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?