PA representative proposes violent video game tax


Jenna L. Korth

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is looking to add a tax on violent video games.

Kristen Kaelin, North Campus Staff

Recently, Pennsylvania State Representative Christopher Quinn introduced a bill to tax violent, M-rated video games at an extra 10 percent above the state sales tax. The revenue, he proposed, would feed into a “Digital Protection for School Safety” account.

Quinn’s choice of violent video games as the target of his tax is tied directly to his belief that video games are “one factor that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of, school violence,” as reported by CBS. The veracity of this claim has been contested by scientists, but its persistence has led many to wonder about the impact of gaming on the psychological health of teens and young adults.

Not everyone believes the connection Quinn is making is accurate.

“The speedrun community, and gaming culture in general, has seen this accusation arise every handful of years since its inception decades ago,” says Joseph Bisese, 19, a CCAC North student. Bisese, a speedrunner and a member of the Campus Geek Culture Club, is one of many people who will be affected by this bill from many angles.

As a member of the speedrun community, a group of people dedicated to finding the fastest route to finishing their games of choice, Bisese interacts regularly with people whose time is spent more often gaming than not. He claims that neither himself, nor the community of gamers he interacts with, are influenced to commit violent acts due to their gaming habits.

Bisese believes that if the impact exists, it is a weak one. “Can media influence you? The short answer is yes, but that is a severe simplification,” he says. “People easily influenced may have difficulty, but there are most likely other factors much more at fault besides what they watch or play or read.”

The cultural consequences of video games is a question with no easy answer, but the need for school safety is easily agreed upon. The number of high-profile school shootings over the last few years has created a national conversation about the best way to deal with the problem. Each idea has been controversial, and Quinn’s proposed tax is no exception. “As far as the tax’s benefits itself,” says Bisese, “I’m not really sure how that could help. A significant sum is already being put in…The additional dollars may not lend much assistance compared to other preventative or defensive measures.”

The debate surrounding the influence of violent video games is decades old, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away. There’s nothing to do but wait and see if the bill gets passed, and if it has any impact on the safety of our schools.

Quinn began pushing his bill in 2018 but did not have time for it to pass in committee before the 2018 session ended.

Lawmakers in Connecticut and Missouri proposed similar taxes in 2013 to support mental health programs. Neither became law.