Let's call this one the "Battle in the Bayou."
Assuming that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco signs Rep. Roy Burrell's video game bill into law, it will, of course, trigger a First Amendment challenge by the video game industry. Nothing new there. We've seen such court cases many times before, in Illinois, Michigan, California and elsewhere.
But this is shaping up as something far more than a court battle. This fight comes equipped with baggage. Lots of baggage.
Controversial Miami attorney and anti-game crusader Jack Thompson wrote Rep. Burrell's bill and testified on its behalf in the Louisiana legislature. Thompson's incessant e-mails are already crowing about yesterday's success in the Louisiana Senate, where the bill passed 35-0
Doug Lowenstein, of course, is the president of the ESA, and the video game industry's point man.
These two do not like each other. In fact, they really don't like each other.
For his part, Thompson says such outrageous and ugly things about Lowenstein that GP wonders why the ESA boss doesn't sue the gadfly attorney for defamation.
The ESA, on the other hand, has placed Thompson on their "ignore" list. They like to pretend he doesn't exist.
Thompson has been issuing frothy assertions about video game violence for years, but 2006 saw his first real foray into the legislative arena. He's been studying past video game rulings, trying to craft a bill that will withstand the inevitable First Amendment challenge. In addition to Louisiana's Burrell, Thompson has been working with Delaware Rep. Helene Keeley (D), although it's unclear whether Keeley's bill will advance.
For his part Lowenstein has guided the industry with a steady hand for more than a decade. The ESA has never lost a constitutional challenge on his watch. Although he's too much of a professional to ever say it, you can bet he's determined not to lose this one. Especially this one.
Stay tuned. This is one fight you won't want to miss.
Update: Jack Thompson commented that he has had some state-level exposure in the past. "I was the chief witness for the Washington State bill two years ago," he said in an e-mail.
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