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US Tax Plan Singles Out Makers Of 'Violent Videogames'

Games have become a mainstream thing. Nearly everyone plays them, talks about them, and interacts with them in some way on a semi-regular basis. But here at RPS, we have this violence in games tag that occasionally gets use, and not usually for good reasons. While I’m a strong advocate for examination of how exactly we’re affected by cultures that glorify violence, I absolutely do not believe that throwing a singular “bad” blanket over a very nuanced issue helps anyone. And yet, despite gaming’s slow ascent out of the cultural gutters, people still blame it for all of society’s ills from time-to-time. John quite frequently holds people accountable for that fear-mongering mentality, and I personally think that’s important given what can happen when people let it warp their worldview.

Case in point: the US Government’s Republican party is suggesting a tax reform that would give sizable tax breaks to companies who create new technologies and practices in their respective fields. Unless they are creators of “violent videogames.”

The R&D tax credit, as it’s known, would stand to make game development in the US quite a bit more attractive. Similar initiatives have, according to the plan outline, benefited other industries quite nicely. Also, as Kotaku notes, California and Texas already offer incentives for game development on a state basis, and wouldn’t you know it? There are tons of game developers in both places. The proposed (though it should be stressed: not put into action) plan, however, explicitly states the following as one of its goals:

“Preventing makers of violent video games from qualifying for the R&D tax credit.”

Which is all kinds of dangerous territory to tread given that a) no, no, no, a thousands time no, and b) some developers/publishers of so-called “violent videogames” also make non-violent games. Given that this tax credit has so far proven to be rather indiscriminate in its targeting, I worry that nuance may not enter the argument.

There’s also the tricky issue of games qualifying for first amendment – aka, freedom of speech – protection in a specific case involving government regulation of violent videogames. This would essentially function as a way of tip-toeing around that. The government wouldn’t be passing judgment by levying a new tax; it would just be withholding a tax break. Sneaky, sneaky.

Moreover – and this is getting into industry/business-y territory, but I think it’s also cultural – this would actively discourage developers (especially larger ones with more resources) from setting up shop in the US. Why pay what amounts to extra taxes when you can just take your ball and go elsewhere? So nobody wins. Not even the US, which misses out on a potential economic boost.

It’s almost funny too, given that the plan outline specifically states that its goal is to avoid this kind of situation. “The plan also takes steps to keep jobs here in the United States by including strong safeguards that shut down loopholes companies currently use to shift their profits to tax havens. It also removes incentives companies currently have to move their innovation offshore, by provindg a neutral 15-percent tax rate on profits from innovation regardless of whether the manufacturing takes place in the United States or overseas.”

And then, as the Washington Examiner points out, there’s this line which practically writhes with ugly irony:

“The Tax Reform Act of 2014 stops the practice of using the tax code to pick winners and losers based on political power rather than economic merit.”

Uh-huh. Sure. Might want to put an asterisk there, lawmakers. You forgot to write, “…unless games are involved.”

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Nathan Grayson

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