Voters in the town of Marshfield, Massachusetts, will soon decide whether to cut loose a 30-year-old ban on videogames in public places.
Back in 1982, two years before Kevin Bacon set the citizens of Beaumont on the path to revolution with his exhortation to kick off their Sunday shoes, the citizens of Marshfield, Massachusetts, decided to protect their own young'uns from the evils of videogames by banishing them from all corners of the public realm. After the Supreme Court of the United States dashed the hopes of gaming supporters when it refused to hear the case, all the town's Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Tron machines were unplugged and wheeled away. So it has remained to this very day.
But now lifelong resident George Mallet is circulating a petition asking that the ban be overturned at the next annual Town Meeting. Mallet said a lot of people don't even know that public videogames are illegal and he's hopeful that anti-gaming hysteria has subsided enough to allow the restriction to be lifted. Yet amazingly, the "bring back gaming" movement might be in for a fight.
A similar motion to repeal the law was brought before the 1994 Town Meeting and was shot down in flames. Chairwomen Faith Jean warned at the time that allowing videogames in public places would attract other "smut" to the town, a sentiment echoed by resident Tom Jackson, who "guaranteed" that the presence of arcade machines would "open the door to adult entertainment." Police Chief William P. Sullivan Jr., speaking as an expert in the field of law enforcement, claimed that publicly-available videogames "put children at risk to the negative aspects of life."
Mallet said he's not seeing the same level of resistance to the idea this time around, noting that only one person, a waitress who doesn't want to have to deal with kids while she's trying to work, has thus far refused to sign his petition. "I know people really care about taxes and schools," he said. "But it's a ridiculous law - why not just get rid of it?"
But at least one opponent of the first effort to overturn the ban is still holding her ground. "It would definitely change the type of entertainment we offer," Jean said, explaining her continued opposition to public games. "We're a coastal town. Now are we an amusement coastal town or are we fishing and swimming and sailing?"
Amazingly, despite the ban Marshfield allows electronic gambling machines like Keno in bars, restaurants and even some stores.