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Nov. 19, 1981: Marcos Regime Puts the Kibosh on Games

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Old 11-19-2008
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Nov. 19, 1981: Marcos Regime Puts the Kibosh on Games
1981: Citing their socially destructive effects, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos bans videogames in his country. Filipinos are given two weeks to hand over or destroy their game consoles.
Marcos was no stranger to imposing draconian solutions. The Philippines lived under martial law throughout the 1970s, Marcos' way of dealing with the increasingly radical elements — a restive university population and a resurgent Communist movement, mainly — that grew in opposition to his corrupt regime.
In this case, though, he was responding to pressure from parents and educators, who claimed that games such as Space Invaders and Asteroids were a "destructive social enemy, the electrical bandit" that was weakening the moral fiber of the young and turning them into a generation of obsessives.
While ample evidence exists — including testimonials from game players themselves — to support the argument that excessive videogaming can be both highly addictive and behavior altering, it's probably safe to characterize Marcos' reaction as a tad heavy-handed. It was not without its supporters, however, nor was the Philippines the only country to impose restrictions on videogames. Marcos' outright ban on all videogames, though, was unique at the time, at least in the so-called free world.
Just this year, Afghanistan's Islamic government proposed an absolute ban on videogames, while also considering the outlawing of dog- and bird-fighting, and billiards.
In the West, the violent content that is the central feature of so many games continues to prompt various restrictions. In the United States, for example, individual states have imposed sales restrictions on games deemed too violent or sexually explicit for younger gamers.
The videogame industry has been encouraged to be self-policing, and a ratings system exists, similar to what the movie industry uses. But enforcement is difficult, and the industry's policing efforts — in the face of such enormous profitability — have been half-hearted at best.
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