Day 59 – Week in Halifax!
I wouldn’t say I’m well versed in the intricacies of how economics work. I have enough trouble understanding my phone bill every month, let alone my taxes, the stock market and the fact that these paper bills make the world tick. So forgive me if I’m oversimplifying this, but here’s what I do understand… the video game industry in North America has revenues in the tens of billions of dollars. Entertainment has huge appeal, and the technology to provide this entertainment has come a long way since Pac Man. In and of itself, I don’t think it’s a bad thing… I can’t say I fully understand the appeal of games like Call of Duty, particularly those who take part in 24 (or more) hour marathons glued to their screen. But different strokes for different folks. Having said this, the industry is in part, contributing to an epidemic. A strong word and some may roll their eyes, but in speaking with students at the various schools we are visiting, tv and internet time pale in comparison to the hours spent playing video games. Aside from the argument of Wii Fit, it’s hard to argue that video games aren’t contributing to this sedentary lifestyle that is leading to increased rates of obesity, diabetes and generally poorer health.
Contrast this multi billion dollar industry to a non-profit sector that fights tooth and nail to find funding to run programs that get kids outside and active. Non-profits can spew out research and statistics until we’re blue in the face, yet there is a major shortage of funding to support these initiatives. Those of us who are adults experienced a youth of being outside a lot of the time. We didn’t know it was good for us… there was no research telling our parents about all the positive outcomes that came from not coming inside until it was dark. And now that we know it’s good for us, we have to prove it. While the video game industry is becoming rich and making kids fat with blood-shot eyes, non-profits are left trying to prove what was once common sense. It all seems a little backwards, which is likely why I have problems understanding economics.
This isn’t a new idea… Sarah and I have even heard it suggested by a restaurant server in Newfoundland. The argument has been used in the fast food industry as well. But what about a tax on video games? A tax that goes back to directly fund programs that get children and youth outside. A tax that helps a generation get outside so that it doesn’t become obese. A tax that prevents a country from spending billions on health care due to this sedentary lifestyle. Yes, of course the gaming industry will be up in arms. But I’m willing to bet a lot of money that a 2% tax increase on a $40 game isn’t going to stop gamers from buying the latest craze. In fact, it would be an opportunity for the gaming industry to say they’re doing something beneficial for youth. Even better would be the industry taking a proactive stance and supporting the tax – even promoting it! Ok… I’ve gone too far… I forgot we live in a world dominated by economics and not one in which the health of our youth is the priority. Makes you wonder where our Call of Duty really lies!