Old News '82: Video Games Threaten The Model Industry

Before video games were a threat to society at large, they were a threat to the hobby of model-making. We're not talking about the creation of attractive people who appear on magazines. No, this is the other kind of modelling.

You are reading Kotaku's once-weekly (sort of) journey back to yesteryear. This week I wanted to draw inspiration from the concern about Modern Warfare 2's setting to explore an earlier time when games got people worried.

I searched the archives and found this 1982 clip from the UPI wire service, headlined: "Modelers' lament: Video games divert young from enrichment of modeling; Despite teen decline, adult hobby flourishes"

What followed was a story quoting modeller "hobby industry spokesman Richard Bennett" citing the now-familiar concerns that playing video games was taking money from other forms of entertainment and was going to cause bad effects on kids' health.

Here's a good excerpt for some flavour and vintage 1982 details:

''All they do is concentrate on how to get the highest score,'' [Bennett]said. ''The big thing is to blow up an entire galaxy. You go to an arcade and it's almost a way of life.

''We don't know the long-term effects. If they can show me the value of kids dropping $US5, $US10 into a machine, then fine.''

As a result of the games' popularity, the plastic modelling industry is in the doldrums. About $US216 million was spent for plastic kits last year in the United States. Only a slightly higher amount is expected this year, Bennett said.

However, Bennett, a spokesman for the Hobby Industry of America, said he was concerned that young people were playing the games at the expense of the educational benefits of modelling.

For example, he said model building can help problem students do better in school.

''Teachers couldn't get the kids to read because they had no motive to read,'' he said. ''But they got into modelling and had to read to follow the directions.''

All the astronauts developed their interest in flight by building model airplanes when they were kids, Bennett said.

The nation's most popular model kit is the General Lee car of the ''Dukes of Hazzard'' television series.

It went on, but I think you get the idea. I include today's entry not so that the gaming industry can gloat about crushing the plastic-model-making industry, but because I thought we'd all find it interesting how video games came under fire back in the old days — for something you may not have realised they even did.

For the record, I haven't made a plastic model of a boat or car since I was about seven. PIC via Flickr


    Heck, the last plastic model I put together was a Grand Convoy (read: Optimus Prime from the Transformers: Energon series) kit I imported. Was a lot of fun to do, but it's just too hard to find the time anymore.

    Sadly, even though I was only born the year after that article, I know I fit this trend.
    Growing up on a farm, I was right into model aircraft, both plastic and RC varieties (before ready-to-fly kits became the norm), spending as much time with them as I did playing games. But as games got better, and I was getting old enough to make/spend my own money, my preferred hobby definitely shifted more towards gaming.
    Now living in a city, I do still play with RC cars, but I spend far more time playing racing sims.

    The skills I developed building those plastic and balsa airframes have been invaluable at times. But on the flip-side, the skills I picked up from gaming (not from the games themselves, but the things associated with it, building my own computer, troubleshooting software issues etc) have landed me a career...

    I have a theory that all the current negitive focus on games is a conspiracy by model enthusiasts bitter about over gaming industries domination of their most beloved hobby.

    "The nation’s most popular model kit is the General Lee car of the ”Dukes of Hazzard” television series."

    Seriously?? Then again, i guess it was the early eighties!

    I wonder how many of those model cars were destroyed attempting spiral jumps and other stunts? I used to love destroying my models when they got a bit old hehe! =)

    Well, there's always Games Workshop... building a global business on the back of model kits that can then be used for the purpose of laying waste to your opponents army of similarly glue-and-plastic men. And using video games to help them sell their delightfully addictive plastic to still more people.

    I guess the moral of this story is less that people love video games over modelling, and more that people like any opportunity to wage mock war on one another. ;p

    Well, over the years (I`m over 60), I`ve collected a good number of military aircraft (1/48 scale only), but that is as far as I`ve gotten. I have bought all the tools (you know the ones you wanted when you were a kid but could never afford). So I have a whole lot of models still sealed in boxes.
    I have a hobby shop about 3 minutes away from my home. My wife just told me "Either build them or I give them away".
    The word has come down from above. I`m startng tomorrow.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now