Congressmen propose violence warning labels on video games

Two United States Congressmen proposed a bill on Monday that would require most video games to carry a warning label, similar to those found on cigarettes, but cautioning about violent content instead of health risks. The proposed warning would say the following: "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior."

The two-page bill, H.R. 4204, is named the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act (PDF file) and is sponsored by Representative Joe Baca (D-CA) and Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), reports The Hill. The bill would require the warning label on games that are rated "E" for Everyone, "E10+" for everyone 10 and older, "T" for Teen, "M" for Mature and "A" [sic] for Adults Only, as defined by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. This encompasses every ESRB rating category except for "EC" for Early Childhood, which is reserved for games that are appropriate for children 3 years old and up. The ESRB did not record any games released with the "early childhood" or "adults only" ratings in 2011 in their annual report.

"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," Baca said. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility.

"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," 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."

This is actually the third time that a similar bill has been introduced by Rep. Baca. The first time was sponsored solely by Baca in January, 2009, and the second time was co-sponsored with Wolf in January, 2011. The warning label in both of those versions of the bill was slightly different: "WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior." (Emphasis for differences from the wording in the current proposed bill.)

The older versions also required the warning labels only on games rated T for Teen or higher, rather than E for Everyone in the current bill. The 2009 bill was not even taken up by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, while the 2011 bill died in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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