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ESA president steps down, and he’s looking to get into politics

America's top videogames lobbyist has stepped aside, and it's not clear why.

The Entertainment Software Association’s president and CEO Michael Gallagher has resigned his post at the American videogame lobbying body. He spent 11 years as the head of the group, and it seems as though he’s looking to move on to bigger things.

Officially, Gallagher is stepping aside voluntarily, but insiders tell Variety that he was forced out by the ESA board. Variety was not able to determine why this happened, and ESA’s representatives declined to comment.

Gallagher’s 11-year tenure as the head of ESA was highlighted by some landmark achievements. Notably, he led the group’s lobbying effort in the case of Brown vs. EMA/ESA, a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court that eventually held that violent videogames are protected speech under the First Amendment, and could not be censored under a proposed California law. After winning the case, Gallagher and ESA donated a portion of the attorney’s fees they received as part of the judgment to work with California Governor Jerry Brown to create a game design learning program for youth in Oakland and Sacramento.

Brown vs. EMA wound up being an extremely important case for videogames: the opinion held that violent videogames deserve constitutional protection, despite a California law that sought to censor them.

“ESA has developed a strong reputation with policymakers for vigorously defending the industry during watershed moments” under Gallagher’s leadership, said ZeniMax chairman and CEO Robert Altman, as Variety reports. Altman noted the Brown case as an industry victory, and also commended Gallagher for “revitalizing E3 into the most prominent and important industry show produced today.”

While it’s not clear what prompted Gallagher’s resignation from ESA, VentureBeat says they’ve heard he plans on moving into politics in his home state of Washington, presumably looking at running for some as-yet-unnamed electoral office. As a lobbyist, Gallagher has worked both sides of the political aisle: he arranged a meeting with former vice president Joe Biden after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, and he was involved in President Donald Trump’s symposium on videogames and violence after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.