Oklahoma Legislator: Let's Tax "Violent" Video Games


An Oklahoma state representative wants to tax gamers. Introduced by the ironically named William Fourkiller, the bill would impose a 1 percent tax on "violent video games." Half of the revenue raised would go to an anti-obesity fund (the "Childhood Outdoor Education Revolving Fund"), and the other half would go to a bullying prevention fund. Taxing video games to stop childhood obesity and bullying—it's a nanny state trifecta!

In addition to the obvious libertarian outrages (it's a tax hike that could violate the First Amendment!) there are other flaws with the bill (SB 2696). First, it's far too broad:

As used in this section, "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.

In other words, Teen-rated games like The Sims, Dance Central, or Guitar Hero would be included in the tax, even though they're non-violent. Brilliant.

Second, Fourkiller claims, "Violent video games contribute to some of our societal problems like obesity and bullying."

That's not actually true. A Michigan State University study tracked almost 500 kids' media habits and weight. Their results:

The team found that while video games were used more than the internet and cellphones, none of these activities predicted a child's weight or BMI. Instead they found that race, age and socioeconomic status were the strongest predictors.

In addition, Fourkiller assumes video games are for kids. But in fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer is 37. So taxing adult gamers to fight childhood obesity is not exactly the most rational course of action.

Meanwhile for minors, the ESA points out, "Parents are present when games are purchased or rented 91 percent of the time." If parents truly objected to video games, then they shouldn't buy them for their kids. Children are the responsibility of their parents, not the state.

Reason on video games. Me on Oklahoma and the nanny state.