Mich. law can't stop violent video games

School administrators and parents hoping that violent video games can be legislated away disappointed in federal decision.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Parents and schools are worried about violent video games, and several states - including Michigan - have passed laws trying to stop them. Last week, reports News.com, another such law hit the skids as a federal judge through Michigan's law out on First Amendment grounds.

"Video games are a form of creative expression that are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment," U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh ruled Friday. "They contain original artwork, graphics, music, story lines and characters similar to movies and television shows, both of which are considered protected free speech."

The ruling (click here for PDF) represents another setback to politicians and anti-game activists who have mounted a state-by-state campaign for such restrictions. In the last few years, the 7th and 8th Circuit courts of appeal, plus federal judges in Washington, Illinois and California have found such laws to be unconstitutional.

"As long as they keep losing and most of the time don't even appeal, things are unlikely to change," said Paul Smith, a partner at the Jenner and Block law firm who is representing the Entertainment Software Association and the Video Software Dealers Association in the lawsuit.

A key element Judge Steeh was looking for was a proven connection between video game violence and real-world illegal behavior, News.com Declan McCullagh explains. That wasn't proved in this case not in past cases.

Craig Anderson, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, offered testimony on behalf of Michigan saying that simulated violence can become "automatized" with repeated exposure.

But Steeh, in a 17-page opinion, said that "despite this claim, Dr. Anderson's studies have not provided any evidence that the relationship between violent video games and aggressive behavior exists. His tests fail to prove that video games have ever caused anyone to commit a violent act, as opposed to feeling aggressive, or have caused the average level of violence to increase anywhere."

Editorial standards