Game Politics (gamepolitics) wrote,
Game Politics

Illinois Video Game Law Ruled Unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly has ruled in favor of the video game industry in its suit against the Safe Games Illinois Act.

The ruling is a huge victory for the video game industry, including the ESA, VSDA and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA). It represents a major defeat for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (left), who championed the legislation.

You can view the first page of Judge Kennelly's ruling. If you're hardcore, and want the whole 53-page enchilada, click here.

In reading his ruling, Judge Kennelly obviously grasped what games are about:

"Video games are one of the newest and most popular forms of artistic expression. They most resemble films and television shows by telling stories through pictures, text, and sound, but they also parallel popular books, such as the Choose Your Own Adventure series, which enable readers to make decisions about how the plot and characters will develop. Video games are generally designed to entertain players and viewers, but they can also inform and advocate viewpoints. They are therefore considered protected expression under the First Amendment. See Am. Amusement Machine Ass'n v. Kendrick, 244 F.3d 572, 579 (7th Cir. 2001)."

Regarding testimony on behalf of the Illinois video game law by Dr. Craig Anderson of Iowa State University, Judge Kennelly said:

"Dr. Anderson testified that playing violent video games is one activity that primes aggressive thoughts and teaches aggressive scripts... As a result of regularly playing violent video games, Dr. Anderson testified, these scripts or knowledge structures become 'chronically accessible' and ultimately become 'automatized.' The research underlying Dr. Anderson's testimony, however, does not support such a stark and sweeping conclusion."

There's more...

"Even if one were to accept the proposition that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts or behavior, there is no evidence that this effect is at all significant. Dr. Anderson provided no evidence supporting the view that playing violent video games has a lasting effect on aggressive thoughts and behavior – in other words, an effect that lingers more than a short time after the player stops playing the game."

Also spanked were the Illinois legislators who passed the bill:

"Finally, the Court is concerned that the legislative record does not indicate that the Illinois General Assembly considered any of the evidence that showed no relationship or a negative relationship between violent video game play and increases in aggressive thoughts and behavior... It included no data whatsoever that was critical of research finding a causal link between violent video game play and aggression. These omissions further undermine defendants' claim that the legislature made 'reasonable inferences' from the scientific literature based on 'substantial evidence.'"

Judge Kennelly was not sparing in his assessment of the defense put on by Illinois:

"Defendants have come nowhere near making the necessary showing in this case. First, they have offered no evidence that the violent content in video games is 'directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action.'... Rather, the only evidence in the record is that video games are designed for entertainment... Indeed, defendants have failed to present substantial evidence showing that playing violent video games causes minors to have aggressive feelings or engage in aggressive behavior. At most, researchers have been able to show a correlation between playing violent video games and a slightly increased level of aggressive thoughts and behavior. With these limited findings, it is impossible to know which way the causal relationship runs: it may be that aggressive children may also be attracted to violent video games."

Tags: blagojevich, first amendment, illinois, legislation
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