It seems like the moral panic over video games is alive and well in 2019. House Bill 109 was recently proposed by lawmakers in Pennsylvania to add a 10% excise tax to violent video games. With the “sin tax” specifically affecting games that are rated Mature and Adults Only by the ESRB, the money from this tax would fund the “Digital Protection for School Safety Account”. This fund exists with the purpose of “enhancing school safety measures”. Interestingly enough, it should be noted that this isn’t the first time this bill has been put forward. State representative Chris Quinn put this bill forward last year as well, but it didn’t go anywhere.
Quinn has been firm in his position that video games are potentially a primary cause for violence in school.The proposal for House Bill 109 is an obvious reaction to the recent tragic events. It should be noted however that the statement Quinn references in an attempt to correlate violent video games with aggressive behavior explicitly notes that it is only one risk factor out of many. Other risk factors such as “mental illness, adverse environments, and access to guns” are also noted as significant risk factors that all play a part in aggressive behavior.
This isn’t the first time violent video games have been blamed for abhorrent behavior though. Since the 1990’s, the debate on whether or not violent video games cause violent behavior has been a heated topic, with organizations such as the ESRB now existing because of this debate. Measures like the one proposed in House Bill 109 have been suggested and proposed many times in the past but have never gotten far. It would certainly be unexpected if this bill passed in Pennsylvania as it would break the multiple year long streak of bills that proposed to control and/or tax the sale of violent video games.