Where’s the guy from V for Vendetta when you need him? It might just be time for a revolution!
I just heard some news today that I find quite disturbing. Actually, that’s not strong enough; I find it to be complete and utter bullshit. While I’ve covered many reports by a wide array of professors in the past (attempting to pin some crazy psychology phobia on video games), until now these studies didn’t’ really have the teeth to hurt our hobby. They were more or less benign and just thrown on the pile with all the others.
However, todays’ news could change all that.
It would appear that the United States government is taking its first steps toward officially regulating our industry. Of course there’re already some regulations and oversights in place (as is the case with any market), here we’re dealing with a horse of a different color. This latest move can definitely be seen as an direct attempt to stifle the creativity and freedom of speech in gaming. It comes in the form of a new tax reform bill from the House Ways and Means Committee. Previously, the tax code provided a research and development exemption which allowed industries to better compete with their foreign rivals. The problem is, the new revision will remove this credit for games they deem to violent, in essentially what will amount to a tax increase on studios and developers. Furthermore, it’s getting traction! The most recent high-profile politician to chime in has been our own Vice President Mr. Joe Bidden, who has gone on record as saying he sees no legal trouble with the taxation of said content.
I say forget about the legality question Mr. Vice President; what about the moral question?
And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this dog and pony show, as the current rating system (the E.S.R.B.) is a direct result of the violent games controversy popping up during the mid-90s. Every time you open up your game case, you’ll see the little black and white icon. Incidentally, you can thank Mortal Kombat for that. The last time the violence debate received this much attention from those in Congress, it was another VP candidate Joe Lieberman pulling the strings. Unfortunately, this new bill is somewhat unprecedented. While the development of the ESRB was an attempt at providing parents a measuring stick for what their kids could and could not play, it at least kept 100% of the control in the public’s hands. This new provision actually punishes game creators for certain artistic decisions. It hurts them not only financially, but boxes them in creatively. How can we expect to get the very best art from our industry (one who’s more vigorously scrutinized than that of movies or music), when our artists are forced to walk on egg shells in fear of the long arm of the law?
I mentioned the violence in gaming studies earlier in this article, as this issue is something I’m truly very passionate about. While I do feel I keep my professionalism about me and my emotions in check when covering such topics, this story truly has me irritated. It’s yet another attempt of uninformed hypocrites at putting their boots to the throat of something they don’t understand in the first place. Unfortunately, unlike a misguided professor sitting in class room, people like Vice President Bidden and his colleagues have the ink to make these kinds of unfair regulations a reality.
Mark my words: if this goes uncontested, it will be just the first of many more to come. That’s how it always starts. So write, call, email and send carrier pigeons to Washington if necessary. Someone up there needs to hear the voice of the silent majority. That’s us.