January 16th, 2006

End Near for Michigan Video Game Law?

Will Michigan's video game law join the Safe Games Illinois Act on the trash heap of failed video game legislation? We may know soon.

GamePolitics readers probably recall that Michigan's law was enjoined by U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh on November 9th. The issuance of the preliminary injunction by Judge Steeh indicated Michigan's law was unlikely to survive the industry's constitutional challenge.

In his November 9th injunction order, the judge wrote, "It is unlikely that the State can demonstrate a compelling interest in preventing a perceived 'harm'... the Act will likely have a chilling effect on adults' expression, as well as expression that is fully protected as to minors."

Sensing victory, video game industry attorneys went for a knockout punch, filing a motion for summary judgment on December 23rd. The motion essentially asks Judge Steeh to throw the case out for lack of merit. Such an action by the judge would permanently block Michigan's law from taking effect. A two-page order issued by Judge Steeh on Friday gives Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (seen at left) and other defendants until January 23rd - one week from today - to respond to the industry's summary judgment request.

As always, stay tuned to GamePolitics for further developments.

Brutal Beatings Inspired by Video Games?

News item: Two Florida teens are charged in a string of brutal beatings which left one homeless man dead and two others hospitalized. Surveillance video (left) shows the suspects wielding baseball bats.

News item: The New York Times reports that a 43-year-old Housing Authority policeman was in critical condition after having been beaten with baseball bats by a man and a teen-age couple in the South Bronx.

News item: Police Homicide Lieutenant Frank Choplinski said three boys, arrested after an attempt to snatch purses in the Philadelphia Art Museum, admitted they killed a man with a club in Fairmount Park.

News item: An Alabama high school fraternity, using inch-thick paddles fashioned by shaving baseball bats, injured seven boys during an initiation ceremony.

Did video games inspire these wanton assaults, all committed with either baseball bats or other club-like weapons? Last week's high-profile case in Fort Lauderdale has once again raised the specter of the relationship between violence in video games and real life. Writing in the Sun-Sentinel, columnist Mike Mayo searches for answers.

"How does a human being get to this point? ...Maybe this was a gang initiation thing... Maybe you couldn't find... any bugs to fry with a magnifying glass... Maybe you didn't get enough nourishment in the womb or enough love as a child. Maybe you've been exposed to too much 'ultra-violence' through television, movies and video games, and you've been desensitized to real human pain and suffering as a result of all that make-believe bloodshed... I want to know how someone so young can treat bashing the bones and heads of the homeless as some sort of game."

Ron Slaby, a developmental psychologist at the Center for Media and Child Heath at Children's Hospital Boston, told the Sun-Sentinel that violence in the media, home and community were likely contributors to the attacks, including "video games that 'trained' them to kill without emotion."

Activist attorney Jack Thompson also weighed in, telling the Sun-Sentinel, "I don't think video games turn angels into demons, but we often see where video games are a component [of an attack]."

So... were video games involved in the four bat and club attacks? The violent media angle will certainly be explored in the Fort Lauderdale case. But GP can assure readers there is no video game connection to the other three news items relating to bat and club attacks, which occurred in 1973, 1934 and 1959, respectively. We found them in the online archive of the New York Times.

Man's inhumanity to man and his compulsion to pick up a blunt weapon have been around since caveman days. Given the recent tragedy, is the presence of baseball bat weapons in games like the Grand Theft Auto series and The Warriors an instance of art imitating life, or life imitating art?