Last June, the US Supreme Court released a decisive opinion on whether violent video games can and should be regulated as obscene material. In that ruling, the Justices found that video games were protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and could not be regulated for violence. This ruling was a huge victory for free speech as well as for gamers.
Even before that ruling came out, I made the prediction that laws targeting games would not stop even if the Supreme Court ruled in gaming’s favor. My predictions were based on the behavior of Oklahoma politicians after Oklahoma’s own violent game law was struck down as unconstitutional. When I wrote that, there was a bill proposed that would have forced retailers to hand out literature that was mostly false about the effects of violent games on children. The other bill at the time was an attempt to bring game development tax incentives to the state but it excluded M and AO rated games even though the film incentive it was modeled after had no such provision for R and NC-17 movies. Just recently, Oklahoma had another Representative propose a bill that would have applied a sin tax on “violent games” (really just T, M and AO games). This bill never made it out of committee even after the bill was amended to just ask for a commission to review the research on violent gaming.
So with all that in mind it really is no surprise to see that even on the Federal level such efforts are still under way. Primarily, these laws are proposed by otherwise incompetent politicians who are simply looking for brownie points from their constituency. Such is the state of Representatives Joe Baca and Frank Wolf. Baca with Wolf’s assistance has reintroduced a bill that would apply cigarette style warning labels on violent games which reads:
“WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.“
Frankly, this label is absolutely absurd. There is no such research. Even the research used to defend the failed California law in the Supreme Court was rejected as it failed to actually prove any link between violent games and aggressive behavior. On top of that, many of those same studies have been applied to violent prose and images showing similar results.
What this really is is Baca’s attempt to look like he is working to protect the children without the necessity of actually doing any real work toward that goal. I don’t really see this bill going any further than his previous bills, which is not anywhere after being proposed. It is the type of bill that is proposed with no intention of ever being passed. Even if it were to pass in its current state, it will be ruled unconstitutional like the law before it and the new warning labels on cigarettes.