The battle is over in Michigan.
The video game industry registered another big court victory today as a federal judge ruled Michigan's video game law unconstitutional and reaffirmed that "video games are a form of creative expression that are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. They contain original artwork, graphics, music, storylines, and characters similar to movies and television shows, both of which are considered protected free speech."
As reported by GamePolitics last November, Judge George Caram Steeh had previously issued a temporary injunction blocking the law from taking effect. At a March 22nd hearing, final arguments were presented. Judge Steeh's decision was provided to lawyers for both sides on Friday. Industry reaction was swift.
"Judge Steeh's ruling represents a sweeping rejection of the state's claims regarding the harmful effects of violent video games and we will move immediately for reimbursement of the substantial legal fees incurred in this court fight which the state could have, and should have, never triggered," said ESA president Douglas Lowenstein.
Judge Steeh likewise dismissed Michigan's claim that the interactive nature of video games somehow limited their First Amendment protections.
"The interactive, or functional aspect, in video games can be said to enhance the expressive elements even more than other media by drawing the player closer to the characters and becoming more involved in the plot of the game than by simply watching a movie or television show," Judge Steeh wrote. "It would be impossible to separate the functional aspects of a video game from the expressive, inasmuch as they are so closely intertwined and dependent on each other in creating the virtual experience."
Nor was the jurist kind to research submitted to support the law.
"The research not only fails to provide concrete evidence that there is a connection between violent media and aggressive behavior, it also fails to distinguish between video games and other forms of media," he wrote.
Here's more judicial wisdom from Judge Steeh:
"The research conducted by the State has failed to prove that video games have ever caused anyone to commit a violent act, let alone present a danger of imminent violence."
"Despite the fact that some of these games are likely to be considered 'disgusting or degrading' by certain people, neither the Supreme Court nor Sixth Circuit has ever applied the Ginsberg (obscenity) test in cases that don't involve sexually explicit material... This court finds the Ginsberg test inapplicable to the ultra-violent explicit section of the Act."
"The defendants do argue that video games are a 'unique' form of screen-based media because the player actually controls the violent action as opposed to passively observing these actions, but present no scientific evidence to back up this claim. Without such evidence... it could just as easily be said that the interactive element in video games acts as an outlet for minors to vent their violent or aggressive behavior, thereby diminishing the chance they would actually perform such acts in reality."
Read Judge Steeh's entire 17-page decision here.