Computer games were so popular in the 80s that media commentators, local government officeholders, psychotherapists, and educators warned of serious negative effects to young people. They said that they would harm their eyes and result in other physical ailments.
They also believed that children would prove to be addictive, just like television, and would instil ideas of aggression and violence in more impressionable youngsters. They further warned that they would become desensitised, spend more time alone, and perform poorly in school.
Arcades of seduction
The arcades where teenagers hung out and played video games were imagined as being meant for illicit trade in sex and drugs. Children who wanted to play their favourite game, such as Donkey Kong or Tempest, could be seduced by troublemakers and see their lives become about crime, sexual depravity, and substance abuse.
There were even concerns that children might resort to stealing to feed their video game habit. There were reports that children had vandalised cigarette machines for the quarters. This was particularly prominent in a Dallas suburb known as Mesquite, where video arcades regulation had become a heavily reported legal affair.
Age restriction on young gamers
Mesquite banned children below the age of 17 from entering the local Aladdin’s Castle emporium, only making an exception if they had a parent with them. The arcade chain was also refused a license to open new locations in shopping malls as the owner had a connection with “criminal elements”.
There was a positive side, however, when it came to the concerns over gaming among youth. A number of commentators, especially social scientists who had a negative view of the moralising crowd, saw great advantages to video games, believing them to be cutting-edge technology.
“I’m going into the office”
Many who had observed American society in the 70s and 80s has seen a move away from factory work to office work, from manufacturing to service labour and knowledge. Electronics and computers, in particular, were playing a huge role in this change.
Video games were essentially just computerised toys and were often the first interaction between young people and computers, with those in favour insisting that they could create a new way of training for tomorrow’s professionals.
Preparing the tech generation
It was obvious that computer games were teaching something to children, not just how to improve at the games themselves, but also how to work with computer interfaces and digital electronics. Some children who were passionate about computer games had the opportunity to go into programming and turn their hobby into a potential career.
An entire generation of 80s teenagers grew up fine in spite of the dangers, whether real or imagined. Each generation finds a curiosity in something that its adults fail to understand, of course, whether rock ’n’ roll or Pac-Man. In each moment in media history, tension occurs between generations. Now we have social media and smartphones to argue about, with millennials causing concerns among the generations that came before them.