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Pennsylvania officials propose “sin tax” on violent video games

Violent video games could get even more expensive than their family friendly counterparts in the future, as Pennsylvania lawmakers attempt to add a “sin tax” to titles rated M by the ESRB. The proposal would see the extra money fund a new board dedicated to school safety in the digital age, hoping to prevent school shootings.

Government statements have regularly linked tragedies with violence in video games, with President Trump holding a meeting with industry professionals last year to determine how entertainment is “shaping young people’s thoughts.” In fact, the attempt to tax M-rated video games dates as far back as 2013, before resurfacing last year when Republican state representative Chris Quinn attributed them as  “one factor that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of, school violence.”

Quinn’s initial bill failed to gain much traction, but with minor alterations the newly proposed House Bill 109 wants to add a 10 percent “sin tax” on top of standard local taxes. Although state tax can vary, this added on top of Pennsylvania’s 6% tax would see a $60 game rise anywhere between $65 and $70, presuming that the costs would ultimately fall on the customer. This would help form and maintain the Digital Protection for School Safety Account, which would oversee safety measures in Pennsylvania’s school districts.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is expectedly against the bill, going as far to call it “a violation of the U.S. Constitution” in a statement to Variety. Previously, the ESA spoke out against Trump’s aggressive stance against video games by saying that there are “numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between videogames and violence.”

“Numerous authorities — including scientists, medical professionals, government agencies, and the US Supreme Court — found that video games do not cause violence,” the ESA continues. “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.”

KitGuru Says: With no evidence linking a rise in aggression from violence in media to incidents including real-life violent behaviour, it’s difficult to see beyond the possibility that video games are being used as a scapegoat for underlying issues. Alongside more research into the matter, I’d personally like to see governments across the globe bolster their understanding of technology and entertainment in the digital age before pushing for legislation.

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