Phoenix Wright: The Right Game for Law?

This is Part 1 of 3 in our series, Video Games and the Law. Click here for Part 2.

When most people speak on the reasons why they wanted to go to law school, or why do they want to be a lawyer, they talk about using their skills to save the world or wanting to become top leaders in society. All noble causes, I’m sure. However, in my personal statement on why I wanted to go to law school, I chose to discuss the blue-suit, spiky-haired lawyer, Phoenix Wright.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2001) is a virtual novel developed by CAPCOM and is set in a fictional, Japan-influenced country that uses a blend of Japanese and American common law in their criminal system. Despite its bright colour palette, wacky characters, and comedic writing, it attempts to answer some hard-hitting questions about the legal system, such as questions about how far a lawyer must go to be a zealous advocate.

The chapters or cases, are divided into two main parts; investigation (where you collect information for the case) and trial (where the themes of the games truly shine). In my opinion, despite being one of the most famous law-based games in the world, it does only some of its themes quite well.

The first two series use the spiky-haired hero’s antagonists Miles Edgeworth and Manfred von Karma to explore themes of zealous advocacy in the justice system. Throughout the series, both these characters brilliantly demonstrate how blindly arguing for a case corrupts not only the case itself, but the people involved in the case.

However, one theme that I don’t think the series tackles so well is the idea of providing justice regardless of innocence. In most cases in the game, the client is a helpless victim that has no power in the face of the legal system, and it is up to the lawyers to fiercely fight on their behalf. In real life, there will be clients who are innocent, but a lot won’t be. The game doesn’t do a great job explaining why all people deserve access to legal representation while navigating the justice system.

A lot of people, including judges, lawyers and law students, believe that the case ends in trial or court. However, Phoenix Wright taught me that all these cases, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, often affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives. It is because of that reason that I believe lawyers should take great care in finding the truth and justice for all parties. And that, dear reader, is why Phoenix Wright is one of the most iconic law video game series.

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