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Lawmaker proposes tax on violent video games

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A new proposal at the state capitol would make a financial impact on Oklahoma gamers. We’re talking about a tax on violent video games. State Representative Will Fourkiller has been a teacher, coach and even a registered nurse.

He says he saw firsthand how video games can lead to obesity and says research shows they can lead to bullying.

He points to one reported incident.

“A gentleman shot a police officer and stole his car,” Fourkiller says. “He had been playing Grand Theft Auto.”

He can’t believe there’s actually a video game called “Bully” because he says bullying is often what happens when kids play these games.

“Not everybody is going to react the same,” Fourkiller says. “But I believe after hours and hours of watching the screen, playing the video game, being that person and taking on that role, people get desensitized.”

Fourkiller says he’s not targeting the video game industry, but does want to tax these games.

He’s introduced HB 2696, which would place an excise tax of 1 percent on violent games that carry a software rating of Teen, Mature, or Adult Only.

The money collected would go toward the state’s Childhood Outdoor Education Revolving Fund to fight obesity and the Bullying Prevention Revolving Fund.

Samuel Balaban, the manager of Oklahoma City’s Little Shoppe of Games, says kids can also be influenced by violent movies, TV shows and music that aren’t taxed.

“I feel that using video games as the reason to get that fund is a little bit unfair to the video game companies and the people who buy these video games,” he says.

Balaban says whatever game kids are playing, parents need to talk to them about it to curb any violent influence.

“They (kids) need to understand the differences between the fantasy world that they were just playing in and the fact of real life, real consequences, real people that they need to respect as much as anything else.”

Balaban says parents should especially be concerned if kids become isolated after playing these games.

Communication is the key.

“This is just a first step to bring some awareness to these issues,” Fourkiller says.