Let’s face it – like it or not, as video games become more and more mainstream, we’re going to see more and more instances of politics and gaming intersecting. Piki Politics is here to serve as both a history of political/gaming scandals (or collisions, if you prefer) and as a discussion on the political motivations and context behind them.
This week I’ll be taking a quick look at the proposed Violence in Video Games Labeling Act as it currently exists in the US House of Representatives. Just why is this bill so unneccessary, and what does it say about elected legislators involved?
Back in March, Congressmen Joe Baca (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) brought resolution
H.R. 4204, better known as the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, before the US House of Representatives. The bill would, among other things, call upon the Consumer Product Safety Commission to enforce, via the ESRB, a ratings system almost exactly like the one currently in place. Most egregiously, the resolution would require that all games rated E and above be saddled with the following label
WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to
Yes, you read that right. Games rated E for “Everyone” would be required to sport a label implicating them in tarnishing the minds of our youth with their terrible, evil, and downright vile content. For the curious, here’s a short list of games that would be labeled should the bill pass: 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 has been working on ruining the youth of America for some 80 years and counting.
I’ll get right to the point. What leaves the worst taste in my mouth about H.R. 4204 is the outright incorrect assertion that video games “have been linked to aggressive behavior.” The myth that violent video games cause aggression is just that, a myth. Yet for some reason anti-gaming advocates, crusaders, and politicians alike feel this strange need to beat a dead horse, insisting that violent games cause violent children. This is despite all evidence to the contrary.
While on the subject of beating a dead horse, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Congressmen Baca and Wolf have proposed H.R. 4204 in one form or another during every Congressional session since 2002. Nothing has been able to stop Baca and Wolf and their crusade (save for Congress soundly rejecting the resolution every year), not even the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. EMA, which struck down a similar labeling bill out of California, Baca’s home state.
Just how out of touch are Baca and Wolf? Disregarding more important issues they’ve ignored to bring this resolution to the floor in the last ten years, 2012 sees our country still in the midst of economic toil, high unemployment rates, a growing national debt, and soaring gas/oil prices. Call me idealistic, but I would hope that our elected officials would be spending their time trying to fix real, actual problems. Not imaginary ones.
What’s more, the bill is completely redundant. H.R. 4204 would require a government agency (the CPSC) to enforce a non-governmental agency (the ESRB) to in turn enforce a ratings system upon the gaming industry. Not redundant enough for you? The bill would take the system already used by the ESRB and change it from one which the industry voluntarily subjects itself to, to one which they are legally obligated to follow.
If lawmakers felt that the ESRB wasn’t doing that great of a job, then fine. Scrap the whole system and come up with a better one. Having a government agency enforce the same exact system that apparently isn’t getting the job done (after all, how else could you justify H.R.4204′s existence?) is pointless. The ESRB’s entire existence came about after the gaming industry sought out a way to avoid this kind of federal regulation, and for the most part, the industry has done just fine under its ratings system.
Luckily, as noted above, Congress as a whole seems to largely ignore Baca and Wolf’s resolution each year. Which begs the question, what point, exactly, are they trying to make? It seems clear to me that both Baca and Wolf are, for all intents and purposes, just two guys with an agenda, and they’ll be damned if they don’t get to push it. This attitude has becoming increasingly common on Capitol Hill, and to the outside observe it can easily seem that Congress nowadays exists solely for Washington DC bigwigs to push their personal agendas onto the rest of us.
It would be hard to tell them they’re wrong.