Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games (1981)

In 1981, at the height of moral panic over newfangled “video games”, George Foulkes (MP for South Ayrshire at the time, now Baron Foulkes of Cumnock) drafted a Private Members’ Bill — the Control of Space Invaders (and Other Electronic Games) Bill — in an attempt to ban the game for its “addictive properties” and for causing “deviancy”:

Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire): I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to empower local authorities to control by licensing and through the grant of planning permission space invaders and other electronic games in all premises to which the public have access with or without payment; and for connected purposes. The Bill seeks to control “space invaders” — of the terrestrial kind — and other electronic games.

He told a horrified Parliament:

That is what is happening to our young people. They play truant, miss meals, and give up other normal activity to play “space invaders”. They become crazed, with eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them, as they play the machines. It is difficult to appreciate unless one has seen it for oneself. I suggest that right hon. and hon. Members who have not seen it should go incognito to an arcade or café in their own areas and see the effect that it is having on young people.

Rounding off with a vision of a dystopian future of games with — gasp — 3D effects:

There is little hope of the craze fading, because the current machines have an interest span of about two years, compared with an average of seven months for most amusement machines. There are second and further generations of more advanced machines to hook the kids if the attraction of the present machines should fade, including one with a three-dimensional effect.

This bill was debated and only narrowly defeated in Parliament by 114 votes to 94 votes.

Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you enlighten the House on how it will be possible to deal in future with the sort of trivia that has just wasted 22 minutes of the time of the House?

Mr. Speaker: Order. Nothing said in this House is ever trivial.

4 thoughts

  1. Far from being trivial, this is a worrying aspect of how close our Parliament might come to legislating without full scrutiny: check out the powers proposed in the “Great Repeal Bill”, and then come back here to see how important full scrutiny is.

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