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Pennsylvania Is Trying to Tax Violent Video Games—Again

February 5, 2019, 6:09 PM UTC

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are looking to impose a big tax on mature video games.

Under a bill introduced to the state’s General Assembly, any game with an “M” or “AO” rating would be subject to a 10% tax. That tax revenue would go toward a fund that is earmarked to enhance safety measures in Pennsylvania school districts.

This is the second time the bill, introduced by Rep. Christopher B. Quinn (R), has been introduced to the assembly. It made its first appearance last October and languished in committee.

M-rated games tend to be the biggest sellers in the video game world. Franchises including Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Assassin’s Creed typically carry the rating, which advises parents that the content is suitable for players over the age of 17.

Quinn’s rationale for the bill seems to be the common fear that violent video games result in real world violence, an argument that industry opponents have been making for nearly 20 years. (Donald Trump made the same argument last year and the National Rifle Association has regularly made the same argument.) The furor escalated to the point that California attempted to restrict the sale of violent video games to children in 2005. The Supreme Court in 2011 struck down that law.

Experts, though, say they have found no link between games and real world violence.

“As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth,” said Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M, who has studied the effects of game violence for years

The proposal, officially called House Bill No. 109, has been referred to the PA House of Representatives Finance Committee.