Should there be a video game tax?

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 5:19 PM

Video games have captivated young children since they were first created. Every year, graphics cards and computer memory gets better, consoles get smaller in size and games get larger in scope. New games feature millions of fictitious worlds that nearly look real, and violence in these worlds are no different.

Pennsylvania is in the middle of deciding on a “video game tax,” which could add a 10 percent tax to “Mature 17+” and “Adults Only 18+” games. According to republican representative Chris Quinn, “This bill does not prohibit violent video games, instead it simply provides a revenue stream; it tries to recoup some of the societal costs, to help make our schools safer by taxing an industry that has been shown to lead to violence.”

Let’s talk about this for a moment. I am an avid gamer — I have played everything from “League of Legends” to “Grand Theft Auto 5.” In between those two titles are tons of violent games, and I have never been violent like these video games portray. So, what does Quinn mean by, “recoup some of the societal costs”? Since acts of extreme violence in schools have been reoccurring, this sounds like a good idea. Are games the real problem though?

I’ve played video games since I was five. The first game I played was “Super Mario Brothers” for Nintendo, released in Japan in 1985 and as the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) was not established until September 1994, the game was not initially rated. As of now, Mario games have all been rated “E” for everyone, and are considered a well-known, family-friendly series of games.

There is a heavy fan-based theory, though, that Mario is all about drugs. From a leaf that allows you to fly, to a mushroom that makes you larger, the theory points out many references to what a trip on drugs may feel like. That, along with jumping on turtles and throwing them off of ledges, may have led to harsher ratings had it come out today.

How are these games rated? When a game is ready to be rated, the developer must send a detailed report with a video of the most graphic content in the game. This includes the reward system, storyline and any unlockables. A committee of seven full-time raters then review the content and issue a rating. If the developer does not like his rating, their only option is to fix the content.

Even in games like “Kingdom Hearts 3,” with a rating of “E10+,” there’s gratuitous amounts of combat. The characters constantly beat up other characters. Why are just the higher rated being taxed if even an “E10+” is violent?

But again, is this a video game problem at all? A United Kingdom scientist believes there’s no connection. After multiple surveys of young teenagers, they found no viable evidence of a link to violence and violent video games. How is taxing higher-rated video games considered recouping some of the societal costs if it’s not even the problem causing these costs? Does Pennsylvania need a larger body of research before jumping to any conclusions?

It may. For instance, Quinn constructed the body of this bill based on research findings from the National Center for Health Research, which argue that there is indeed a link between video games and violence. However, both the statement and Quinn omit disclaimers such as mental illness and other such risk factors that may influence behavior; therefore, more research may be required.

Adding a small tax to react to an issue, which might not even be an issue, seems wrong. The bill would create a “Digital Protection for School Safety Account” that would give money for school safety measures around Pennsylvania.

While talking with NBC, Quinn said, “It’s not about censorship but rather finding a new revenue stream.” Wait, was this not about school safety? Does he just want to skim money off of gamers?

He goes on to say, “Many have concluded that violent video games are a risk factor for potential violence.” How does that make total sense when there is documented research that confirms that video games are not a factor in violence? Or at the very least, one would say that studies have conflicted.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think video games create violent individuals? Should higher-rated video games be taxed to help fix the violence in schools issue?

Beau Bruneau |

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