It may be hard today to imagine Space Invaders inciting a moral panic worthy of government intervention, but 33 years ago in the United Kingdom, it did. On May 20, 1981, George Foulkes, MP, introduced a bill titled "Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games." This week he revisited the legislation he introduced.
Foulkes, now a member of the House of Lords, defended his bill to BuzzFeed, saying those who mock it today are likely too young to remember the times in which video gaming was a completely new and even mysterious thing in popular culture.
In his oration before the House of Commons, Foulkes said he brought forth the measure after hearing from the head teacher of a school in his constituency, where Space Invaders had taken hold of the children's lives to the exclusion of all other pursuits, plus studying.
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.
Foulkes gave other lurid anecdotes of children who disappeared for long stretches or who turned to crime to acquire money to play the games. His measure was immediately assailed by Michael Brown of the Conservative Party, who called it "outrageous and ridiculous" and blasted Foulkes for seeking to "restrict the innocent pleasure of young people.
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.
Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games then failed, 114-94, with one MP calling its debate a 22-minute waste of time.
Foulkes told BuzzFeed on Friday that he doesn't regret bringing the bill before parliament despite the mockery it received, both that day and since. Still, he was right on about one thing in his testimony 33 years ago.
"There is little hope of the craze fading," he told Parliament.