ECA Launches Opposition To Health Warning Label Bill
The Entertainment Consumers Association has launched a campaign against H.R. 231, the bill introduced by California Congressman Joe Baca that would require health warning labels on videogames.
In mid-January, Congressman Baca introduced the Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2009 that would require all games rated T (Teen) or higher to carry a label reading, "WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior." In a press release, Baca claimed research has shown a "proven link" between violent videogames and violent behavior in young people.
The ECA, of course, claims the opposite, saying, "The vast majority of studies show that there is no proven causal link between violent media of any type and aggressive behavior." It also points out that the labels will be required on games with T ratings or higher regardless of their actual content, and suggests that conflicting labels could actually undermine the ESRB, which has been cited by the FTC as the most effectively enforced entertainment rating system on the market.
And as always, there's the sticky wicket of the First Amendment. Proponents of the bill say it doesn't violate the First Amendment because it doesn't actually restrict the sale of videogames, but the ECA sees things in a different light, calling it an "unconstitutional restraint on speech that will harm consumers and parents alike."
This is where things could get dicey for gamers and the videogame industry. Baca's bill doesn't actually seek any restrictions on the sale of games, but rather attempts to crank up the confusion and paranoia surrounding them and, if successful, presumably lay the groundwork for continued end-run attacks against videogames. It's an entirely unnecessary and redundant measure; videogames already contain labels denoting age-appropriateness, and the ESRB recently unveiled a program to add more detailed content descriptors that give parents far greater insight into the specifics of a game's content.
But that may not matter. Ultimately, despite Baca's assertions, there is no proven causal link between violent videogaming and violent behavior, and to suggest otherwise is deceitful. But is it a constitutional violation? That's tougher to say. You can read more about the ECA's position against H.R. 231 and express your own opposition to it to your congressman here.
Well, I'm thinking if the studies the senator is using to prove the link between video games and aggressive behaviour is nullified in some way, then they really don't have a case.