Winners Don't Use Drugs: A People's History

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Winners Don't Use Drugs: A People's History

Here's why every game arcade cabinet in the 1990s had an FBI seal on the screen.

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I think it was the launch of Winners Don't Use Drugs that properly made me aware of the global nature of gaming. Growing up in a tiny seaside town in Norfolk, where the console never really seemed to permeate and the ZX Spectrum was king, it was easy to think of all the games I played as British developments. And then there I am, in the Panama arcade on Le Strange Terrace, and there's this big FBI logo looming at me from the Golden Axe cabinet.

Some part of me knew that the FBI was an American thing, so I was baffled to see it there - why should I care what the FBI thinks? They're American, I'm British, what's the contact point? And eventually I realised that the contact point was that very machine I was standing in front of; that this arcade wasn't a British construct, it was from across the pond.

Kinitawowi:
I think it was the launch of Winners Don't Use Drugs that properly made me aware of the global nature of gaming. Growing up in a tiny seaside town in Norfolk, where the console never really seemed to permeate and the ZX Spectrum was king, it was easy to think of all the games I played as British developments. And then there I am, in the Panama arcade on Le Strange Terrace, and there's this big FBI logo looming at me from the Golden Axe cabinet.

Some part of me knew that the FBI was an American thing, so I was baffled to see it there - why should I care what the FBI thinks? They're American, I'm British, what's the contact point? And eventually I realised that the contact point was that very machine I was standing in front of; that this arcade wasn't a British construct, it was from across the pond.

Woooow, this is absolutely crazy. I had never thought that "Winners" would have made it outside of the US.

Any other folks from Europe or Asia remember seeing it?

JonB:
Woooow, this is absolutely crazy. I had never thought that "Winners" would have made it outside of the US.

Any other folks from Europe or Asia remember seeing it?

Saw it growing up in South Africa, even before Apartheid 'fell' in '94.

Obvious, but these were all over Canada at the time too, since the most readily available cabinets were from US games (Canada wasn't a major player in the gaming market back then).

It definitely had a big enough impact that it got lampooned in Blood Dragon, so hey, it's definitely influenced major parts of the world.

Great article. This has explained like 3 different references had flown right over my head.

It's great to hear a little background about the most recognizable screen in arcade history. I can't wait for next week's article!

Does this mean that Charlie Sheen lied about winning?

Adam Jensen:
Does this mean that Charlie Sheen lied about winning?

It sounds as true as his being a Bitchin' Rock Star from Mars or a Vatican Assassin Warlock.

That message has definitely been burned into my head, as a kid in the 90's, how could it not have been? Awesome article, I still see the screen sometimes when I find an old cabinet, always brings a smile to my face. I'm curious as to whether its effectiveness was ever attempted to be rated. It really didn't effect me in the slightest, I was too young at the time and basically little Steve Rogers (I was Captain America for Halloween when I was like 4) so I would have never been near drugs at the time regardless.

Dr.Awkward:
It definitely had a big enough impact that it got lampooned in Blood Dragon, so hey, it's definitely influenced major parts of the world.

I love the winners dont eat meat lampooning on the Scott Pilgrim vs the world videogame.

This was everywhere in the UK when I was growing up.

Loved the article.

Robert Rath:
At a time when most government officials were at antagonistic toward games and their effect on children, the head of the nation's premier law enforcement agency chose to coopt the medium in order to deliver a message.

Haha, oh you really got me there. Good thing that time has long passed [/sarcasm]. Really though, to think that for even a second someone in elected office sat to himself and realized that games could be the answer, not a problem, is amazing. I just wish it would happen again.

I work with young people, and I'm thinking of using this as a topic for conversation during sessions at some point when I get back to volunteering. Messages about drugs aside, I've found success using games as a tool to build relationships and to facilitate critical thought in sessions (except when they're destroying me on Mario Kart).

Loved the article.

Now that I'm old enough to know better, having seeing these in my youth, I have to ask some basic questions:

If winners don't use drugs, can you please explain...

1) Critics and comedians like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor?

2) Musicians and bands like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, "Dimebag" Darrell, Alice in Chains?

3) The current culture surrounding today's professional sports and athletes?

4) People like Terence McKenna?

Even when I was young, I knew - people use drugs, winners make the most of their experiences, draw strength from them and push ever forward. It wasn't until I found the above examples, and more like them, that I could express these thoughts into words.

Robert Rath:
Here's why every game arcade in the 1990s had an FBI seal on the wall.

