Video Games

Small Mass. Town Finally Ends Silly Ban on Arcade Machines


So many lives destroyed … trying to get to that bouncing pretzel.
Credit: Rob Boudon / photo on flickr red

It took three tries, but it is now legal to have coin-operated arcade machines in businesses in Marshfield, Massachusetts. So if you're in the tiny coastal town (population: less than 5,000) and you get bored of playing arcade games on your smartphone for free, you can sink quarters into the real, 30-year-old machines, legally!

As The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts, explains, the ban has been in place since 1982, which was around the time where arcades hit their golden age. It would be like a city banning selfies today (I'm sure one probably is thinking of it). Attempts to overturn the ban have failed (including an effort to get it before the Supreme Court), but a vote at the end of April finally did the trick, barely, by a public tally of 203-175:

The proposal was brought as a petition by resident Craig Rondeau, who said the ban on arcade games never made sense to him, even as a fourth-grader.

"I was sitting thinking, 'why is this illegal in my town, to have fun with my friends,'" he said, recalling a visit to a Hanover arcade as a child.

Apparently, though, the town's advisory board was still unanimously against removing the ban and Rondeau was told there was no "support" by local businesses to take action. So he rounded up six businesses to sign on to a petition and get a vote. And even so, one woman told the paper she was against removing the ban because, the paper notes: "'There is gaming all over the place, and there's nothing fun about it,' she said, adding that children running around restaurants is disturbing." Do not invite this woman to any of your parties.

The timing of this vote dovetails nicely with Reason's launch of our June issue, titled "Video Game Nation." Components of our coverage will be appearing on this site this week, so watch this space. Among the features is a timeline by Jesse Walker looking at the historical (and at times, hysterical) moral panics against video games, starting from the days of the pinball machine all the way up to our battles today over online poker.

NEXT: Massachusetts to Scrap Its Broken, $179 Million Health Exchange

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  1. Fond memories of pinball at the pool hall and bowling alley, and bonding with my much-older sister at the airport playing Two Tigers after we had a couple toddies. Good times…

    WTF is wrong with this town?

    1. It’s in Massachusetts, for one thing.

  2. by a public tally of 203-175

    The fact that there are 175 people in just this one little town who thinks a legitimate roll of government is to ban pinball machines, is a prime example of why we are losing our freedoms.

    1. ” a legitimate roll of government “

      (add coastal Mass accent)

      “Ahh yaah, thaa’d be nice there, a gaavamint roll, with a mayo, and some chowdaa.”

      which reminds me of one of the greatest simpsons’ moments ever =

      Young Quimby: “Say it again!”
      French waiter: [Sigh] “shau-dare”
      Young Quimby: “HA! Its *chowdaah!”

      1. “Say it right, Frenchy!”

  3. “”Well, now that they’re obsolete I suppose we can make some exceptions. But no Mutuscopes Showing Ladies in their Knickers!

  4. Did a significant portion of the “no vote” mistakenly think they were voting to keep slot machines illegal? Is there some kind of weird “bootlegger and Baptist” coalition at play? Did the anti-nickelodeon and saloon league round up the homeless people to run up the no vote? What on earth is going on?

    1. My guess is: old people. They vote, and they often hate anything kids do.

      1. Hey! I’m old and … just a minute, I have to go yell at some kids to get the hell off my lawn…

    2. I’m guessing that 175 of the people who voted are actually the same people who were around when they banned the machines originally, probably because some local pastor claimed that there are devils in those machines that will send your kids to hell.

      I was around in the 80s when there were devils in D&D games, Masters of the Universe cartoons, and pretty much anything and everything.

      Nothing has changed, except that the preachers have been replaced by progs and feminazis, and now it’s sexual predators and rapists who are going to get the childins.

      1. “devils in D&D games, Masters of the Universe cartoons, and pretty much anything and everything.”

        People in my parent’s church called it all ‘the occult.’ Harry Potter was a target that I remember.

        1. People in my parent’s church called it all ‘the occult.’ Harry Potter was a target that I remember.

          Yeah, pretty much the same. I had already escaped from the clan before the Harry Potter days.

      2. It’s all fun and games until the demons get you.

        And now to ban that ridiculous foolsball…

        1. Foozball is de debil!

  5. I liked this movie better when it was called “Footloose”

  6. See if this brings back memories:

    Wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka chomp wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka chomp wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka chomp wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka wocka DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE…

    1. The night Fozzie Bear snapped?

      1. “WHAT THE FUCK IS GONZO?!?”

        (blam blam blam blam)

        1. “Und noo ve-a shell meke-a beer stoo! Bork Bork Bork!”

    2. The worst scratch-DJ ever?

    3. eeeeeeeerrrrrr-oit-oit

  7. But what is the city council’s position about dancing and those fancy new compact disk players?

  8. Forget California; Massachussets is truly the state most deserving of getting kicked out of the Union.

    1. New Jersey. But PA has been making a run for the money. And if they have to, they’ll totally do away with that constitution thing to take the prize!

