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New call for tax on violent videogames

By on March 11, 2009

The UK government’s knife czar has called for new taxes to be levied on violent games

Richard Taylor, father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor, was appointed by Gordon Brown last month, as a leading campaigner against the carrying of knives.

According to the Telegraph, Richard Taylor said he was “saddened” when he saw youngsters buying games that had a “negative impact” on their behaviour. He also commented that violent games are “too cheap” and taxes on them should be “very high”.

At least this time, the games industry was not singled out for criticism. Mr Taylor said he was concerned about the bad influence that rap music was having on youngsters, although as far as I can tell, he did not call for higher taxes on rap music, presumably due to the difficulty of enforcing it.

Well, Mr Taylor. Where to begin?

  • The games you are talking about are 18-rated. They shouldn’t be being sold to young people. I acknowledge there is an enforcement problem and an education problem, but the games industry is putting real efforts into addressing this (see AskAboutGames, for example)
  • They are probably very cheap because they are second-hand trade-ins. So one likely effect of a higher tax will be to make more people buy second hand. Or are you proposing to tax second-hand sales too (and how does that work with a consumer’s right to sell his possessions at whatever price he or she wants)?
  • High taxes = driving the sales underground, increased criminality. Remember Prohibition?
  • The UK is not an island (er, actually it is, but that was metaphorical.) These games are made for a global audience. If we tax them here, it won’t stop them being made. They will be made for the US market, or Japan, or France. And then distributed here, either through the grey import market, or pirated or whatever.
  • And, saving it for last, why us again? Why the games industry? Why not movies that glorify violence? Or TV shows? Or novels like American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange? Could it be that the games industry is just an easy target?

I expect the games industry to stay absolutely silent on this one. Partially because we are making enough noise about Change4Life, and partially because the death of Damilola Taylor is a tragedy that no-one would like to see repeated.

But half-baked, emotionally-charged, issues politics is no way to run a country.


(Thanks to for the lead)

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: