Warning: Video Games May Be Hazardous to Your Health

By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

If U.S. Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA) has anything to say about it, you might be seeing a warning label on video games that looks awfully similar to the one on packages of cigarettes. I’m confused. Maybe there’s a study I haven’t heard about that proves that video games cause cancer? Does it have something to do with sitting too close to the TV?

Actually, according to the bill that he introduced a few days ago–the Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2009–the label (on ALL video games rated “T” or higher) would read: “WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.” Explaining his reasoning, Baca says:

“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. Meanwhile research continues to show a proven link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young people. American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products.”

Three things strike me immediately about this:

(1) All games with a “T” rating or higher. Apparently it doesn’t matter if they actually contain violence or not. You know what’s rated “T for Teen?” Sims 2. I wonder if this game has inspired a bunch of kids to go around taking the ladders out of swimming pools so that the people inside swim around until they tire out and die? I suppose that would count as aggressive behavior.

(2) Isn’t this the exact same argument made years ago when the rating system was implemented? What do parents think that the “M” means? “T for Teens” and “M for Magical Funtime for Toddlers?” I am completely lost on the logic wherein someone who didn’t care about the rating on a game will suddenly see the light when faced with yet another warning.

(3) Health? Really? The link between video games and aggression is already tenuous (I seem to remember learning about correlation and causation in Psych 101), for one thing, and for another, citing the potential for increased aggression as a health concern in the same way that we note that smoking may cause lung cancer?

This whole thing just strikes me as really… strange. And that isn’t even taking into account how many really serious problems we’re facing at the moment–as in, shouldn’t Congress be dealing with the economy instead of taking the time to consider bills like this?

What are your thoughts on the subject? Does anyone think that this kind of warning would do something good?

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26 Responses to Warning: Video Games May Be Hazardous to Your Health

  1. I agree, this is really a stupid bill. And it seems cliche’ to bring up the age old phrase but don’t they have anything better to be doing right now? For instance, perhaps working with other state officials to figure out how to keep CA from going bankrupt? Just a thought.

  2. Some watchdog group got enough money together to get ole Joe to throw out a pitch. That’s all this says to me. The bill is so ridiculous that it’s passing is not even a concern. Not that (as Casey already said) *another* warning would have any effect whatsoever. Parents already have the high level info they need with the ratings.

  3. I agree, this is really a stupid bill. And it seems cliche' to bring up the age old phrase but don't they have anything better to be doing right now? For instance, perhaps working with other state officials to figure out how to keep CA from going bankrupt? Just a thought.

  4. This is ridiculous. I can’t believe they’re actually spending time working on this useless age old subject. I think the congress ought to punish this guy for wasting congress’ time.

    Besides, how many smokers ACTUALLY quit smoking because the box says “Injurious to health”.

    Oh, we got some really stupid people in the government.

  5. It’s ironic that this news should come up today. Here is “George Carlin” quote for today:

    “They try to blame movies and TV for violence in this country. What a load of [email protected]$%. Long before there were movies and television, Americans killed millions of Indians, enslaved millions of blacks, slaughtered 700,000 of each other in a family feud, and attained the highest murder rate in history. Don’t blame Sylvester Stallone. We brought these horrifying genes with us from Europe, and then we gave them our own special twist. American know-how!”

  6. Some watchdog group got enough money together to get ole Joe to throw out a pitch. That's all this says to me. The bill is so ridiculous that it's passing is not even a concern. Not that (as Casey already said) *another* warning would have any effect whatsoever. Parents already have the high level info they need with the ratings.

  7. This is ridiculous. I can't believe they're actually spending time working on this useless age old subject. I think the congress ought to punish this guy for wasting congress' time.

    Besides, how many smokers ACTUALLY quit smoking because the box says "Injurious to health".

    Oh, we got some really stupid people in the government.

  8. It's ironic that this news should come up today. Here is "George Carlin" quote for today:

    "They try to blame movies and TV for violence in this country. What a load of [email protected]$%. Long before there were movies and television, Americans killed millions of Indians, enslaved millions of blacks, slaughtered 700,000 of each other in a family feud, and attained the highest murder rate in history. Don't blame Sylvester Stallone. We brought these horrifying genes with us from Europe, and then we gave them our own special twist. American know-how!"

  9. Funny how watchdog groups and politicians blame everybody but themselves for the behavior of young people today. The problem is parents coddle their kids instead of supplying much needed discipline and direction. It’s the same people who let their kids watch “Jackass” and “Jackass 2” then blame the movie for their kids broken face instead of themselves for not teaching their kid that actions have consequences…and sometimes they hurt… When will we, as a people, realize that putting hand sanitizer on everything causes us to not build a healthy immune system? and coddling kids makes them not understand respect and consequences… it’s all the same thing.