Why is this relatively short article broken up over three pages? "Just say no!" to pagination on websites. Winners don't use pagination in a medium where pages can be of arbitrary length.

More on topic, the offences Sessions was fired for seem pretty damn trivial compared to the excesses politicians get away with these days. Slightly excessive travel budgets? Ridiculously exorbitant travel budgets are standard procedure these days for public officials.

In any case, Sessions' legacy is highly amusing - a completely ineffectual and misguided campaign that somehow enriches gaming culture, despite how annoying it was at the time. I'm pretty sure some kids actually tried drugs because of those screens, not in spite of of them.

JonB:

Any other folks from Europe or Asia remember seeing it?

It was in all the arcades in Australia, and it was bloody hilarious and totally meaningless.

As Kinitawowi says - it really highlighted the global nature of gaming - you'd have an arcade machine that was programmed in Japan, distributed by an American company, in a cabinet made in Australia. With a bizarre FBI warning. Not to mention a lot of the strange Japanese stuff that wasn't properly translated to English and made no sense. It was a bit like Bladerunner.

JonB:
[quote="Kinitawowi" post="6.824720.19989730"]

Any other folks from Europe or Asia remember seeing it?

I remember seeing it in arcades in Mexico.

I'd have less of a problem with the "winners don't use drugs" thing if it wasn't complete bullshit. Many of the worlds most successful writers, scientists, businessmen and politicians are known drug users. Hell, every president since Clinton has admitted to using marijuana and I'm pretty sure both Bush Jr. And Obama have admitted to using cocaine at least once in their lives. Fact is, many winners used drugs.

Fun Fact:

Prohibition will always fail.

It's a waste of time and money, many good people have died, children have lost their mothers and fathers due to a stupid policy that will never, ever succeed.

Then there's the hypocrisy of people who complain the loudest about government spending supporting a failed policy that wastes our tax dollars and lives.

CrazyCapnMorgan:
Now that I'm old enough to know better, having seeing these in my youth, I have to ask some basic questions:

If winners don't use drugs, can you please explain...

1) Critics and comedians like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor?

2) Musicians and bands like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, "Dimebag" Darrell, Alice in Chains?

3) The current culture surrounding today's professional sports and athletes?

4) People like Terence McKenna?

Even when I was young, I knew - people use drugs, winners make the most of their experiences, draw strength from them and push ever forward. It wasn't until I found the above examples, and more like them, that I could express these thoughts into words.

That's easy - the word "counterculture" explains it. Do you think the government - any government - approves of any these people? Drugs simply don't foster what governments try to achieve economically and socially and often work against it, and anything with that kind of power must be stopped with propaganda. Except alcohol and caffeine. Those make you spend and work more, so they're good.

Robert Rath:
Winners Don't Use Drugs: A People's History

Here's why every game arcade cabinet in the 1990s had an FBI seal on the screen.

Read Full Article

Is that what that thing was for? I was far too busy pulling the trigger of my plastic light gun trying to advance the screens so the game would start.

Kinitawowi:

Some part of me knew that the FBI was an American thing, so I was baffled to see it there - why should I care what the FBI thinks? They're American, I'm British, what's the contact point? And eventually I realised that the contact point was that very machine I was standing in front of; that this arcade wasn't a British construct, it was from across the pond.

Nuxxy:

Saw it growing up in South Africa, even before Apartheid 'fell' in '94.

JamesBr:
Obvious, but these were all over Canada at the time too, since the most readily available cabinets were from US games (Canada wasn't a major player in the gaming market back then).

bjj hero:

Dr.Awkward:
It definitely had a big enough impact that it got lampooned in Blood Dragon, so hey, it's definitely influenced major parts of the world.

I love the winners dont eat meat lampooning on the Scott Pilgrim vs the world videogame.

This was everywhere in the UK when I was growing up.

Loved the article.

Aardvaarkman:

It was in all the arcades in Australia, and it was bloody hilarious and totally meaningless.

As Kinitawowi says - it really highlighted the global nature of gaming - you'd have an arcade machine that was programmed in Japan, distributed by an American company, in a cabinet made in Australia. With a bizarre FBI warning. Not to mention a lot of the strange Japanese stuff that wasn't properly translated to English and made no sense. It was a bit like Bladerunner.

shiajun:

I remember seeing it in arcades in Mexico.

