The 1980s moral panic over video games

Originally published at: The 1980s moral panic over video games | Boing Boing


I really remember the pearl clutching over Dungeons and Dragons in the early 80s. They tried to ban the game in my school. They really had convinced themselves that the Devil was involved.


And yet CBS news does not report on how proficiency at video games could save entire planets.


I Didnt Desus And Mero GIF by Bernie Sanders

In my studies on punk, I’ve come to believe this stuff has real consequences… Brian Deneke was killed because of punk panic and his murderer got a slap on the wrist, despite running Deneke over in full view of tons of witnesses (though his parole was later revoked). Kids got sent away over this shit, beaten, and bullied in school with wild abandon, and then told they deserve it over liking the wrong music, dressing the wrong way, or playing the wrong games…

RIP, Brian!



I probably could have purchased a SpyHunter or a Defender game for the amount in quarters I pumped into those machines at the local arcade in my youth…


I’m grimly reminded that we have to specify that we’re talking about the 1980s moral panic about video games, because there’s been a new one at least every decade since then. News media just loves a good “other forms of media are DANGEROUS” story.


i vividly, laughingly remember this panic, and the similar one for D&D. The story with this video is especially great, talking about how “too much time with the video screen could lead to extreme introversion” and “video addiction” – when i know that currently Dan Rather and probably every other adult in that clip now has a cell phone and a social media account that they look at often. They are just as addicted now as they feared we kids were back then.


When Columbine happened, it was all trenchcoat bans and people freaking out over DOOM (which, sneakily, didn’t begin to program kids into murderers until it had already been out for six years). There’s a certain type of very credulous adult that will fall for this shallow fearmongering over and over and over again, never once delving deeper into actual root causes of problems (assuming there even is a problem and the moral panic isn’t in reaction to a phantom that somebody made up whole cloth). I’m beginning to suspect that it’s deliberate- that they’re not so gullible that they fall for the fantasy scapegoat, but instead so cowardly that they’ll repeatedly latch onto anything that enables them to avoid confronting reality.


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that’s always been the case…


Those early '80s games were dangerous. How many young people played Pac-Man? How many went on to develop eating disorders? I rest my case.


Was Gauntlet for me

“Wizard needs food badly!!”


" If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music."

Marcus Brigstocke


I remember when Night Trap was the moral panic du jour. It was highlighted in congressional hearings and was in part responsible for the creation of the ESRB. This is all for an early FMV game with B-movie acting, grainy video, and violence that would barely qualify as PG-13 if it was in a film.

Then almost exactly a decade later you had GTA San Andreas and the whole “hot coffee” incident that caused more Congressional hearings and moral outrage. All this for an incomplete minigame where the two characters have consensual sex while fully clothed.


That you had to hack the game’s code to even access.


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christ, we are such assholes

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Which you can now get on Nintendo platforms :rofl:

I really don’t understand the way the ESRB handled this. “Modified content not rated” analogous to “Online interactions not rated”, done.


A substitute teacher screamed at a bunch of us for playing D&D during a free period. This prompted a friend of mine to go to the library and come back the next day with a thoroughly researched paper on the value of D&D. He cited Shakespeare, Milton, Tolkien, classical mythology, and examples of the game’s use of mathematics and statistics.

Unfortunately the substitute was only there for one day so we have no idea what his response would have been but we all kept copies of the report. Surprisingly we never got another chance to pull it out.


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Right. They bumped it from MA to AO which basically guaranteed no major retailers would stock it. All for code that was inaccessible without mod tools and was pretty tame to begin with. In a game where the normal gameplay loop has it so you literally murder people in increasingly over the top ways, go to strip clubs, hook up with sex workers, sell and use drugs, and so on. It was ridiculous and set a terrible precedent.

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