  10. Here we go again. First off aggression isn’t a health problem. We all have aggression and we will regardless of video games. Maybe they should be a warning on the terrorist organizations “Caution: Excessive exposure to terrorism causes aggression.”

    Second there is plenty of research that shows no link between aggressive video games and aggression over the long term. Sure short term aggression can be increased just as people get more aggressive watching wrestling but that aggression peters out quickly.

    Also there is research indicating that video games serve a important social role in the development of boys. And they can do thing like train us to be better drivers. Not to mention where else can I go to get out my aggression by killing real people besides Xbox Live? Oh yeah I guess I could join a terrorist organization.

  11. As a Digital Entertainment and Game Design student I can’t tell you how many times I had to write a paper about how violence in video games has NO CORRELATION to actual real world aggression in children. To save a long and boring read my papers are summarized as this: In the 1800’s it was the demon in books, in the 1900’s it was the demon in radio, in the 1930’s it was the devil in comics, in the 1960’s it was the devil in TV and now it’s the video game’s turn to destroy humanity… that is unless parents try a radical new age treatment called PARENTING!! This is getting so ridiculous when does personal responsibility come into play? If I go out and mow down 3 people with my car is it Grand Theft Auto’s fault? Why not Chevy for making it SO easy for a deviant like me with no moral fiber to get behind the wheel of a 3 ton chariot of death!?!?! May it’s Jason Statham’s fault for making it look so awesome in Death Race that I just couldn’t figure out in my pea-sized brain that hitting folks with cars isn’t cool. Aww but it looked so cool when the cops did it in WILD POLICE CHASES CAUGHT ON TAPE EPISODE 327!! Seriously people, let’s wake up and smell the sh!t we’re sitting in here. We need reform in Congress and if this isn’t the screaming alarm then I think we’re in a little bit more trouble than I can dream up in GTA4. And if that’s the case… Good Luck to You All.

  12. Where’s the warning label for U.S. Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA)? I have several suggestions.

    This is just another example of focusing time and energy on the wrong target. The goal may be noble from certain perspectives, but a warning label will do absolutely nothing.

  13. Funny how watchdog groups and politicians blame everybody but themselves for the behavior of young people today. The problem is parents coddle their kids instead of supplying much needed discipline and direction. It's the same people who let their kids watch "Jackass" and "Jackass 2" then blame the movie for their kids broken face instead of themselves for not teaching their kid that actions have consequences…and sometimes they hurt… When will we, as a people, realize that putting hand sanitizer on everything causes us to not build a healthy immune system? and coddling kids makes them not understand respect and consequences… it's all the same thing.

  14. Here we go again. First off aggression isn't a health problem. We all have aggression and we will regardless of video games. Maybe they should be a warning on the terrorist organizations "Caution: Excessive exposure to terrorism causes aggression."

    Second there is plenty of research that shows no link between aggressive video games and aggression over the long term. Sure short term aggression can be increased just as people get more aggressive watching wrestling but that aggression peters out quickly.

    Also there is research indicating that video games serve a important social role in the development of boys. And they can do thing like train us to be better drivers. Not to mention where else can I go to get out my aggression by killing real people besides Xbox Live? Oh yeah I guess I could join a terrorist organization.

  15. As a Digital Entertainment and Game Design student I can't tell you how many times I had to write a paper about how violence in video games has NO CORRELATION to actual real world aggression in children. To save a long and boring read my papers are summarized as this: In the 1800's it was the demon in books, in the 1900's it was the demon in radio, in the 1930's it was the devil in comics, in the 1960's it was the devil in TV and now it's the video game's turn to destroy humanity… that is unless parents try a radical new age treatment called PARENTING!! This is getting so ridiculous when does personal responsibility come into play? If I go out and mow down 3 people with my car is it Grand Theft Auto's fault? Why not Chevy for making it SO easy for a deviant like me with no moral fiber to get behind the wheel of a 3 ton chariot of death!?!?! May it's Jason Statham's fault for making it look so awesome in Death Race that I just couldn't figure out in my pea-sized brain that hitting folks with cars isn't cool. Aww but it looked so cool when the cops did it in WILD POLICE CHASES CAUGHT ON TAPE EPISODE 327!! Seriously people, let's wake up and smell the sh!t we're sitting in here. We need reform in Congress and if this isn't the screaming alarm then I think we're in a little bit more trouble than I can dream up in GTA4. And if that's the case… Good Luck to You All.

  16. Where's the warning label for U.S. Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA)? I have several suggestions.

    This is just another example of focusing time and energy on the wrong target. The goal may be noble from certain perspectives, but a warning label will do absolutely nothing.

