A short history of video game panics

A Generation of Shut-Ins

As technology evolved, video games gradually became associated more with the home market than with public arcades. That in turn meant a new set of anxieties: Instead of smoky dens of delinquency far from the safety of home, we had a generation of fatties who never left the house. By the early 1990s, news accounts of children neglecting exercise inevitably invoked Nintendo along with (or instead of) the TV sets that in earlier years would have shouldered the blame for our bellies.

When Sega introduced a game system in 1993 featuring more active controls—”Instead of moving your thumb to, say, throw a punch at Evander Holyfield, you’ll actually throw a punch,” The Milwaukee Sentinel explained—critics were so attached to the couch-potato narrative that they weren’t sure players would tolerate even that much exertion. This “may be a novelty for a while,” the Sentinel writer proclaimed, “but how long will today’s couch potatoes want to swing their arms into space to get a figure on the screen to move?” Just a few years later, one of the country’s most popular games would be Dance Dance Revolution.

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