Newsweek published this story under the headline of “Zip! Zap! Video Games are back!” on March 14, 1988. In light of Nintendo’s release of the Nintendo Switch earlier this year, Newsweek is republishing the story.
Beware. You are about to enter the murderous Battlezone . . . the maddening Pac-Man maze . . . the menacing Gorfian galaxy. Within one-third of a second, the cannons will rumble . . . the monsters will pounce . . . the robots will open fire. The new music of the spheres will resound: ka-boom, c-r-r-unch, bleep-blip. Your tank, your hero or your spaceship will disintegrate unless you make the right maneuvers. Even so, the bad guys will win–sooner or later. And you stand to lose not only your quarters, but your very will to leave.
Greetings from the brave new universe of video games. Faster than a leaping laser, the video invaders have conquered pop culture like no force since television itself. A decade ago, the computerized games had barely begun to beep; now they’ve boomed into a $5 billion obsession that’s bigger financially than movies or records. Would-be star warriors plot strategies and pulverize aliens on campus, at home and in old pinball haunts–from Broadway’s Playland to the Blanca Oasis Drugstore in Sierra Blanca, Texas (population: 750). Like pinball wizards and pool sharks before them, most videologues are teen-age boys–but their pinstriped elders and a few intrepid femaIes are also pinging happily away. There’s even an otherworldly series: the finals of the first International Asteroids Tournament will be held in Washington this weekend.
For all their winning ways, video games have been bombarded by controversy. Critics contend that they squander allowances and study time, glorify violence and encourage everything from compulsive gambling to tendinitis (Space Invaders wrist). Taking a cue from the pool-troubled elders of the mythical…