Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Lies Adults Told Me About Games

Robert Rath | 1 May 2014 12:00
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The Game-Burning Mob

When I was nine, my favorite game was Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.

In my defense, I was nine, only owned six games, and Moonwalker was the newest one. By kid logic, that made it my favorite.

Well, except for maybe Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Or Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi.

Okay, maybe it wasn't my favorite game, but it was at least in my top six.

If you're a certain age, you might remember that 1993 wasn't the greatest time to be a Michael Jackson fan. To summarize it in the least gross way possible: a dentist named Evan Chandler accused Jackson of sexually abusing his 13 year-old son, and sued the pop star for millions in civil court. There were a lot of inconsistencies surrounding the case, but regardless of the fact that Chandler lacked hard evidence and was financially motivated, the media dragged the issue into the court of public opinion. TV shows ran daily updates on the case. Tabloids threw money at Jackson's disgruntled former employees. Reports circulated of people throwing away or destroying their Michael Jackson albums. Parents, including mine, started making offhand comments to their kids that maybe we shouldn't be listening to Michael Jackson.

While our parents were just thinking out loud, their comments kickstarted the kid rumor mill. Word on the playground had it that the adults were plotting to seize our Michael Jackson stuff. Cassette tapes. Posters. Plush toys of that freaky butterfly hamster from Captain EO. The adults would confiscate and destroy everything.

And that included my definitely-at-least-fifth-most-beloved game, Moonwalker.

The nightmares started soon afterward. I'd wake up to see a crowd outside my window, shouting and carrying torches. The ringleader - our neighbor - would bang on the door until my parents answered.

"We've come for Michael Jackson's Moonwalker," he'd say, looking at us over the door chain. "Toys R Us told us they sold you a copy. You have five minutes to bring it out. After that, we're coming in."

My parents would reason with me, telling me that if we didn't comply they'd break down the door and turn our house upside-down looking for it. With shaking hands, I'd give the game over to our neighbor, then watch as he threw it on a burning pile of Jackson memorabilia in the middle of our street. The crowd circled around the enormous pyre, tossing in records and Jackson dolls. It mirrored the book burning scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

That was when I started hiding my Moonwalker cartridge under my mattress.

At this point I should probably mention that I wasn't a big Michael Jackson fan as a kid. His songs were good. I liked the part in Moonwalker where he turned into a robot and slaughtered a bunch of bad guys. I didn't care about him as a person, though. If he'd gone to federal prison, I wouldn't have spared a thought about it. Michael Jackson was just some guy who made music, but Michael Jackson's Moonwalker? It wasn't just a game, it was my game and I loved it with a ferocity that only a child can. No one was taking that game away from me.

This rumor wasn't the only game-confiscation rumor I heard either - I heard it at least once more after the Columbine shootings, when parents were rumored to be coming for Doom (the nightmare reoccurred then as well). According to my research, however, the rumors were spurious. There was never an organized game confiscation and destruction during my childhood, at least not in the U.S. The closest thing was last year's "violent game return" effort in Connecticut that came in response to the Sandy Hook shootings and a similar event held in Germany in 2009. But both were voluntary.

Moonwalker, it seems, was safe the whole time.

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