Wow! I'd read that the screen was pretty common to come across in Canada and Mexico (for obvious reasons) but I had no idea it got as far as the UK, Australia, and South Africa. Absolutely right, Kinitawowi, it shows how early games became globalized.

Aardvaarkman:

More on topic, the offences Sessions was fired for seem pretty damn trivial compared to the excesses politicians get away with these days. Slightly excessive travel budgets? Ridiculously exorbitant travel budgets are standard procedure these days for public officials.

There have been numerous cases where the president or Congress asked a politician or major official to resign over using their government-funded jet for private use (the most famous was White House Chief of Staff John Sununu during the Bush Sr. era). Generally, though, the person in question does resign, meaning the president doesn't need to go as far as firing them. I'd say that the violations regarding misusing his private jet were the main ones, and the rest were really "pile on" charges that might not have led to Clinton calling for his resignation.

That's not to say politics didn't play a role - as you say, people have gotten away with worse. Part of it might've been that Clinton wanted him out so he could install his "own" guy in the job, and the DoJ probably pursued the investigation so viciously because Sessions had made enemies as Director, both for his more inclusive policies and for refusing to toe the line on a lot of the Reagan law enforcement doctrine that Sessions saw (with good cause) as unfair to minorities.

Having said that, the allegations against him were more than enough to justify his removal. One of the reasons the job of FBI Director is considered one of the most volatile in the U.S. government is that, as the most prominent federal law enforcement official in the country, anyone in the job is basically held to a higher ethical standard. After all, you can't have someone in a position like that setting a bad example and breaking rules.

So basically, were the allegations a little petty? Yeah, some of them were. But Sessions still should've known better and realized the high level of scrutiny he'd be under in such a prominent role. The stuff about sending agents away and not keeping a good enough security detail (except when he went to the Kennedy Center) would've blown over, but using taxpayer-funded transportation on personal trips is a big no-no, as are sham transactions on your taxes.

Aardvaarkman:

JonB:

Any other folks from Europe or Asia remember seeing it?

It was in all the arcades in Australia, and it was bloody hilarious and totally meaningless.

As Kinitawowi says - it really highlighted the global nature of gaming - you'd have an arcade machine that was programmed in Japan, distributed by an American company, in a cabinet made in Australia. With a bizarre FBI warning. Not to mention a lot of the strange Japanese stuff that wasn't properly translated to English and made no sense. It was a bit like Bladerunner.

I've never seen this in my life (Australian here), then again I only went into a few arcades. Probably just a few games over here had the warning?
The article has practically put me to sleep though, I'm over hearing about American history, how about more gaming articles.
(yes I am aware the site is in the US but they have alot of international visitors and should remember that American 'history' is already pushed onto us enough, frankly it's annoying).

Edit: Nice article, just think it's not game related enough and belongs where discussing the war on drugs is expected instead of a gaming site.

JonB:

Kinitawowi:
I think it was the launch of Winners Don't Use Drugs that properly made me aware of the global nature of gaming. Growing up in a tiny seaside town in Norfolk, where the console never really seemed to permeate and the ZX Spectrum was king, it was easy to think of all the games I played as British developments. And then there I am, in the Panama arcade on Le Strange Terrace, and there's this big FBI logo looming at me from the Golden Axe cabinet.

Some part of me knew that the FBI was an American thing, so I was baffled to see it there - why should I care what the FBI thinks? They're American, I'm British, what's the contact point? And eventually I realised that the contact point was that very machine I was standing in front of; that this arcade wasn't a British construct, it was from across the pond.

Woooow, this is absolutely crazy. I had never thought that "Winners" would have made it outside of the US.

Any other folks from Europe or Asia remember seeing it?

Yep I had access to some 'across the pond' game machines in my youth also... It was a bizarre little thing that I actually didn't think much on at the time. It was just another warning label I had to sit through while I waited for fun to start.
Also many of the cartoons with 'just say no' specials made it over for Saturday morning cartoons eventually, so those were about as well...

My parents were quite progressive for the time and had talks with me about sex, drugs and such at quite an early age... I dunno what good it did but I am the most boring non-sexual anti drugs (personally) type person you'll ever meet. And all because they pretty much just told me the truth about all those things. No scare tactics, no 'do this or I'll disown you'. Just 'Hey kiddo, these things can mess up your life' be smart about when and if you do them.

Having an FBI warning about drugs just seemed silly to me. But then again... not everyone was lucky enough to have someone in their life to discourage them from doing drugs during a naive point in their lives I suppose?

