H.R. 4204 calls for label on all games rated E and up

Bill proposes cigarette type warning on games

Two congressmen have sponsored a bill that would put labels similar to those found on cigarettes warning of the "harmful effects" of violent videogames.

H.R. 4204, or the "Violence in Video Games Labeling Act", is co-sponsored by representatives Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) and Joe Baca (D-California), and would put a warning label on all games rated E or higher by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, regardless of content.

The label ‘‘WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior,’’ would be placed in a "clear and conspicuous location on the packaging of the video game."

The only games exempt from this labeling are those rated "EC", or early childhood, meant for those three and up.

The bill broadly defines video games as, "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."

This is not the first time the bill has been presented on Capitol Hill, but the previous 2009 version was struck down in committee.

The legislation is being referred to the committee on Energy and Commerce.

The congressment told The Hill that H.R. 4204 is in response to "increasing evidence" that suggests a link between violent video games and violent action.

"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," said Wolf.

Baca echoed this sentiment, saying, "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. They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility."

Though no specific studies were cited, the website for Rep. Baca mentions "recent studies" by the Pediatrics Journal, the American Psychological Association, and the International Society for Research on Aggression University of Indiana.

The labeling act has active opponents in the Entertainment Software Association.

"Representative Baca’s facially unconstitutional bill -which has been introduced to no avail in each of six successive Congressional sessions, beginning in 2002- needlessly concerns parents with flawed research and junk science," the ESA’s Rich Taylor told Gamasutra.

"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."

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