...and it is Leland Yee, California Assembly Speaker pro tem.
Because Yee has been a game industry critic, this is a choice that many in the gaming community won't like. As a longtime gamer, GP understands that viewpoint.
Leland Yee has, after all, been outspoken against video game violence. He is also the architect of his state's controversial video game law. That law, by the way, originally scheduled to go into effect on New Year's Day, was recently blocked via preliminary injunction by federal court Judge Ronald Whyte. The injunction indicates Judge Whyte believes the law is likely to be struck down on constitutional grounds. But whether California's game statute ultimately survives or not, Leland Yee was clearly the dominant political figure on the video game scene in 2005.
Unlike some other politicians who jumped on the bandwagon, Yee is no johnny-come-lately to video game content issues. Following the defeat of a similar bill in 2004, the licensed child psychologist once again introduced video game legislation into the California Assembly. And while GamePolitics doesn't see legislation as the answer, we can't help but admire the deft touch and political savvy displayed by Yee in guiding his bill though the complex legislative process. But Yee had help. Fate, fueled by Hot Coffee, played a huge role in percolating California's video game legislation.
So Leland Yee was both lucky and good in 2005. How lucky? How good?
There were at least two distinct points in 2005 when the California video game bill appeared to be dead in the water. In May Yee was one vote short of getting the bill out of the Assembly's Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media. With a do-or-die vote looming, Yee engineered the makeup of the committee to ensure a green light.
In June Yee hoped to bring the measure to a vote on the Assembly floor. However a head count clearly showed his bill would be defeated, and he pulled it from the Assembly's agenda. At that point Yee's bill was stalled.
And then Hot Coffee exploded onto the scene - lucky for Yee, disastrous for the video game industry. Whatever one's views on the GTA San Andreas scandal, from a political perspective, Leland Yee recognized the possibilities, becoming the first political figure to speak out on the issue. The domino effect he touched off in Sacramento continued all the way to Washington, D.C. where no less a political star than Hillary Clinton added her voice.
How important was Hot Coffee? As Yee said during an October podcast interview with GamePolitics, "The industry did this to themselves. This bill was stuck in the Assembly, was not going anywhere... and then the Hot Coffee thing came out... it created a lot of suspicion about whether or not the industry could regulate itself."
Capitalizing on the momentum generated by Hot Coffee, Yee and his able staff resurrected and revamped the bill. The California Senate passed it 22-9 on September 8th and the Assembly followed a day later on a 65-7 vote.
But the biggest hurdle would be getting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature. The Guv, after all, has deep professional ties to the entertainment industry and had himself been portrayed in several violent video games. As the deadline for signing the bill into law wound down, Yee turned up the political heat, recruiting heavyweights like Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to urge Schwarzenegger to sign the legislation.
Yee's strategy worked. In a story broken here on GamePolitics, Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on October 7th.
In retrospect, there was a David and Goliath flavor to Yee's accomplishment that can't be ignored. After all, this is California, the heart of the video game industry, a battleground state in which the ESA and industry players like Microsoft spent tens of thousands of dollars on lobbying efforts aimed at defeating Yee's bill.
But our selection of Leland Yee as 2005 Person of the Year is about more than just political clout. Unlike many politicians and activists, Yee is very much at ease interacting with the gaming community. And although he is not a gamer himself, Yee invariably speaks to gamers - and about gamers - with respect.
No wonder then that the tireless Assembly Speaker made himself available for interviews with a number of game publications and websites, including GameSpot, IGN, G4TV, GameTalk Live, and even GamePolitics. Most recently Yee sat in on a panel discussion of video game topics at Santa Clara University.
Thus, California Assembly Speaker pro tem Leland Yee is GamePolitics' first-ever Person of the Year.