Are violent video games harming America’s youth? Is it possible a series of interconnected circuit boards can influence children (or even adults) to become, themselves, violent? If so, how should our society-- and government-- respond?

To properly answer this last query, violent video games must be viewed through the lens of the First Amendment. Simply put: do games depicting grotesque acts of depravity so profound as to negatively influence the psyche warrant the full constitutional protections ordinarily guaranteed under the mantle of free speech and expression? Are these guarantees without limit? If not, how far may the government go in regulating the content or restricting the availability of these games?

This paper first examines the history of video game development and its economic significance. Next, similar “societal boogeymen” are examined, compared, and contrasted to video games. Their impact on society and law is also examined. What, if any, First Amendment protections this class of video games should receive as well as possible regulatory schemes and limitations are then examined. Finally, after weighing public policy interests, a new regulatory framework is proposed.