      1. PA’s Supreme Court just got in line with federal law. So, not apposite.

    2. Deep South, package deal.

      1. Why? Oh, right, witches.

  9. It’s like Massachusetts is at war with its progressive and puritan roots at the same time.

    1. Progressive Puritans. And we thought it couldn’t get any worse.

      1. It is a odd town politically.

        It went for Mitt Romney in 2012…..-2012.html

        But it has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans. It has a Democrat state representative and a Republican state senator.…..Government

        1. But it has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans. It has a Democrat state representative and a Republican state senator.

          They just are having a hard time figuring out by which team and by which method they want people oppressed by.

  10. This is like overturning a ban on video rental stores.

  11. The arcade scene is dead in the United States. It’s still somewhat strong in Japan, but even they’re dwindling a bit.

  12. I’m sure the resident Masshole, Craig, will be along momentarily to tell us how great his state is and pull up some obscure article about how TWO(!!!!) towns in South Carolina banned something once.

  13. There was an attempt to overturn this ban back in 2011. about 1,200 people showed up to vote and the ban was upheld by a vote of about 100 (about 650 for the ban to 550 against). So I would say that this is less a win for common sense as it is a win for voter apathy.

  14. Well, either you’re closing your eyes
    To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
    Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
    By the presence of a pool table in your community.
    Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
    I say, trouble right here in Marshall, Mass.

    Why sure I’m a pinball player,
    Certainly mighty proud I say
    I’m always mighty proud to say it.
    But just as I say,
    It takes judgement, brains, and maturity to score
    In a pinball game,
    I say that any boob kin take
    And eat dots in a maze.
    And they call that sloth.

    The first big step on the road
    To the depths of deg-ra-Day–
    I say, first, medicinal wine from a teaspoon,
    Then beer from a bottle.
    An’ the next thing ya know,
    Your son is playin’ for money
    In a pinch-back suit.
    And list’nin to some big out-a-town Jasper
    Hearin’ him tell about horse-race gamblin’.
    Not a wholesome trottin’ race, no!
    But a race where they set down right on the horse!
    Like to see some stuck-up jockey’boy
    Sittin’ on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil?
    Well, I should say.

    Friends, lemme tell you what I mean.
    Ya put one, two, three, four, five, six quarters in a slot.
    Quarters that mark the diff’rence
    Between a gentlemen and a bum,
    With a capital “B,”
    And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for Pacman!

  15. And all week long your Marshall, Mass.
    Youth’ll be frittern away,
    I say your young men’ll be frittern!
    Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!
    Get the dots off the maze,
    Never mind gittin’ Dandelions pulled
    Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded.
    Never mind pumpin’ any water
    ‘Til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty
    On a Saturday night and that’s trouble,
    Oh, yes we got lots and lots a’ trouble.
    I’m thinkin’ of the kids in the knickerbockers,
    Shirt-tail young ones, peekin’ in the arcade
    Window after school, look, folks!
    Right here in River City.
    Trouble with a capital “T”
    And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for Pacman!

    Now, I know all you folks are the right kinda parents.
    I’m gonna be perfectly frank.
    Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes
    On while they’re loafin’ around that Arcade?
    They’re tryin’ out Bevo, tryin’ out cubebs,
    Tryin’ out Tailor Mades like Cigarette Feends!
    And braggin’ all about
    How they’re gonna cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen.
    One fine night, they leave the Arcade,
    Headin’ for the dance at the Arm’ry!
    Libertine men and Scarlet women!
    And Rag-time, shameless music
    That’ll grab your son and your daughter
    With the arms of a jungle animal instink!
    Friends, the idle brain is the devil’s playground!

  16. Trouble, oh we got trouble,
    Right here in Marshall Mass!
    With a capital “T”
    That rhymes with “P”
    And that stands for Pacman,
    (That stands for Pacman.)
    We’ve surely got trouble!
    Right here in Marshall, Mass.
    (Right here!)
    Gotta figger out a way
    To keep the young ones moral after school!
    Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble…

    Mothers of Marshall, Mass!
    Heed the warning before it’s too late!
    Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption!
    The moment your son leaves the house,
    Does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee?
    Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger?
    A dime novel hidden in the corn crib?
    Is he starting to memorize jokes from Capt.
    Billy’s Whiz Bang?
    Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
    Words like ‘swell?”
    And ‘so’s your old man?”
    Well, if so my friends,
    Ya got trouble,
    Right here in Marshall, Mass!
    With a capital “T”
    And that rhymes with “P”
    And that stands for Pacman.
    We’ve surely got trouble!
    Right here in Marshall, Mass!
    Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!
    Oh, we’ve got trouble.
    We’re in terrible, terrible trouble.
    That game with the four colored ghosts is a devil’s tool!
    Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble!
    With a “T”! Gotta rhyme it with “P”!
    And that stands for Pacman!!!

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