Missouri State Rep Proposes Stupid Tax On Games

In a clumsy and misdirected response to the Sandy Hook massacre and other recent outbursts of violence, a Missouri state representative has proposed an ‘emergency’ tax on what he terms ‘violent video games’ that so broadly defines the term ‘violent video game’ as to render it meaningless.

The proposed law, House Bill No. 157, would add an excise tax of one percent that would be levied in addition to any existing sales taxes. The law would be applied “upon persons storing, using, or otherwise consuming,” and would be “based on the gross receipts or purchase price of such property.” Revenues from this tax would be added to the state general fund, but paradoxically would be used only “for the treatment of mental health conditions associated with exposure to violent video games.”

For the purposes of this proposed law, violent video games have been defined thusly: “a video or computer game that has received a rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board of Teen, Mature, or Adult Only.”

Frankly, if this sounds like the dumbest goddamned idea you’ve ever heard, that’s because you’re not a stupid person. Study after study has indicated that violent video games do not show a corresponding increase in mental health problems (here’s one recent such report). More importantly, even if there may be some effect on one’s mental state from playing violent games – and we must stress that in fact, studies show no such link – studies also show there is no correlation whatsoever between consumption of violent video games and rates of societal violence.

This proposed law also contains one of the funniest restrictions possible. Though the money gained from this tax is restricted to use for mental health services, it would be put the funds into the state’s general fund. As the anti-abortion zealots are so fond of pointing out whenever they’re freaking out about Planned parenthood funding, money is fungible. There is absolutely no way this provision will result in anything other than state coffers being generally increased on the backs of people who have hurt no one.

But finally and perhaps most importantly, the definition of ‘violent video games’ is so broad that it essentially feels intended to punish video game playing in general. Anything rated T, M, or AO would be affected. To get a sense of how absurd this definition is, note that the following games are rated T:

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Guitar Hero II

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Rock Band

The Sims 3

SKATE

Forza Horizon

Dance Central (!!!)

This bill has not yet passed and there is no guarantee it will, but it gives us a nice picture of the thinking of people who are absolutely desperate to enact their police state fantasies and desire to stamp out the things that make them feel old, rather than deal with our actual problems. A law like this has one purpose and one purpose only, which is to deflect the issue of proliferation of guns, and the ease with which dangerous people can get access to guns, and to redirect the conversation to a scapegoat that reactionaries do not understand. We will of course be paying close attention to see if it passes. The bill has been posted online here.

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7 Comments on Missouri State Rep Proposes Stupid Tax On Games

Brad

On January 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

Yeah, and didn’t Lieberman hold The Sims up as a shining example of what non-violent video games are supposed to be?

gasmaskangel

On January 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

This is so cartoonishly stupid it makes my brain hurt. It’s like something from a stupid 90′s extreme sports movie where the villain wants to ban skateboarding or something because he just doesn’t understand “kids these days.”

I’m actually pretty sure this won’t get passed, if only because the quality of people crusading against violent video games seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I mean, I remember when political big shots like Hillary Clinton used to take shots at them and you felt like you actually had a real assault on freedom of speech going on, but this… this feels like listening to really senile distant relative being racist.

Also, a 1% tax? So you’re just going to add 60 cents to the price tag? That’s not even a very good threat. I could pay that tax with the loose change in my freaking car.

It also seems like a really easy system to cheat. What about indie games that never go up for an ESRB rating? Hotline Miami is one of the most horrifically violent games I’ve ever played and it has no ESRB rating on it’s steam page.

S.J.M

On January 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

The irony being you’d have to question the mental state of anyone who passes such a tax. I’m not in the US, so it doesnt effect me but I still have to laugh at the idea this chaps proposing.

Statistically 1 in 4 people suffers from mental health issues over the coarse of a year. Its not games that cause it, no more then someone watching a film or TV show (will they levy the tax on those too?) its a state of the mind. Video games don’t kill people, weapons and the people who wield them do.

Cemth

On January 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

As usual, politicians are too dense or too lazy to target the cause of something (or they have conflicted interests) so they target what can only generously be described as a symptom. Really, in this instance it’s not even that.

Idiots.

R.J.

On January 16, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Wow, that is stupid. AO rated games usually get those ratings because they’re pornographic, so taxing those games would miss the intended target most of the time. As the article notes, plenty of games get T or M ratings without being violent. Better watch out for Rock Band because I think I heard a couple of drug references in some songs. Oops, that isn’t violent, but apparently being rated T is enough. I’ve seen NHL hockey games that received T ratings because they recreate the fighting seen so often in actual hockey. Is the plan to tax hockey tickets because there could be a fight? While we’re at it, why stop at taxing violent games? If this goes through, then it’s only fair to tax movie tickets sold to anything above PG-13, regardless of why it has that rating. Oh, and books and TV will have to be taxed somehow too, since it’s only fair.

Since the ESRB is actually a system of self-regulation in the gaming industry, I’d hope that if this were actually used, the folks over there would point out that Missouri wouldn’t even be using the ratings system properly since a blanket tax like this doesn’t even account for the basic step of flipping the game over and seeing why it received a particular rating.

On a more serious note, I’m curious why games keep getting lined up as the scapegoat, here. Was there even any evidence that the shooter played a bunch of games, or is it just the same old bunk being placed on the newest form of entertainment since the same blame-game never worked out when it was aimed at comics, movies, and rock n’ roll?

gasmaskangel

On January 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm

@R.J.

I’ve actually wondered that to.

ZephyrTuvai

On January 16, 2013 at 8:32 pm

This is horrendously stupid. But the saddest part is, almost every recent art form has gone through this, as R.J. said, comics, movies, and music. While this is past the point of appalling ignorance, I choose to at least look at it as a necessary, albeit it incredibly infuriating, step towards video games being accepted as an art form. Not that I’m condoning the action, help us all if this passes as it will unfortunately become the first of many, being used as that wonderful legal term “precedent”, its just that this happened before with other forms of media, and eventually it will get to a climax of sorts, after which a lot more freedom will be allowed to those who choose to use video games as their form of artistic expression. Eventually.