It’s always a good thing to see when Congress works hard to tackle the tough issues. You know, economic health, unemployment, foreign relations – important things. Then you see bills introduced that make you wonder why we pay them. Rep. Joe Baca (D – CA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R – VA) have just recently sponsored H.R. 4204, “The Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2012,” which is akin to its past iteration in 2009. The passing of the bill would mean that all games rated E and above (that’s right, “E” for “Everyone”) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board would have to carry with it a warning on the label, regardless of content. The warning would read “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior” according to the language (see the bill here).
For those unfamiliar with the current Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating system, allow me to give you a primer – games are classified into ratings by the intended audience, much how the MPAA uses their (broken) system of G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. ESRB’s ratings are eO (early childhood), E (everyone), E10 (everyone 10+), T (teen), M (mature 17+) and AO (adults only 18+). So they’ve actually broken games down into much narrower bands than the MPAA has with movies. And of course, these ratings are accompanied with reasoning (you can look games up on esrb.org for ratings and rationale). In my opinion, the classifications are, for the most part, dead on accurate.
So now that you’ve had your ESRB primer, let’s take a look at what this bill passing would mean. Let’s take a nice, fun, family friendly all-ages game like Brain Age for the Nintendo DS. If you’re unfamiliar with this game, it’s a series of puzzles based on numbers, like Sudoku, and math problems to find and enhance your “brain age,” the primary goal being to exercise your brain. Passing the described bill above would mean that Brain Age, with its “E” rating, would carry the aforementioned warning on its labeling.