  17. It’s the most retarded bill i’ve ever heard of. The US has other problems which are far more urgent than this. And besides, violence has little to do with videogames. I believe that if a child knows well the difference between fantasy and reality, there is no problem at all. My nephews (8 and 6 years old) are crazy about Mortal Kombat and they don’t spend their time hitting other kids or trying to kill animals. They are perfectly adapted and they are very good boys. What happens is that their mom is usually checking on them and being straight forward with them. She knows that they aren’t ready for stuff like “Grand Theft Auto”, but she won’t stop them from playing fighting games or other kinds of FPS. They know there are consequences in life and they can distinguish from good and evil. On the other hand, My nephew who’s 5 years old, he’s a little asocial boy. His mother has kept him disconnected from everything trying to avoid “violent toys and tv” and just providing him with “wholesome toys and television”. What happens is that the boy can’t relate with other kids, he’s quite whimpy, scaredy, doesn’t really understand that there are consequences to everything and doesn’t know how to play by himself. Oh yeah, and when he has “contact” with a violent videogame for like 4 minutes or so, he ends up wanting to beat the crap out of everyone else. Why is that? Because he doesn’t understand what’s real and what’s not. If we want a generation of kids who don’t understand consequences, completely pampered and utterly whimpy, this bill is a great idea.

  18. Something like this could only come from someone who has never played video games before. I mean, I don’t walk away from a video game wanting to kill everybody. In reality, I’ll shutdown a game because all the blood and guts on the screen are gross and make me like violence even less.

    Someone should have Joe Baca play a few video games and see if he walks away feeling violent (and if he does, thats sad).

  19. Yes, the majority of us have all played violent video games before and no, we haven’t went around shooting hookers and hijacking cars a la GTA, but I do believe that’s because the majority of us are regular people who are not influenced by such things.

    It’s a sad fact that are people who are susceptible to being influenced by such things – not many, but there are a few.

    As it’s been stated before, an extra little warning on the box isn’t going to cause much sway for most of the people – however it may make a parent think twice, especially if it is a game for a younger child – just as they may not let them watch an R-rated movie. (I think that’s the same as an ’18’ rating in the UK)

    (Not really for or against this per say, just thought I’d try and offer another possible viewpoint)

  20. It's the most retarded bill i've ever heard of. The US has other problems which are far more urgent than this. And besides, violence has little to do with videogames. I believe that if a child knows well the difference between fantasy and reality, there is no problem at all. My nephews (8 and 6 years old) are crazy about Mortal Kombat and they don't spend their time hitting other kids or trying to kill animals. They are perfectly adapted and they are very good boys. What happens is that their mom is usually checking on them and being straight forward with them. She knows that they aren't ready for stuff like "Grand Theft Auto", but she won't stop them from playing fighting games or other kinds of FPS. They know there are consequences in life and they can distinguish from good and evil. On the other hand, My nephew who's 5 years old, he's a little asocial boy. His mother has kept him disconnected from everything trying to avoid "violent toys and tv" and just providing him with "wholesome toys and television". What happens is that the boy can't relate with other kids, he's quite whimpy, scaredy, doesn't really understand that there are consequences to everything and doesn't know how to play by himself. Oh yeah, and when he has "contact" with a violent videogame for like 4 minutes or so, he ends up wanting to beat the crap out of everyone else. Why is that? Because he doesn't understand what's real and what's not. If we want a generation of kids who don't understand consequences, completely pampered and utterly whimpy, this bill is a great idea.

  21. Something like this could only come from someone who has never played video games before. I mean, I don't walk away from a video game wanting to kill everybody. In reality, I'll shutdown a game because all the blood and guts on the screen are gross and make me like violence even less.

    Someone should have Joe Baca play a few video games and see if he walks away feeling violent (and if he does, thats sad).

  22. Yes, the majority of us have all played violent video games before and no, we haven't went around shooting hookers and hijacking cars a la GTA, but I do believe that's because the majority of us are regular people who are not influenced by such things.

    It's a sad fact that are people who are susceptible to being influenced by such things – not many, but there are a few.

    As it's been stated before, an extra little warning on the box isn't going to cause much sway for most of the people – however it may make a parent think twice, especially if it is a game for a younger child – just as they may not let them watch an R-rated movie. (I think that's the same as an '18' rating in the UK)

    (Not really for or against this per say, just thought I'd try and offer another possible viewpoint)

  23. I play T and M rated games all the time with no ill effects. This bill really pisses me off. It’s making me so mad that I want to go out and hit someone. Oh wait…

  24. I play T and M rated games all the time with no ill effects. This bill really pisses me off. It's making me so mad that I want to go out and hit someone. Oh wait…

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