What Did Indies Ever Do? – Game Labeling Act Tries to Demand All Games be Rated

In the past few weeks, there has been a massive amount of attention pointed towards the videogame industry. I hate to sound cynical, but this seems to happen every time there is a tragic event involving firearms.

The most recent news is from, who report that another try at a “Videogame Labeling Bill”, or H.R. 4204 was introduced.  Almost a year ago, the “Violence in Video Games Labeling Act” was attempted which would force every video game – digital or store bought, to both use a rating system similar to the ESRB. The Violence in Video Games Labeling Act would also require all games to use a label stating “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior”.

But this is nearly a year ago! Why do we care what happened back then, especially since it was denied? You see, a certain Representative from Utah has introduced a new version of the bill – H.R. 287. This would also require all games to be rated. My question is this: What happens to indie games that want to be sold digitally? The predecessor to H.R. 287 defined a videogame as “any product, whether distributed electronically or through a tangible device, consisting of data, programs, routines, instructions, applications, symbolic languages, or similar electronic information (collectively referred to as ‘‘software’’) that controls the operation of a computer or telecommunication device and that enables a user to interact with a computer controlled virtual environment for entertainment purposes.

Screen from Hotline Miami

I don’t mean to sound sensationalist or anything, but could this bill restrict indie game developers who intend to sell their games? There are a lot of really violent indie games like Hotline Miami, but there are also a large number of harmless games. The problem I can image would be whatever contracting board that decides to be the rating authority charging developers/publishers a fine for games to be rated. And then how long would it take for a game to be rated? It seems to me, that if this bill was to be passed it would pretty much outlaw indie games.

I doubt it will go through, but what are solutions you clever people can think of? You can tell us your thoughts in our forums!

Sam loves supporting the indie game community. Come talk to him in our forums, or on Twitter @IndieSamAdonis

  • Oh yuck!!!! Yeah, it’s one thing if the reviewing is free, but if it’s like the ESRB where it takes time and money… Good grief that’s frightening!

  • I suppose it is a good thing that I did not make “game” whose purpose is entertainment.

  • I find the statement “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior” is basically an adlib for anyone that has a chip on their shoulder and happens to have hobbies.
    “WARNING: Exposure to operating a car has been linked to aggressive behavior”
    “WARNING: Exposure of toes to furniture can be linked to aggressive behavior”
    “WARNING: Exposure to the garbage on television can be linked to aggressive behavior”

    Anything can be linked to aggressive behavior hahaha

  • Off the top of my head…

    Relabel the game as a “serious game” and make sure you put some money into marketing to the education market.

    Stop using the word “virtual world” in advertising and have my lawyer get their lawyer to define the term “virtual environment”. If we can argue on the definition of the word “it”, I think we can make some serious dents in what they claim as a virtual environment. (Is Facebook a virtual environment? What about Blogs with comments? Online newspapers. I bet with some good lawyers we could muddy the definition up to where it is unrecognizable.

    I would think that phone apps would be exempt since a phone is not a computer. Again, l think the bill could be gotten around with the legal wiggle room.

    Or we could just, you know, fight it with facts the way we did last time. Biden listened. Perhaps we need to say, “We’re funding new studies on the relation to video games and violence. Why don’t we wait and see what that study says before passing laws that could potentially cripple an entire industry and put thousands more people out of work.”

  • We can also claim our games are for the purpose of catharsis instead of entertainment.

  • Actually I remember recently reading something that ESRB was doing something along the lines of letting Digital Games go through a process where the companies could rate them themselves.

  • Jim

    Root of the problem here: Does anybody think there are maybe things the State doesn’t have to be involved in, at all?

    Can you even imagine the Official Word of the politicians on *any* subject being “this is not within the proper role of Government. It’s none of our business.”

  • You can’t really ‘doubt it will go through’ with the crap that Republicans are pulling nowadays. If they can switch around electoral votes in individual states so that they still win elections regardless of how the people vote, then they could pass this bill if they wanted.