Recently, Congressmen Joe Baca (D-Calif) and Frank Wolf (R-Va) decided to turn back time with a controversial bill that would slap the equivalent of a Surgeon General’s warning on games and not just on ones like first-person shooters.
All of them, even if that included Pokemon.
Only games that were rated EC (Early Childhood) by the ESRB would escape this fate. Games like Reader Rabbit Math, or Sesame Street: Let’s Go To Preschool. Everything else, like Angry Birds Space or Journey on the PS3, might frighten you enough to build your own doomsday bunker away from the world.
And according to GamePolitics, this is why, because those games would be labeled with the following:
“WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.”
Has it been linked to aggressive behavior? According to the Entertainment Consumers Association, they say it’s all bullshit and actually cite a study that says otherwise – which the bill apparently doesn’t.
We’ve been through this dance before. Doesn’t have Congress have anything better to do? Some might call out “but it’s a bipartisan bill”. You know what else is bipartisan? Having a double chocolate and vanilla ice cream cone. The difference is that it’s also a lot more satisfying.
It’s remarkable that something like this would even actually come up in Congress at all. It’s a retread of the same kind of fear mongering and short sighted, election campaign chest thumping that tried to associate Dungeons & Dragons with Satanism in the eighties and had attacked games in the early nineties which, incidentally, led to the formation of the ESRB. Before that happened, a witch hunt ensued around a number of titles like Doom. And Night Trap.
Night Trap came out for the Sega CD in ’92 and aroused a lot of controversy over what some people thought was a game that enabled players to victimize women. The reality was that you used a series of cameras to watch over a slumber party in an eerily voyeuristic manner to “trap” monsters that tried to wipe them out. You were PROTECTING them. Not attacking them.
But at the time, if you showed a nighty in a game and mention monsters, certain members of Congress such as Joe Lieberman might think that it’s an invitation to film a porn snuff film. “Some” people turned out to be politicians with connections and time was wasted on Capitol Hill in a small bout of McCarthyism that attempted to villainize certain titles and the people that made them.
One good thing did come out of this, though, which was the ESRB. Unfortunately, even with the ESRB trying to fend off things like the bill above, leave it to ignorant parents to pave the way for more sensationalist garbage. Though things are getting better as more people realize how stupid it is to blame Angry Birds on stealing someone’s milkshake.
As a game, Night Trap was notable for having a fairly famous star (Dana Plato) appear in one of the first FMV games. The CD-ROM standard was all the rage and people were talking up how awesome it would be to merge Hollywood with Silicon Valley, creating a flood of awful FMV games and experiments. The porn industry loved the idea as some of the back pages to CGW began to demonstrate.
There were a few good titles that used FMV, not all of them were cheap plastic, but so much were that FMV has earned something of a stigma among gamers that lives on even today.
Night Trap also wasn’t that great a game. It wasn’t even scary. Yet its claim to fame as one of the poster children that spurred the industry to try and regulate itself, as well a another example of Congress not fully understanding something that they wanted to prosecute in their hearings, has tattooed its reputation on the history of gaming.
Yet even with an example like that, here we are again staring down another bill slipped into the Congressional agenda. So here’s a reminder that the more things change, the more that they stay the same regardless of who is in office.
This two page ad, which ran in ’95 for its PC and Mac release, jabs Congress over the controversy that had pulled it from shelves earlier in the decade. It also mentions the “Dangerous Times” CD that was now included with the game telling Digital Pictures’ side of the controversy.