A lawmaker in Oklahoma (a state smack-dab in the middle of the US of A - I'm learning a lot about the country that neighbours mine, writing for this site) has proposed a one-percent tax on violent video games, claiming that they lead to obesity, bullying, and criminal behaviour. State Representative Will Fourkiller, a former educator and nurse, is the one tabling the law, indicating that he has personally seen how violent video games can affect people:
"A gentleman shot a police officer and stole his car," Fourkiller says. "He had been playing Grand Theft Auto."
He can't believe there's actually a video game called "Bully" because he says bullying is often what happens when kids play these games.
"Not everybody is going to react the same," Fourkiller says. "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."
So Representative Fourkiller (who voted in favour of a failed 2011 anti-bullying bill which would have included LBGT youth) is proposing a tax on all video games given the ESRB ratings Teen, Mature, or Adults-Only. The money from this tax would go to Oklahoma's Bullying Prevention Revolving Fund and Childhood Outdoor Education Revolving Fund.
Critics contend that the law is founded on a reliance on contested research, is over-broad in its definition of "violent" video games, and is targeting violence in video games while excluding violence in other popular media. Indeed, we here at GayGamer have pointed out many of the difficulties with the current research on video game violence which make it effectively impossible to claim that video game violence causes societal violence. Time quotes its contributor Chrisopher Ferguson:
Quite simply, the research just hasn't panned out. For one thing, even while video game sales have skyrocketed, youth violence plummeted to its lowest levels in 40 years according to government statistics. Secondly, it has been increasingly recognized that much of the early research on VVG linking them to increased aggression was problematic: most studies used outcome measures that had nothing to do with real-life aggression and failed to control carefully for other important variables, such as family violence, mental health issues or even gender in many studies (boys both play more VVG and are more aggressive.) This was something the U.S. Supreme Court recognized when, after considering California's attempt to ban the sale of VVG to minors in Brown v. EMA, it stated on June 27, 2011, "These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason."
Meanwhile, Jeff Hughes of Digial Trends contends:
A glaring problem with the bill is that it seems to be geared towards a vague swath of video games in its definition: "'Violent video game' means a video or computer game that has received a rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board of Teen, Mature or Adult Only." That means, aside from obvious games like Fallout, Bully, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, the bill would be taxing games like Beatles Rock Band, You Don't Know Jack and The Sims 3...
Representative Fourkiller rejects the contention that he is targeting the video game industry, claiming instead that he feels the games should be taxed and that awareness about the issues of video games, violence, obesity, and bullying needs to be raised.