American lawmakers aren't constitutionally allowed to block the sale of violent video games, but they're looking at other ways to discourage the industry from creating such titles. The House of Representative's Ways and Means Committee yesterday released its Tax Reform Act of 2014, which it said would make a research and development tax credit permanent except for companies that make violent video games.
The Republican-led Ways and Means Committee's executive summary specifically lists the provision in a section under the heading, "Simplify Code and Lower Rates: Close Lobbyist Loopholes." The summary gives no indication as to what criteria would be used to define a video game as "violent." Even the 979-page draft of the legislation doesn't appear to have any such clause regarding video games. The closest the actual draft comes to addressing the issue is a line altering the tax code to specifically prohibit "any research with respect to computer software" from qualifying for the research credit.
As noted by Washington Examiner columnist Ashe Schow, the violent game provision seems to be at odds with one of the Republicans' stated goals for the Tax Reform Act. As the executive summary claims on the page following its violent game exemption to the R&D tax credit, "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..." It lists alternative energy credits (which would be eliminated under the proposed legislation) as one way the existing tax code seeks to pick winners.
The Entertainment Software Association released a statement criticizing the move, saying, "This industry, like all software developers who would be impacted under this proposal, invests billions of dollars every year in research and development and this proposal threatens American technological advancement and economic growth. We look forward to continuing to educate policymakers on our societal and economic contributions and the need to preserve and expand this unique industry."