A disturbing new trend is making the rounds in the halls of a cash-strapped Congress following the Sandy Hill shootings. The familiar scapegoat of "violent video games" is making an appearance, and new laws are being proposed to address the concept in the only way Congress seems to know how any more: lay taxes on it.
Basically, the plan--which seems to be limited to Missouri right now--would amend current Missouri tax law by tacking on a one percent surcharge for "violent video games", here defined as any game labeled T and up.
Of course, that would raise a lot of interesting questions, as somehow the state of Missouri would essentially be saying that games like "Zumba Fitness 2
", "Rock Band", and "Forza Horizon" somehow qualify as violent, which makes about as much sense as washing laundry in a blender.
Meanwhile, the proceeds from said tax would be routed into a special fund used for the "treatment of mental health
conditions associated with exposure to violent video games". This sounds fine and well, of course, until you look more closely at the statement itself. Since when, precisely, were "mental health conditions" ever "associated with exposure to violent video games"? Given that there are a massive number of violent video game
players out there--we ran down the numbers in an earlier report--and there is absolutely nowhere near a one to one correlation between the two, I'd call it a long shot at best to say that there were any mental health conditions associated with violent video games.
While a one percent tax may not sound like much--a $60 game would be taxed about 60 cents--what has many concerned at this point is the sheer implication of it all. Today a 60 cent tax. Tomorrow? What's to stop the tax from going to 60 dollars and beyond? We've all seen what happened to cigarettes; taxes on a pack and a carton continue to climb whenever the state government starts feeling the bite.
Issues of enforcement come into play; online sales will be an issue, so too interstate sales. Will people drive to Illinois or Kansas to get their game on when Missouri passes the law? What of online delivery systems like Steam or Gamefly?
And what of game makers? Will they continue to make "violent video games" when they're taxed for doing so, reducing the likelihood that they'll sell? Will the ESRB ratings system be abandoned altogether?
There are a wide variety of implications for a system like this one, and few of them end well. Hopefully the residents of Missouri will make their voices heard on this one and keep the taxman's grip out of gamers' pockets.