It’s been a good year for video games, from a favorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling on video game violence, to new recognition as an art form. This according to Michael Gallagher, president and chief executive of the Entertainment Software Association, the game industry trade group.

“The word ‘historic’ is overused, but as we look back on 2011, it is a perfect fit for our industry’s year,” Gallagher said in a letter. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s vigorous affirmation of our First Amendment rights, a new array of artistically astonishing games, and educators’ increasing recognition of the role games play in teaching and learning made 2011 a remarkable year and set the stage for a great 2012.”

On the court case, Gallagher said the ruling was a “landmark declaration that video games enjoy the same Constitutional protections as books, movies and fine arts was exactly what we hoped to hear.”

He noted that game reviewer Seth Schiesel wrote in The New York Times earlier this month, “Game makers are producing more high-quality entertainment for a broader variety of players than they ever have in the past. No other form of fun melds advanced digital technology, personal engagement and mass-market cultural relevance as felicitously as video games. That is why video games are the ascendant form of popular entertainment.”

Gallagher said that, beyond fun, video games hit new milestones in appreciation as works of art. The Smithsonian Institution announced that it will unveil a new exhibit dedicated to showcasing the art of game at its American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. That exhibit opens March 16, 2012.

And as the economy struggled to recover during much of the year, games kept many people employed, generating about $25 billion in revenue in 2010 and a similar amount this year. The expansion of the mobile, social and online game businesses have helped the industry reach new heights in the number of gamers and pull more non-gamers into the market.

Gallagher noted that games had an impact on healthcare. An online game called Foldit, designed by Professor Zoran Popovic at the University of Washington, tapped online gamers to decipher the protein that helps the HIV gene multiply. The problem had stumped scientists for more than a decade, but the gamers unlocked the secret of the protein in just 10 days.

On the education front, Gallagher applauded the White House for launching Digital Promise, a public-private partnership aimed at incorporating technological tools, including games, into American classrooms.