In 1981, at the height of the moral panic over new fangled "video games", a Labour MP decided to launch crusade against this new evil. His target? Space Invaders.
George Foulkes, MP for South Ayrshire at the time, introduced the ultimately unsuccessful Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games bill to try to save the nation's children from the menace. 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."
He went on to give these chilling examples of Space Invaders addiction in the nation's youth.
"A Sheffield mother is quoted as saying that a Jekyll and Hyde change came over her 14-year-old son when he became hooked on ''space invaders". In London, a 13-year-old vanished from his home for 10 days, visiting arcades to play the machines. Also in London, a 17-year-old boy was so desperate for money to feed the machines that he turned to blackmail and theft, demanding £900 from a clergyman with whom he had previously had sexual relations.
And rounded off with this dystopian vision of the future with 3D games.
"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."
33 years later, we caught up with George Foulkes, who is now in the House of Lords, and he's "quite bemused" that his Space Invaders bill has recently gone viral.
"I think some of the people who are commenting on it now are younger and don't realise what life was like in 1981," said Lord Foulkes. "Space Invaders was the main thing. It was new and exciting and attractive and captivating. It's not a problem now."
He created the bill not because he had a personal hatred of Space Invaders, he said, but because he was approached by the head teacher of a local school: "They had this place in the centre of Cumnock and the pupils went there at lunchtime and didn't come back in the afternoon. They were having terrible trouble."
He doesn't regret presenting the bill to parliament, despite the internet making fun of it three decades later: "It's important that MPs raise things which are of concern to their constituents – not things that are their own interests or concerns or peccadillos. They should do it on behalf of local constituents. I managed to stay in parliament for 26 years, so I must have been doing something right."
These days, he said his grandchildren are "very interested in X-Box and other kinds of things" but he's not been tempted to have a go, and he said their parents are right to limit the time they can play on the machines.
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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