It must be that time of year again. The nationally important topic of video games has somehow ended up right smack-dab in the middle of Capitol Hill, with the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, H.R. 4204, recently proposed in the US House of Representatives.
Proposed by Congressmen Joe Baca (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), the bill would require that all games rated by the ESRB (excluding games with an Early Childhood rating) include a label reading “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.” This label would be required to be placed “in a clear and conspicuous location on the packaging” of each game that must carry it.
“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,” Representative Wolf told daily newspaper The Hill. Now, this would be fine and dandy if there were any actual evidence of a causal relationship between video games and violence. But, as the Entertainment Software Association points out, “blaming video games for violence in the real world is no more productive than blaming the news media for bringing violent crimes into our homes night after night.”
Not that this has stopped Representatives Baca and Wolf in the past. According to the ESA, they have tried and failed to pass H.R. 4204 in some form in every Congressional session since 2002. For a bit of perspective, should the bill pass, the following games would be required to include the label- Pokémon, Epic Mickey, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland and Epic Yarn, Super Mario Galaxy, and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Because we all know that Mickey’s number one goal is turning children into violent adults.
Video Games have had a long a tumultuous history on Capitol Hill, though not all of it has been bad. In June 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a California law that would levy large fines against retailers who failed or refused to put special warnings labels on video games. In a 7-2 decision, the Court decided that video games qualified for First Amendment protection and as such, the law was unconstitutional.
For the interested, here is the full Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, in all its glory.