you down and make you happier - a place to vent if you will. Racing and sports games - those were the ones that made people angry.

    Statements like this encourage aggressive behaviour.

    WARNING: Playing video games has been proven to improve motor skills, deductive logic and reasoning ability in players. Under no circumstances should you play video games before voting.

    When they get real scientific evidence, I may believe him

    This is even worse than the Violent Games Tax idea that would have lumped in a bunch of non-violent, T-rated games (for things like gambling themes or just plain old adult themes). Now we're going to have things like Nintendogs and Wii-Fit cautioning you that you may become violent by playing them? Do these people even fire one neuron when they make this up?

    People who are inherently violent react violently when playing video games, I have seen it happen to many friends. Games conducive to angry behaviour could be any production on any platform, to that I myself can attest. Becoming enraged due to losing, rage quit, it's all in the same bag. Usually it's over before anyone or anything gets hurt or broken, however I know of friends who have destroyed consoles and peripherals in the heat of the moment.

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