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Labeling video games deserves a SWAT – not that I’m advocating violence

Submitted by on Friday, 6 February 2009 One Comment

Someone alert Tipper Gore: We’re on a labeling kick again.

This time, U.S. Rep. Joe Baca wants stickers on video games rated teen or higher: “WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.”

Apparently existing warning labels aren’t enough. Apparently the Entertainment Software Board’s efforts in recent months to improve what some in Congress thought were vague descriptions weren’t sufficient either.

Instead, the labels need to scare the bejesus out of parents not savvy enough to read the existing warning in the store or, even better, search the ESRB Web site before heading out.

“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,” the California Democrat said in news release.  “They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility.”

Looking at a combination of the ESRB site and the labeling on the packages of Big Guy’s three video games, I’d say the industry is doing just fine.

As for the alleged connection between video games and violence – maybe, maybe not. The studies really are mixed, with one study of studies suggesting that that’s because actual results may vary with individual gamers. Personality tended to be a big factor in whether gamers became violent, that study said.

Baca’s apparently a big fan of decency, sponsoring the House version of the 2005 law that boosted fines to $325,000 for obscene, profane or indecent broadcasts. President George W. Bush was the voice of sanity on this one, reminding parents as he signed the bill that they’re responsible for what their children watch.

“In our free society,” Bush said, “parents have the final responsibility over the television shows that their children watch, or the Web sites they visit, or the music they listen to. That’s a responsibility of moms and dads all across the country, to make sure their children are listening to or watching the right kind of programming.”

Amen, Brother Bush. Gee, that felt awkward.

I’m not a big video-game fan either, but not because I’m overly concerned about violence. It’s because I’m concerned about how the amount of time kids today spend with all media might impact their health. And because I worry about the possible link to poor performance in school.

I’ve found of late, though, that the less I fight it – and I vowed a year ago to fight it to my death -  the less interested the guys are.

That’s exactly what John Denver told Congress two decades ago, as the Gore-led Parents Music Resource Center pushed Congress to require labels on albums.

“That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting,” Denver testified. “Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.”

Two decades down the road, many musicians now accept the Tipper Stickers as a way of life, though some believe the warnings either have no impact or increase sales.

So Stop Wasting America’s Time, Rep. Baca. Parents already have access to the information they need. Another sticker isn’t necessary.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Seahawks said:

    I think that video games may becoming more violent but cartoons seam to be more kid friendly. What does everyone else think about this ?