Rhode Island Rep. calls for special tax on violent videogames (Updated)

Rhode Island Representative Robert Nardolillo has announced plans to introduce legislation that will add a ten percent tax to all M-rated (or higher) videogames sold in the state. Under his proposal, revenues raised by the taxes would go into a special fund for school districts to support counseling, mental health programs, and "other conflict resolution activities." 

"There is evidence that children exposed to violent videogames at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not," Nardolillo said, without actually citing any supporting evidence. "This bill would give schools the additional resources needed to help students deal with that aggression in a positive way." 

"Our goal is to make every school in Rhode Island a safe and calm place for students to learn. By offering children resources to manage their aggression today, we can ensure a more peaceful tomorrow." 

Nardolillo said the tax is necessary because First Amendment protection means states cannot legally ban the sale of violent videogames to minors, and so he claims the only way to address issues like school shootings is to raise and allocate funds to programs aimed at reducing aggression caused by games.   

There is evidence of a link between violent videogames and aggressive behavior, but the question of what it actually means is far from settled. The American Psychological Association noted in 2015 that different approaches to research and "a lack of precision in terminology" has resulted in debate about the actual effects of videogames: "All violence, including lethal violence, is aggression, but not all aggression is violence."  

The question of causality is also a factor: Western Michigan University associate professor of sociology Whitney DeCamp told CNN in 2016 that the reported connection between the factors could indicate that kids inclined to be aggressive are more likely to play violent videogames than those who are not. The same report also noted that "238 scholars asked the American Psychological Association to retire its 'outdated and problematic statements on video game violence'."   

That letter, according to media researcher Dr. Chris Ferguson of Stetson University, was sent in 2013 but did not result in changes

Nardolillo was rated "A" in a 2016 endorsement by the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund: "Solidly pro-gun candidate. A candidate who has supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office or a candidate with a demonstrated record of support on Second Amendment issues." In the wake of a 2015 mass murder in San Bernardino, CA, that left 14 dead and 22 seriously wounded, he spoke out against gun control, telling WPRI.com that new laws would only hurt "the average individual who wants to protect themselves and their family.”   

Nardolillo is now running for the US Senate

Update: A Nardolillo representative issued the following statement in response to our inquiry: "The American Psychological Association as well the American Academy of Pediatrics have both stated that there is a connection between children playing violent video games and increased levels of aggression."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.