Video games went on legal sale for the first time this January in Denver. The state has disclosed that within the first month, it made $2 million in tax revenue from video game sales.
"I was one of those people in line to buy their video games on January 1st. I felt as though I was making history," said 29-year-old Denver resident James Burke, showing us his airtight container, which contained his newest Blu-Ray disc. "It's a relief to know that I am able to get video games from a legal establishment."
"Before the new law passed, I had to buy from the black market, not knowing what other shady activities I was supporting," added Burke. "Now I feel I can be honest about using video games recreationally."
National polls confirm that amidst the recent legalization of video game possession in Colorado and Washington, 56% of Americans favor video game legalization, the largest recorded majority ever. It is expected that before 2016 Alaska, California, and Oregon could legalize video games. Proposed plans for national legalization would generate $40 million in tax revenue, and prevent the arrests of 700,000 people, whom a majority of the population believes should not be arrested.
Supporters of legalization say that prohibition distracts law enforcement from dealing with violent crime by tasking them with arresting citizens for petty possession. In addition, proponents argue that prohibition is counter-productive. They claim that in states that still criminalize video game possession, it is easier for children to get hold of violent video games than R-rated movies.
"We need to stop putting people who aren't harming anyone in jails. We are overflowing our prison system with non-violent inmates," said Jeffrey Hazelton, vice-president of the National Organization Regarding Video Game Legislation (NORVGL). "We are restricting freedom unnecessarily with the prohibition of video games. We do not need the government telling us what we can or cannot consume as entertainment."
Hazelton pointed to a number of statistics. Studies indicate only 6% of people use video games become addicted, as opposed to 15% of people who try Netflix. He also argued that legalizing video games will reduce revenue available to organized crime, saying that video game sales make up to 80% of the profits of New York street vendors.
Furthermore, advocates are calling for the federal government to remove video games from the Schedule I list of controlled media, lumping them in with child pornography. They also point to the "Holland Effect," in which decriminalization has led to a decline in video game usage.
"The U.S. government has been in the business of pandering to the private prison lobbies to provide them with a steady supply of inmates through prohibiting possession and sale of video games," said Sen. Ben Sanderson (I-VT), one of the supporters of the legalization movement in Congress. "The government has no right to tell you not to enjoy an occasional video game on the weekend. And it certainly should not be incarcerating you for doing so."
Recent developments have re-ignited the debate over the morality of legalizing video games. Many parental organizations are concerned that more and more children will have access to video games. They worry over the consequences of exposure to such forms of entertainment before adulthood.
Opponents of legalization are concerned over the impacts these development will have on society. A common talking point of the opposition says that playing video games reduces motivation and causes adults to become lazy.
Many parent groups also worry that legalization will make it easier for children to obtain violent video games. They also believe that legalization is sending mixed messages to children.
"How am I supposed to tell my kids to stay away from this stuff [video-games] when the government seems to be saying it is okay?" said Washington resident Beth Garcia. "We need the government to help us as parents teach good habits to our children and stay away from bad ones."
"I don't see why people can't simply follow the law," Garcia continued. "There really isn't any reason for people to be able to play video games."
Jeffrey Hazelton left the interview with this statement: "The immorality of escaping reality is far outweighed by the immorality of putting human beings in cages. What slows down society, a lazy worker or an imprisoned, uneducated worker?"