Eminent Domain in Space?
Posted in Court Decisions

This never would have happened five years ago.  A small game company is advertising its latest offering, Eminent Domain, a card game based on the colonization of various planets.

It's hard to imagine a game called "Eminent Domain" before the 2005 Kelo decision made the phrase ubiquitous in American conversation.  Heck, I'm an eminent domain attorney and I'm not convinced I had a clear understanding of what eminent domain was when I graduated from law school.

More interestingly, the title has generated a somewhat heated debate among gamers as to whether the game's true purpose is accurately depicted in its title.  Consider these comments about the title:

  • "Be aware, though, that Eminent Domain has a very negative connotation to a lot of people, especially in the midwest and western USA."
  • "[E]minent domain connotes government seizing private land from its own citizens for public use. It doesn’t convey the idea of expansion via land-grabbing from hapless natives, conquistadore-style, nor does it convey an idea of exploiting your population or confiscating the output of their production. So it’s not just that the game is set in space; the term is out of context based on the action in the game."
  • "I think as soon as there’s a spaceship and a planet involved, the technical, legal definition of Eminent Domain goes out the window, because what the heck does building a road mean in outer space anyway?"

The fact eminent domain has become such a prevalent topic that it has made its way into discussions about space-themed card games probably isn't all that important.  But it does provide some evidence of just how much has changed since the Supreme Court issued its 2005 Kelo decision, yanking eminent domain from obscurity.

For the record, I've read the published rules for the game, and I confess that I don't really get it.  I'm also pretty sure it has nothing to do with eminent domain.

Then again, themes of space colonization and eminent domain remind me of a debate I had earlier this year with Professor Kanner about similar themes and the movie Avatar.  Though I'm still pretty sure he's wrong, if  Professor Kanner is right, and Avatar really is about eminent domain, then maybe this game is too.

Either way, I wish the developers the best of luck in selling "Eminent Domain" the game.

  • Rick E. Rayl

    Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues.  His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes.  His public ...

California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain. We cover all aspects of eminent domain, including condemnation, inverse condemnation and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts and report on all major eminent domain conferences and seminars in the Western United States.

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