In case you hadn't heard, the US Vice President Joe Biden sees no problem with taxing violent video games (IGN's article here: http://www.ign.com/articles... Before I get into the meat of this discussion, let's establish a few things.
Number 1. Joe Biden isn't making a joke. He isn't "playing with the idea". If he is making a public statement like this, you can bet your butt that bills are now being drafted (if they haven't been already) to implement a tax on violent videogames.
Number 2. Congress can do this. They really can. The US Supreme Court is the only governing body that has the authority to tell Congress what is or isn't legal, and the Supreme Court has already said on too many occasions to count that they will not interfere with Congress when it comes to what is or isn't allowed to be taxed. People who keep claiming "there's no way they can be allowed to do this" either don't understand the Federal government or they are being willfully ignorant.
Number 3. If you like violent videogames, you are in the minority. With the exception of games like Call of Duty, Skyrim, and Halo, pretty much all of the best-selling games from the 7th generation are tame when it comes to violence. Gran Turismo, Wii Sports, Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros, Nintendogs, Brain Age, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, Kinect Adventures, and Wii Fit have almost no violence to speak of, and many of these games sold double or even triple what their violent counterparts sold. I'm not implying Wii Fit is a better game than Halo. What I'm pointing out is that the majority of gamers ("majority", as in, the indisputably larger number based on sales) buy non-violent games. This is further supported by the fact that the most smartphone games are almost entirely non-violent. What this means for you, the gamer, is that most people aren't going to care if God of War IV on the PS4 gets a tax slapped on it. It sucks, but it's the truth.
How will this violent videogame tax come about? Well, it's rather simple. The government will likely use an already-established organization like the ESRB to determine which games classify as "Taxable Violent". A great deal of games have "violent" in their ESRB description, but I very much doubt they would tax an E-rated game like Super Mario Galaxy for "Mild Cartoon Violence". No. The target of this tax will be M-rated games like God of War, Call of Duty, and Mass Effect. If you want to view the ESRB's rating guide, here is the link: http://www.esrb.org/ratings...
Since this whole tax thing is following the upsurge of public shootings (not saying videogames are responsible, just pointing out a fact), I have a hunch that the ESRB will be creating some very specific terms for what kind of violence a game contains. After all, if we're going to be taxing "violent videogames", we're going to need a specific definition. On the lower end of the violence spectrum, the ESRB already has a few ratings: Comic Mischief (slapstick), Mild Cartoon Violence, and Fantasy violence. It is highly unlikely this is the sort of violence that Congress wants to tax. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Violence, and good ol' "Violence". I imagine a few of the new terms will be along the lines of Realistic Violence, Realistic Blood and Gore, and even Firearm Violence, since gun violence is part of the reason why this tax is being considered at all.
What will this do to developers? A lot of gamers are raging against the potential tax because they're thinking "hey! I don't want to pay extra for my Call of Duty". Well guess what? Call of Duty will go back to a "T" rating like it originally was. Activision won't risk losing customers due to a tax. They like money way too much. So, they'll tone down the blood and tone down the "edgy" scenes like the Airport from Modern Warfare 2. Currently, the majority of hardcore game developers aim for an M-rating like it is a badge of honor. If the tax takes place, a lot of developers will back off a bit and stick with a "T" rating to avoid the tax (assuming a T rating won't be taxed, but I don't think it will be). Sure, there will still be M-rated games, but they will be intended for niche audiences who are willing to pony up the extra tax money.
What will the end result be? It will be an industry that is far less obsessed with violence. Now, I like violent videogames like the rest of you. I grew up with violent videogames, but there are other factors to consider. The violence found in Contra and Mortal Kombat is nothing compared to what you might find in games like Spec Ops: The Line, Call of Duty, and Metro Last Light. I'm not saying videogame violence is bad. I'm not saying it should all go away. I'm not even trying to defend the Violent Game Tax. I'm just laying out what I see.
But I do wonder. What would our industry be like if violence wasn't the focus? What sort of games would developers create if they were discouraged (financially) from going the uber-gory, uber-violent route? Perhaps we'd see a lot more experimental and quirky games like we used to. Perhaps we'd see a stronger emphasis on storyline, game physics, or enemy AI (since the gushing blood or severed limbs aren't around to keep our attention). Something I noticed is that gamers everywhere have been embracing the indie gaming movement. You want to know something a lot of these games have in common? They aren't very violent, or if they are, the violence is toned down. Perhaps a T-rated future isn't a bad thing at all. Instead of a focus on extreme realism, we could start getting games that go back to the basics and try to wow us with gameplay mechanics. I don't know. I'm just sort of spitballing here.
The point of all this is that I don't think we should shake our fists and act as though a videogame tax is going to be the worst thing in the world. It may have some unforeseen benefits for gamers in the long run, and I am willing to lose a few buckets of blood to see what those benefits are.
My personal opinion is that the industry is long overdue for some kind of shakeup. I've been a gamer for over 20 years. I've seen it all, and violence in videogames is something that gets more and more boring the more I see it. Truthfully, the violence doesn't offend me. I don't think it should be taxed for moral reasons. I'm simply being pragmatic: I would enjoy seeing what sort of new and interesting videogames come about when videogame gore and violence is no longer the go-to method of attracting attention.