Posted by on February 4, 2020 10:22 am
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Janson Q. Prieb, American Consumer Institute


The Trump administration recently announced that video game consoles will not be subject to the upcoming tariffs. While this might be good news for companies like Sony and Microsoft, the same benefit will not be extended to tabletop games. With increased prices on tabletop games, parents are indirectly encouraged to buy video games for their children, which research shows is detrimental to a child’s development. If the administration is concerned with children’s well-being, they would eliminate these tariffs.


It should go without saying that tariffs aren’t good. Despite the administration’s claims that China will bear the costs, new research from the American Action Forum confirms that that Americans are the ones that have been paying for these tariffs. The report found that during the 2018 year, every time a metal tariff was raised (except one time), prices on metal increased in the U.S. Unfortunately, these price increases have led to tangible losses for the American public, as the Tax Foundation has found. Specifically, tariffs have reduced GDP by .26 percent, decreased wages by .16 percent and have destroyed 200,000 jobs.


Yet, a bigger problem looms, as these tariffs show the arbitrary favoritism that some products gain over others. Due to lobbying efforts from major video game companies, game consoles like the Play Station 5 and Xbox Series X won’t be subject to these tariffs which would have surely driven some consumers away due to their increased price.


But what’s the harm in giving video games an advantage? It unbalances the market, shifting consumer preference away from tabletop games towards video games. John Stacy, executive director of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), comments that the “proposed 25 percent tariffs feel more like a 25 percent tax on the hobby of tabletop gaming.”


Indeed he’s right, as board games like ‘Ticket to Ride’ that currently cost $43 quickly become $54 under tariffs. With most video games being sold for $60, the price difference between the two is almost negligible, making the decision to buy a physical game less likely. Simply put, the government is shaping consumer preference by giving an advantage to one product over others.


While the favoritism is alarming, the implications on children’s health is even more concerning. Having more kids play video games compared to tabletop games isn’t exactly the best outcome for children’s health as excess screen time can be detrimental for children. Recent research from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found that “an association between increased screen-based media use… and lower microstructural integrity of brain white matter tracts supporting language and emergent literacy skills in prekindergarten children.”


No doubt, some video games have their merits. However, the favoritism that has allowed video games to avoid these tariffs is concerning. As 9 out of 10 parents are already concerned that their child spends too much time playing video games, it should be the decision of the parent, not the government, to decide which type of games a child receives.


Tariffs are hurting the economy and reducing the number of American jobs. More importantly, tariffs highlight the reality of favoritism. The administration has made it more expensive, and thus less likely, for parents to buy tabletop games over video games for their children. The administration should instead eliminate tariffs entirely to help protect children’s health. As parents decide what gifts they get for their kids, it’s no business of the government to make some products more expensive while letting others gain an unfair advantage.


Janson Q. Prieb is a policy analyst at the American Consumer Institute.