Oklahoma Lawmaker Proposes 1% Tax on Violent Video Games Like Rock Band
Oklahoma House Representative William Fourkiller has put forth an interesting proposition: Why don’t we add a 1% tax to all “violent“ video games? Well, mainly because that would be unconstitutional, but nonetheless the bill exists. Fourkiller’s reasoning behind pushing the tax is that — get this — violent video games promote violence and on top of that, obesity. In his defense, the proposal dictates that the extra 1% would go to youth obesity and anti-bullying organizations, but at the cost of further sullying the already sufficiently sullied reputation of violence-based video games that are not for kids anyway.
The bill, if passed, would affix the violence tax to video games not only rated “Adults Only” and “Mature,” but those rated “Teen” as well. That’s the only criteria, too. It’s not based on violence, but rather rating, which does not necessarily indicate violence. If I remember correctly, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was rated “Teen” for the animated blood that accompanied a nasty bail. This would be considered “violent” by Fourkiller’s standards. Oh, and Rock Band. That’s violent too. What with all the shredding.
All that being said, there’s pretty much no way this thing would survive even if passed. After that handy-dandy Supreme Court ruling that designated video games as a protected form a free speech (i.e. not “obscene”), taxing them based on content would be illegal per the First Amendment. Granted, there’s a 1968 Supreme Court precendent regarding the special treatment of “obscene” sexual content — specifically keeping it away from kids — but that dealt with magazines and a focus on sexual content as opposed to violent content would both undermine Fourkiller’s argument and make his classification system even more inaccurate.
What is his argument? Fourkiller has chosen to bang that old, post hoc ergo propter hoc, “violent video games make violent people” drum, with a side of obesity. Here’s the way he’s put it: “Not everybody is going to react the same but I believe after hours and hours of watching the screen, playing the video game, being that person and taking on that role, people get desensitized.” Also, it’s worth noting that one of the video games he’s concerned with is Bully.
The fact Fourkiller’s bill would provide money to anti-bullying, anti-youth obesity organizations is something I think anyone would consider respectable. The problem is — and this is a problem that continues to plague gamers — the incorrect assumption that video games, all video games, are for kids. They aren’t; games that are rated “Adults Only” are for adults only. So what does that have to do with kids bullying each other? I’m astounded that this fallacy still hasn’t died. And the obesity thing? Granted, it may be a problem, but an irrelevant one if you’re involving “violence” in the equation.
Although Representative Fourkiller’s bill is unlikely to pass, and although it does have children’s interests in mind, it’s painfully misguided and frankly a little offensive. Hopefully he can figure out why. In the meanwhile, I hope he realizes that someone out there is probably using his admittedly awesome last name as a gamertag and killing all kinds of people in Modern Warfare.