If it can move (and indeed if it can’t) then the odds are that some point somewhere along the line a government somewhere will try and tax it. Of course, this is doubly true if it is something (say smoking or drinking) that society generally says we shouldn’t be doing, so-called ‘sin-taxes’ are great revenue raisers for governments across the world.
Pennsylvania in the United States is reportedly trying to take this one step further and apply the approach to what it deems to be ‘mature’ and violent games. Last year, a bill that was introduced that sought to apply a 10 percent additional sales tax on any mature or adult-rated game sold at retail (so digital purchases made within the state wouldn’t be included). However, it died a death at committee stage due to lack of support.
This year however, thanks to House Bill 109, it is back from the legislative dead. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is less than happy:
“The Pennsylvania bill is a violation of the US Constitution.”
“The US Supreme Court made clear in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association & Entertainment Software Association that video games are entitled to the full protection of the Constitution, and that efforts, like Pennsylvania’s, to single out video games based on their content will be struck down.”
“Numerous authorities – including scientists, medical professionals, government agencies, and the US Supreme Court – found that video games do not cause violence. We encourage Pennsylvania legislators to work with us to raise awareness about parental controls and the ESRB video game rating system, which are effective tools to ensure parents maintain control over the video games played in their home.”
So, should we worried? Firstly, it has to be said that it is hard not to see this is an attempt to stigmatise video games which the ESA pick-up on in their statement above. ‘Sin taxes’ are meant to both punish what they designate as ‘wrong’ choices and provide a disincentive to making those choices.
If a precedent is set in Pennsylvania and it survives a Supreme Court challenge, which the ESA imply they will clearly be up for, then certainly Stateside it is surely likely other states will follow suit. After-all, have you ever known a government to pass up the opportunity to make a buck? HMRC offers considerable help to the video games industry so it is surely less likely that this direction of policy flow will be reversed, however, you never know…….