News broke in the past couple days that a bill introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives (House Bill 2696) which placed a 1% tax on 'violent video games' was defeated this week. Will Fourkiller, a Representative of the state's 86th District, proposed the bill in hopes of raising awareness about bullying and obesity. The vote ended on a margin of 5-6, which is far from the majority needed to pass the bill. Once again video games are under attack. Last year California's law against selling violent video games to minors was also shot down. In the past, games like Doom and Mortal Kombat have come under fire from politicians and interest groups alike.
This bill was more like bull. It was completely frivolous and a waste of time even to attempt to pass this bill into law. I have multiple reasons for believing this:
- The bill only placed a 1% tax on games deemed violent by Fourkiller. Certainly game stores, or at the very least department stores that sell games, would pass this tax on to the consumer. We are talking about a difference of 60 cents. Games with peripherals would probably be taxed $1 at the most. That's not going to deter people from buying violent games or raise any red flags. If Fourkiller was trying to raise awareness about anything, then he should have made more of a statement. Instead the tax is similar to a Level 1 enemy in an RPG or a billy club in a shooter.
- The bill is considered unconstitutional anyway. Even if it did pass, it would have been vetoed or thrown out by the courts. The failure of the previously mentioned California law led to the ruling that video games were protected under the same First Amendment rights as movies, music, and books. Despite the fact that Scalia's explanation for the ruling may be contrived, the fact now exists that video games are simply another form of media and must be legislated as such.
- The bill covered all games that were rated T, M, or AO. This part of the bill is an overarching blanket for violent games. Some games that are rated T like Super Smash Bros. Brawl aren't even all that violent. Other games are given a T rating because of strong language or gambling themes. In addition, games are generally given a rating of AO for strong sexual content. Some of these games have nothing to do with violence at all. It may simply be another case of lawmakers not understanding the technology as was the case for SOPA and PIPA.
- The bill was sending mixed messages. People have attacked violent video games in the past because they thought it caused increased aggression in gamers or to keep such media out of the hands of younger kids. This concept may only loosely be related to bullying. Furthermore, it has absolutely nothing to do with obesity. If the intent truly was send a message about obesity, then why didn't Fourkiller propose this tax be placed on all games? As Rep. Mike Reynolds stated, "Why not French fries or rap music or movies?"
ArgentStew, the Gaming Sage
Original news story here.