Video games and the game industry as a whole have been popping up more and more in political situations as of late. First, there was the Supreme Court case of Schwarzenegger vs. the Electronic Merchants Association which concerned a shot down California law that would fine businesses who sold “excessively violent” (whatever that means) video games to minors. The recent protest and unrest in Egypt have also become somewhat video game related, as some protestors have been seen carrying signs that say “Game Over”, referring to the protestor’s hope of ending President Mubarak regime. While these events are all important and relevant to this blog today I am going to focus on a particular piece of legislation that completely dumfounds me. On January 24, 2011, Congressman Joe Baca, a Democrat serving for California’s 43rd District, reintroduced a bill known as the Video Game Health Labeling Act. This bill, if passed, would require video games rated T and above to carry a warning label, similar to ones found on cigarette boxes. These labels would read “WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.”
Joe Baca is basing this bill off of some sketchy research claiming that exposure to violent media, and more importantly violent video games, causes increased aggression when it is exposed to a child or teen. However, just as many studies have found inconclusive results about violent games leading to increased aggression. I know from personal experience, as I am sure many other gamers know, that playing video games does not cause one to act violently. I have been playing games since I was three years old on my dad’s NES and I just kept moving on from there. When I was thirteen my mom let me play Teen rated games. When I was 15 I could play Mature ones. I have been playing video games of every type and rating ever since. Have I ever been arrested for grand theft auto? Nope. Have I tried to shoot anybody for fun? Negative. Have I ever tried to eat a wild mushroom for super powers? No, and that is probably not very healthy. The idea that somehow video games are responsible for violent( and/or stupid) acts is quite simply absurd. Some news outlets and politicians blamed the Columbine shootings on the video games that the murderer’s enjoyed playing. If video games were to blame, I guarantee there would be many more school shootings. The act of a mentally unstable and crazed lunatic is not caused by any one thing, and definitely not video games. Their act is their own, and they are responsible in every way for it.
It is a known fact that cigarettes cause numerous health problems the most prominent being an increase in the user’s chance to get lung cancer. This is known and is not disputed. How is it then that one can purpose a bill that is not even backed by solid scientific evidence? The idea of video games receiving this kind of label on almost no evidence is unfair and undeserved. Movies and television have had increasingly violent content over the years, yet there is no warning label attached to them. Video games are currently, and have been for many years a scapegoat of sorts for rising concerns over the state of the nation’s youth and their exposure to mature media. When Mortal Kombat was first released in the 1990’s, parents and politicians were outraged at the level of violence depicted in the game, and the trend has continued . Concerned parents and leaders ignore the other entertainment mediums and focus on video games because it is new, and by many, who criticize them, not fully understood. It is the parent’s responsibility, not the governments, to monitor what kind of media their children intake. Without a doubt 7 year olds should not be playing violent games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. However, it is the parent’s decision. If a child is 14 years old and their parents think they are mature enough to play an M rated game that is perfectly fine. Anyways I am getting a little off topic so it sounds like a good idea to call it a day. Comments are appreciated!