In 1981, Politicians Fought Against the “Space Invader” Menace

Politicians have a long history of speaking out against video games. The first Senate hearing on video game violence was held in 1993, and the debate has continued to rage on in the years since.

But the most asinine, most beautifully ridiculous strike against video games occurred all the way back in 1981, before the Famicom was even a twinkle in Nintendo’s eye. On a sunny May morning, House of Commons member George Foulkes spoke out about the most dangerous menace the gaming world has ever seen: “space invader” machines.

space invaders arcade

Foulkes wove Parliament a hyperbolic tale that contained a little bit of everything: sex, lies, and flagrant overuse of air quotes. He recounted anecdote after sordid anecdote in which children were forced to go to terrible lengths in order to feed their Space Invaders addiction. One child stole funeral money from his grandmother. Another blackmailed a clergyman who had been having sex with him. Clearly, Foulkes was a man with his priorities in order.

“Those examples show the force for evil which can arise among young people from addiction to “space invader” machines,” Foulkes told the assembly. “What should we do to control this menace?”

Space Invaders shotFoulkes’ solution, though needlessly convoluted, probably would have successfully kept Space Invaders out of the hands of children. He believed that banning the machines outright was “too Draconian,” and instead proposed a complicated licensing system. Anyone who wanted a “space invader machine” in their place of business would have to follow a number of rules, including restrictions regarding the age of players and the times the machine could be on. Foulkes’ bill also would have made it much more difficult for new arcades to open.

Crazy though it may seem, his bill might have passed were it not for the objections of one game-loving parliament member. Describing Foulkes’ claims as “outrageous and ridiculous,” a man named Michael Brown laid his own impassioned story before the House:

If I have glazed eyes, it is perhaps because I am the one hon. Member who is an avid player of “space invaders”. I make no apology for the fact that before I came to the House early this afternoon I had an innocent half pint of beer in a pub with a couple of friends, put lop in a machine, and played a game of “space invaders”. Many young people derive innocent and harmless pleasure from “space invaders”. The machines—in amusement arcades, in seaside resorts and even in pubs—provide genuine, harmless entertainment for young people.

In the end, Foulkes’ bill was defeated 94 to 114. Not entirely satisfied by the results, Brown put forth one final question.

“On a point of order, Mr. Speaker,” said Brown. “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?”

“Order,” responded the Speaker. “Nothing said in this House is ever trivial.”

And so, the terrestrial menace lived to fight another day.

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  • Strontium Dingo

    A great article, and “Clearly, Foulkes was a man with his priorities in order.” is a sheer masterwork of true irony.

    I think it’s a shame when people can ban things they know nothing about – thank goodness for Mr Brown! (The Hon MP Mr Brown? I don’t know how honorifics work.)

    Also, that’s the greatest author bio/blurb that I’m likely to ever see, so congrats there – not even remotely joking! 🙂

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