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PA Lawmaker Proposes Video Game Tax For “Violent Titles”

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PA State Rep. Christopher Quinn is proposing a 10% “Sin Tax” on video games with an ESRB M rating…

And all proceeds of the tax would be going to the “Digital Protection for School Safety” account, which is intended to help raise security measures that could prevent school shootings.

The bill was originally proposed by Quinn in 2018, but never left the committee stage. Since then it has resurfaced and is being considered quite seriously for a vote. Quinn proposed the bill stating that “One factor that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of, school violence is the material kids see, and act out, in video games”. He also goes on to half ass quote a statement by the National Center for Health Resources on the subject.

Let’s be clear, I say “half ass” because he cherry picked exactly what he needed to sustain his narrative, completely forgetting to mention that they also discussed mental illness, social conditions, and accessibility to and the availability of weapons among the list of other important factors within their study.

The NCHR has even gone as far as stating…

“Violence is a form of aggression, but not all aggressive behaviors are violent. Very few studies have looked at whether playing violent video games increases the chances of later delinquency, criminal behavior, or lethal violence. Such studies are difficult to conduct, and require very large numbers of children. It makes sense that since playing violent video games tends to increase the level of aggressive behavior, it would result in more lethal violence or other criminal behaviors, but there is no clear evidence to support that assumption.”

Other studies have concluded that while many children did engage with overly violent and gory video game content, ultimately there were too many other environmental factors to prove that video games were the root cause for their behavior, such as abusive homes or dealing with bullies at school.

With gun violence on the rise, we have to seriously start questioning – why? Columbine blamed it on Marilyn Manson, and as times have changed so has entertainment. Kids quickly rush through homework to hop on Fortnite with their friends. But is playing Fortnite online and yelling about screwing someone’s mom really going to be the reason a young child takes a gun to school? 

Now, I’m not against money going towards a fund that will keep youth safe, but it feels wildly unfair to use video games as the scapegoat here. Every time a school shooting happens, it seems like the same rehashed cycle across social media of “Thoughts and Prayers” and “Let’s blame the gaming industry”. If video games truly are to blame, why weren’t there more carjackings when GTA came out?

It’s a completely garbage, blanket statement used by politicians to prey on the older generation who is watching their kids playing video games and feeling helpless. Dozens and dozens of my friends have played video games, especially violent ones, their entire lives. And it’s worth noting that they’ve never gone on a shooting spree. If video games were so problematic, don’t you think the statistic of these violent offenses being committed by someone we personally know be skewed higher?

Sure, not everyone is wired the same and that is a completely different conversation we can get on in regards to chemical make up, hormones, mental and physical illness, etc. But if everyone else can sit around and defend their own interests, why can’t I? Politicians and parents have been pushing their own narrative for years, based mostly on completely false or inaccurate information. Generally speaking, studies have shown that games can affect a developing mind, but have also shown that gaming in general can greatly help build cognitive abilities in those same developing minds.

Studies have ultimately shown that there is no conclusive evidence to link violent crimes and video games.

Taxing video games seems like a step in the wrong direction to fight the greater fight here. And while the tax is focused on PA and wouldn’t directly impact me for two reasons (1. I don’t live there, 2. I rarely by full price games) it sets a dangerous precedence for other cities and states to do the same, and potentially be used as ammo for stricter guidelines and potential censorship and bans.

But reflecting on it, I honestly can’t tell you what the answer to this problem is. We have children growing up in a country where in the back of their mind, they do have some concerns and reservations about going into the classroom daily. We also have such a massive stigma around mental health. Maybe if we focus on eliminating that stigma, many people suffering will feel comfortable and confident getting the help they need and deserve. And on top of that, maybe we can also focus on, you know… affordable access to healthcare? The financial burden alone makes people not want to get help because they can’t afford the bill, but also sometimes choose to skip their weekly therapy when it comes down to a copay or food for the week.

I know I’ve spoken.. fondly..  about this many times, but growing up my folks had a long talk to me about the real world, and that the stuff I do in video games doesn’t mirror real life. There is no “retry” if you mess up IRL. They also gave me many outlets to release any pent up aggression, such as sports! The American past (and present) time for aggressive behavior and concussions!

Could a gaming version of “the talk” partnered with a healthy outlet work for others in the same way it helped me?


If you want to learn more about the topic, check out the links below.

Concerns about gaming and anti-social behavior: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1337971/Computer-games-make-children-anti-social.html

Various Psychological Studies:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-018-0031-7

https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2018/research/no-evidence-to-link-violence-and-video-games/

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0091506