Great article Rob! One thing to keep in mind with this topic is that drugs aren't who a person is. At least not initially. We've seen infinity ad nauseum instances in tv and sometimes even real life of someone consumed and basically only living for the high. This is not always the case. As some mentioned there have been very successful people who with varying degrees have "done drugs." Sometimes people do come back. It's just that it's fought on an internal battlefield where only the user can determine whether they beat it or not.

Like all addictions they tend to fill two needs for a person, a crutch or just to release endorphins. Both of these can be obtained safely from a variety of ordinary, safe sources. The things is people don't always realize this or have access to a lot of things that healthy people tend to need to develop; friends, family, pets, hobbies, careers,etc. When a person can't get these they naturally look for alternatives, any alternative to being left with that soul gnawing hunger. Drugs aren't the only things people abuse. Things as innocuous as food, fitness, and media entertainment (we've had that conversation before, haven't we ;) ) can be relied upon far beyond the role they should fill in our lives. Drugs are the easy button to push and even have their own community where outsiders of society feel they can belong.

Drug traffickers are indeed a serious threat and a major contributor to the nasty cycle of drug abuse worldwide, but they're not the root cause, just profiteers and easy money for the hopelessly unemployed in many societies. The problem is that people feel compelled to use things that can become addictive in the first place. Some of these things are designed to be addictive but in many cases it really is all in your head and the self-programming you do. The best thing that the average person can do is to starve the suppliers of their demand. Prices drop, they lose business, they close up areas of operation and soon the reward doesn't mitigate the risk. Ways you can do this are, obviously spreading the good word about addiction, helping kids struggling in school or adults in their jobs, making friends (support networks help prevent use and help people recover), and donating money or volunteering time at shelters, soup kitchens and other good will institutions. Prevent others from falling in the first place, bolster the safety nets many of us try to throw and just care about others. Want to help on a bigger scale? Sign on with bigger charity organizations or get involved in politics to pass bills and reforms that don't leave people out on the street and alone. If everyone or at least most people are good to each other, most of these sorts of things won't happen in the first place. Cooperation and helping others beyond our own immediate gain are very important skills for the future that we need to be teaching. If we don't make the effort, the problems will only get worse.

TLDR: Addictive drugs and stuff are bad. Help others and it won't happen. Give a damn.

Wait, 'Winners don't do drugs'? Wasn't George Bush a raving coke head at one point?

Adventurer2626:
TLDR: Addictive drugs and stuff are bad. Help others and it won't happen. Give a damn.

I'm just going by the tl;dr here but addictive drugs are bad because they're addictive? So by that logic, anything that is addictive is bad? Almost everything can be mentally addictive, fapping and eating can be an addiction, playing video games can be an addiction. The difference between that and say heroin is heroin is a lot more potent and a lot better at making you feel better/worse. The real problem with drugs is when they are made a black market item by the government, this 'war on drugs' is just 1920s prohibition on a much grander scale and look how well that worked out. I don't see why we don't just legalize these drugs, regulate them so it's a quality product and give help to those who may be addicted. I mean we already have legal versions of most of these illicit drugs they're just sold as pain relief or diet pills or ADD medication. Otherwise that stack of bodies from the war on drugs is just getting bigger.

Blood Brain Barrier:
That's easy - the word "counterculture" explains it. Do you think the government - any government - approves of any these people? Drugs simply don't foster what governments try to achieve economically and socially and often work against it, and anything with that kind of power must be stopped with propaganda. Except alcohol and caffeine. Those make you spend and work more, so they're good.

Or, as the late great Bill Hicks put it:

DerangedHobo:

Adventurer2626:
TLDR: Addictive drugs and stuff are bad. Help others and it won't happen. Give a damn.

I'm just going by the tl;dr here but addictive drugs are bad because they're addictive? So by that logic, anything that is addictive is bad? Almost everything can be mentally addictive, fapping and eating can be an addiction, playing video games can be an addiction. The difference between that and say heroin is heroin is a lot more potent and a lot better at making you feel better/worse. The real problem with drugs is when they are made a black market item by the government, this 'war on drugs' is just 1920s prohibition on a much grander scale and look how well that worked out. I don't see why we don't just legalize these drugs, regulate them so it's a quality product and give help to those who may be addicted. I mean we already have legal versions of most of these illicit drugs they're just sold as pain relief or diet pills or ADD medication. Otherwise that stack of bodies from the war on drugs is just getting bigger.

