Back in 1982, Marshfield, Massachusetts banned coin-operated video games. Though the ban had its opponents decades ago, it survived various legal battles and had remained on the books – until this week. As The Patriot Ledger reports, on Monday, Marshfield residents voted 203-175 to overturn the bylaw and welcome Pac-Man back to town.
What prompted the ban back in 1982? The Patriot Ledger writes it was because some believed arcade games attracted an “undesirable element.” A 1983 Christian Science Monitor article (H/T Boston.com) on how the ban was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court includes the rationale for the ban by one of its proponents:
“The games are said to be addictive to youth, who will skip school and spend unreasonable sums of money to play them at a quarter -- and sometimes 50 cents -- a pop, says Thomas R. Jackson, a retired narcotics agent and the resident who proposed the ban. Further, he says, gambling and drug activity are connected to the video game locations where youth congregate unsupervised.”
After the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling, the ban remained in place. Attempts to overturn it in 1994 and 2011 were defeated.
Resident Craig Rondeau finally helped overturn the ban in 2014 after he got support from local businesses. He told the Patriot Ledger, “They want the opportunity to choose [whether they have arcade games]. Let’s give them back their right to choose.” In an interview with WHDH 7 News, Mr. Rondeau said, “It is a big deal. Because if it ruffled that many feathers, that it took 32 years to get it done, we did something important.” He believes that video games help children learn social skills, hone their problem-solving skills, and encourage creative thinking.
As the rather close, 203-175 vote indicates, the ban still had its supporters. One of those supporters, Sue Walker, said that, “There is gaming all over the place, and there’s nothing fun about it.”