Why do we have taxes and why do we pay them?
A lot of articles that cover positive sides of gaming tend to focus on the question “what kind of skills can children learn by playing games”? The answers are usually things like cognitive skills, improved reaction time, coding and such.
But I believe a more important question would be: what are some concrete things that people have actually learned from gaming?
Last time I talked about learning how to handle money. This time, we’ll be looking at those darn taxes and why do we have to pay ’em grrrr?!
Taxes appear somewhat often in games, after all. Games don’t exactly go into the details of tax paying or collecting, but there is still something to be learned.
Tax simulation in games
There are many games where you’re not the one paying taxes, but receiving them. Most of these are simulation or strategy games like SimCity, Mount & Blade, Total War, Romance of Three Kingdoms, Seven Kingdoms and Sid Meier’s Civilization. (Some of these games may not specifically call the money you get as “taxes”, but that’s essentially what it is.)
Some of these games might somewhat work with no taxes. You can still attack other kingdoms or bandits or do trade to gain money. Even then, you would have to be in constant war with someone in order to have funds to operate your government.
What about other games? Let’s take SimCity for example. If you weren’t getting taxes from your citizens, you’d have absolutely no funds to build your city. A major part of SimCity is just waiting for tax money to trickle in so that you can actually do anything.
In these games, taxes are an important part of gameplay. And, as the player, you try to use the taxes wisely.
That is essentially the whole point of the game – using tax funds correctly. If you fail to do that, you’ll go bankrupt and it’s game over. (Or at least a slow slog rebuilding everything.)
When good taxes go bad
The ideal use of taxes is exactly what it’s like in the previously mentioned games. Governments use tax money to build their cities to improve and protect the life of their citizens.
But there are also games that deal with the misuse of taxes.
Assassin’s Creed 3 tells of the times of the American Revolution. One of the rallying cries you hear in the game is “No taxation without representation!” While the cry essentially means that there should be no taxation if the populace was not represented in the government developed during the English Civil War, you can also consider it more widely to proclaim that there should be no unnecessary taxes.
Meanwhile game series like Tropico and This is the Police allow you to take some of that money you receive and transfer it into a personal bank account to be used after your retirement. So not all the money is going to better the lives of your town’s citizens.
Taxes in games vs real life
Taxes are quite important. The government needs them to have something to operate with. You can get to experience this first-hand by playing aforementioned simulation games.
As I mentioned before, there are games that allow you to transfer money to your personal bank account. However, in those games that doesn’t net you much.
Maybe you get a better score, or you have to get a specific amount to progress in the game. That’s mostly it. It’s rarely a focus point. Just an extra thing or something that the game temporarily enforces on you.
In real life, however, you can do and get a lot of things with personal cash. That’s why it’s so tempting to have more of it.
I can guarantee you that if you can monetize something, somebody will try it. Companies, religions and, yes, even governments.
The country where I live supposedly has very little corruption. But even here, there are politicians who attempt to funnel government funds into markets that they own companies in or will move to work in after their political career is over.
In some countries the goverment is constantly giving tax exemptions to certain groups. (Pretty much always the rich people.) It’s unlikely that the people running the goverment are doing that without getting some personal compensation. Whether it’s monetary or something else. (Granted, there are other reasons, like wanting to make sure that big companies that pay a lot of taxes don’t move their business into another country where they don’t have to pay as much taxes.)
So taxes suck but…
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of paying taxes. Taxation is pretty heavy in the country where I live. It can easily take anywhere from 30% to almost 50% of your monthly paycheck, depending on how much you make.
If you get a raise of 100 euros, it’s actually about 50-70 euros that you’ll be getting. It feels a bit discouraging. I’ve had several friends say that you just can’t get rich by working.
Despite that, I know that much of that money is spent into good things. Building and improving the city, healthcare, etc. But it’s really through games that I’ve actually managed to experience what running a government (empire, city, whatever) is like, and how crucially important it is to have the money for it.
So unless you have some alternative system established, taxes are pretty essential to keep things going.
It’s also important to be ready to protest if the government is misusing its funds. And I’m not sure if there are games that prepare you for that…