Philippine President Bans Videogames

“Continuing a policy of implementing draconian and sometimes bizarre laws, President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos banned videogames in his country on this day in 1981.

Throughout his 21 years in office, Marcos ruled the Philippines with a heavy hand, an attempt to clamp down on a restive population and a resurgent Communist movement. Under Marcos, the Philippines government was a military dictatorship marked by corruption, despotism, nepotism, repression, and human rights violations.

So, when parents and educators claimed that video games like Space Invaders and Asteroids were “”devilish contraptions [that] wreak havoc on the morals and discipline of our youth,”” President Marcos simply banned them. He issued a presidential decree prohibiting not only video games, but also pinball machines, slot machines, and other similar gaming devices, and he ordered the police to strictly enforce these new provisions. Filipinos were given two weeks to hand over or destroy their game consoles. Violators would face a fine of UD$620 and up to 12 years in jail. It was the first time a nation had tried to ban video games–but not the last. In 2008, Afghanistan also proposed a ban on video games, as well as billiards and dog- and bird-fighting.

State-controlled newspaper editorials praised Marcos’s ban. The Times Journal called video game centers “”breeding grounds for petty corruption, which, if left unchecked, could eventually engulf a schoolboy and make him a liability to society.””

Not surprisingly, Filipino youth were exasperated. “”My God, it’s the computer age,”” an unidentified teenager was quoted as saying in the Philippines’s Manila Daily Express. “”What do parents expect us to do? Play cops and robbers?”” And they moved their video gaming underground, gathering in the backs of stores for some space-age diversion from their daily realities.

In 1986, a growingly restive Philippine population drove Marcos into exile in the “”People Power”” movement, effectively lifting martial law and the video game ban.”