Electronic Games & the First Amendment

Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2011

61 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2020

Date Written: June 7, 2011


Prompted by the upcoming Supreme Court case Brown v. EMA (formerly Schwarzenegger v. EMA), this article explores the case history of electronic game censorship, the history of new media regulation, and how significant free speech theories can be applied to electronic games. In Brown v. EMA and similar cases, lawmakers have attempted to regulate electronic games based on their violent content, while earlier cases refused to consider electronic games as speech at all. This paper advocates a structuralist analysis of media, the expressive germ perspective, to determine which media should be considered speech. By focusing on the capabilities rather than the content of nascent media, courts can avoid misclassifying rightfully protected expression due to cultural prejudice or unfamiliarity with new media. Ultimately, this paper broadens the discussion raised by Brown v. EMA to interrogate our judiciary's failure to protect media in their formative stages and fulfill the anti-majoritarian goals of the First Amendment.

Keywords: free speech, electronic games, first amendment, Brown v. EMA, Schwarzenegger v. EMA, River City effect, censorship, video games, individual self realization, expressive germ perspective

Suggested Citation

Rousse, Thomas, Electronic Games & the First Amendment (June 7, 2011). Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1868759

Thomas Rousse (Contact Author)

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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