That's a good point and the only real reason I think marijuana "is a thing" at all. IMO it's really not much worse (if at all) for you than cigarettes or alcohol. What kills more people, high or drunk drivers? Someone number crunch this and give it to Uncle Sam. Or maybe someone did and it's why it's been gradually legalizing in the States. I think legalizing and taxing mj is a great solution to mj. I'm not sold on legalizing narcotics as a whole, especially shit like heroin and meth. I'm a reasonable, compromising person but I have to draw a hard line for the "hard drugs." Most are chemically designed to give the most high and addiction for the supplier's buck regardless of health risks. Hell, legit companies pull that shit from time to time when they think they can get away with it. Regardless of whether people want it or not, I can't support a situation where it's okay to lose a potential productive member of society to narcotics addiction. I'd rather have the person and spend money than lose the person and get tax money.

The vocabulary in this issue is also fairly important and why many discussions go around in circles. I admit I don't know everything and sometimes mess up my terminology. Narcotics and "hard drugs" are a different thing than the umbrella of "drugs" which includes medications. I'll try to keep this in mind and I urge others too as well.

Lastly, if all you went by was the TLDR, then I did elaborate on some points about why there is a market for drugs, stipulating that not all "druggies" are hopeless and many come back, and some ways to fight drug abuse besides cartel warfare. Not happy about the situation for my friends down in Mexico and the Central Americas.

How's that Drug War going these days anyway?

Oh.... Oh...
image

The only time in human history, where we managed to achieve 1000 years of peace, was through regimented distribution of cocaine in ancient Peru.

So obviously, the point is, that without enough drugs, people kill people.
Right?

As ridiculous as this sounds, there's more data to back this up than anything the "winners don't use drugs" campaign craps on about.

Maybe. If you're stoned out of your mind you aren't exactly thinking about cappin' someone. But then you aren't thinking about much anyways. Personally I'd rather find a more productive method than drugging the populace into complacency to discourage violent conflicts. Put people to work on projects to improve the infrastructure of civilization? Nah, that costs money. Let's tax narcotics! Money and mellow civilians; everyone wins! *sigh* Seriously though this situation sucks. The best I can come up with is to focus on killing the demand. It would be nice to stop it completely but I think we need to minimize it as much as we can. Some people are just gonna do what they wanna do.

Good thing this was discontinued in 2000. If this had kept up at the same time that kids commonly had camera phones, this would only lead to kids taking pictures of themselves doing drugs next to the don't do drugs ad.

That may be wildly immature, but I'm in college and I have pictures of myself smoking cigarettes next to many of my university's "smoke free campus" signs. That may just be a university rule rather than an actual law, but kids are just slightly too immature to only do stupid things they can't be held (too) legally liable for.

Also, and more on topic, I guess this was before my time, because I'd never heard of this until this article. Interesting idea, and an innovative outlook on gaming for the US government at the game.

Great article. Not being from the US, I never knew this happened. A few typos to point out:

Robert Rath:
At a time when most government officials were at antagonistic toward games and their effect on children

There's a word missing here. Should it be "at least"?

Robert Rath:
through he kept an unloaded gun in his car to meet the definition

Guess that should be "though".

CrazyCapnMorgan:
Now that I'm old enough to know better, having seeing these in my youth, I have to ask some basic questions:

If winners don't use drugs, can you please explain...

1) Critics and comedians like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor?

2) Musicians and bands like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, "Dimebag" Darrell, Alice in Chains?

3) The current culture surrounding today's professional sports and athletes?

4) People like Terence McKenna?

Even when I was young, I knew - people use drugs, winners make the most of their experiences, draw strength from them and push ever forward. It wasn't until I found the above examples, and more like them, that I could express these thoughts into words.

The issue is, if you look behind the curtain, that while some drug users were successful, most users end up ruining their lives because of drugs. See: Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain (debatable by some), Morrison, Mike Inez (AIC Bassist, dead from overdose after years in rehab), Layne Staley... I can keep going.
I will argue that the personal habits and issues of the user directly relate to how a drug affects their lives, but in general they do more harm than good. Same with legal drugs and alcohol.
But I will agree that we wouldn't have a lot of our great music or comedy without drugs either. Its a double-edged sword that can't be put in black and white terms. Its a case by case basis.
Some people can handle their drugs, and be successful in life. Some people die directly or indirectly due to their drug use. Some just get screwed by a system that isn't designed to help them, just punish them for being human and having failings.

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