Almost every game will be required to carry a warning label like those found on cigarettes if a new bill introduced to Congress this week proves successful.
Introduced by Joe Baca (D-California), the "Violence in Video Games Labeling Act" (H.R. 4204) would require all games rated E, E10+, T, M, and AO by the Entertainment Software Rating Board to carry a stamp that reads, "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior."
The only games that would be excluded from the labels would be titles rated EC (Early Childhood). The label is to be placed in a "clear and conspicuous" location on the game's box and is not limited to physical games.
If it's signed into law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission would have 180 days to create rules that require such games to bear the warning label.
In a press release on Baca's website, the lawmaker lambasted the video game industry for not having a system in place to warn users of the "potentially damaging content" in games.
"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," Baca said. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility."
Baca said the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act is a response to what he calls increasing evidence that games are connected to a plethora of short- and long-term "detrimental" effects.
"Meanwhile, research continues to show that playing violent video games is a casual risk factor for a host of detrimental effects in both the short- and long-term, including increasing the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior," he said. "American families deserve to know the truth about these potentially dangerous products."
Baca said studies from the journal Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the International Society for Research on Aggression highlight a connection between violent games and aggressive tendencies in children and teenagers.
Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) is co-sponsoring the bill.
"Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents--and children--about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior," Wolf said.
A representative from the Entertainment Software Association issued the following statement to GameSpot:
"Unfortunately, Representative Baca's facially unconstitutional bill--which has been introduced to no avail in each of six successive Congressional sessions, beginning in 2002--needlessly concerns parents with flawed research and junk science. Numerous medical experts, research authorities, and courts across the country, including the United States Supreme Court, exhaustively reviewed the research Representative Baca uses to base his bill and found it lacking and unpersuasive. Independent scientific researchers found no causal connection between video games and real life violence."
This is not the first time Baca and Wolf have put forth legislation seeking to stamp games with warning labels. In 2009, the congressional pair brought forth the Video Game Health Labeling Act, which sought to place a health warning on games rated T or above. That bill was unsuccessful.