Winners Don’t Use Drugs

If you had been to the arcade during the early ninties, and lived in the US (or the PAL Regions), you would’ve seen these two screens during the attract mode for many arcade games.

Ever wanted to know what they were about?

No? Well I’ll tell you.

Winners Don’t Use Drugs
In 1989 the first initiative was set up, as part of the FBI’s “Just Say No” campaign, which was designed to stop children and young people from taking part in drug, alcohol, recreational sex, violence, and other fun things that grown ups do. The “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” motto and campaign was established by William S. Sessions, the director of the FBI between 1987 and 1993. A law was passed, in agreement between the FBI and the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) which decreed that all arcade games imported into the US carried this warning. It was mainly used in arcade games, though appeared in a number of pinball games. The image could be seen in the attract mode of arcade games everywhere from 1989 until 2000, effectively the death of the amusement arcade era.

William S. Sessions, the guy who’s picture appears to the right of this text, actually is a bit of a legend in Japan. If games got shipped to the US from Japan and back again, the Japanese and their great grasp of Engrish usually thought it said “Williams Sessions”, after the famous pinball manufacturer.

Recycle It, Don’t Trash It!
In 1992, the USEPA (United States Enivornmental Protection Agency) started it’s “War on Pollution” effort, an overall tackle on everything and anything to do with pollution. A number of subsidary campaigns were launched (the “Energy Star” being the most famous, the logo is seen on PC bootups to this day), and one of them was called “Trashing it is completely uncool”. A law was passed in 1992 – in agreeance between the USEPA and the AAMA stating that any arcade game imported into the US would have to have a screen which advertises this campaign. This campaign lasted from 1992 until 2000.

The chap who’s name appeared – William K. Reilly, the Administrator of the USEPA – still had his name on the screen long after he left the USEPA in 1992 (Unlike William S. Sessions). And his official portrait is to the right.

Why In The UK?

You may be asking “I live in the UK, why the bloody hell did I see them?”. Well, it was a time saving measure. Often, with the release of games, instead of recieving games from Japan converted into English, we recieved games from the US, already converted to English. Hence why they often had American spelling, and also why they had these screens.

Worrying Picture
I found it a worrying generalisation when I started my research for this piece. Basically, the FBI and the USEPA thought that arcade hounds were druggies and people who didn’t recycle, two of the most evil types of people there are – fact. I wonder how many people actually saw them and stopped taking drugs, or started recycling.

Did you?

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4 thoughts on “Winners Don’t Use Drugs

  1. Well, when I played the games that had these warnings, I was a clean, studious kid, so there was no need to stop taking drugs. By the time I hit 17 a few years later I was a stoner like all my buddies, so I guess there’s no accounting for the preventative effects of Session’s FBI message!

  2. “In 1992, the USEPA (United States Enivornmental Protection Agency) started it’s “War on Pollution” effort,”
    No ‘ in that sentence.

    “The chap who’s name appeared”

    “Often, with the release of games, instead of recieving games from Japan converted into English”
    I before E except after C.

    Overall, this arcade screen was pointless, if you were taking drugs it wouldn’t have stopped you, if you didn’t know about the existence of drugs, you started to ask questions as a 13 year old kid.

    When i saw it, I actually thought it was comedy message created by the arcade game writers to parody the US FBI not a legit message. They should have tried a different avenue.

  3. The warnings had the same effect on me as “Butt Out!” did on the South Park kids. It made me want to take drugs! Particular given what I’d heard about the FBI – that it was corrupt and evil,and part of “the system”.

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