From the February 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard
Long before Christianity a festive break during the dark, cold winter months helped people to get through the most trying time of the year. To replace celebration of the winter solstice, early Christians decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on 25 December; historically incorrect, but necessary to combat the appeal of the heathen jollifications.
Whatever the excuse, the holiday is over. We have had our parties—probably eaten and drunk a bit too much, certainly spent more money than we meant or could afford and, thankfully, waved goodbye to relatives and friends whom we genuinely welcomed at the start of the holidays. Listening to the radio on New Year's Day, one particular thought came uppermost. Money—"vast profits" to quote the narrator in Woman's Hour—are made, particularly during the season of "Peace and Goodwill"—from belligerence.
The Daily Telegraph, in a number of pre-Christmas items, mentioned that in spite of—or perhaps because of—unemployment and the "difficult times" people seemed determined to enjoy the holiday; toy shops were doing a good trade, and by far the most successfully selling lines were guns, soldiers and war games.
Supermarketing of 21 November reviewed the snacks market, which has grown from 85 million in 1970 to an estimated 450 million in 1980. 70 per cent of all snacks are eaten by children, although the purchasing is split 50/50 between parents and children. With such vast sums at stake, it is vital for manufacturers to "get their sums right" when launching new products, and it seems Smith's have done it again with their "Battle Bags". Their research team went out with over two dozen concepts like space, sport and war, but Frank Richardson, their marketing manager, said:
We have always believed that there is no long term mileage to be gained by associating our products with current crazes . . . We were therefore seeking a subject which . . . would have long-term appeal. War won hands down and so we decided to introduce Battle Tanks and Fighter Planes under the overall umbrella of the Battle Bags name.
The programme which started off this train of thought dealt with the huge success of computer games. Addicts and psychologists who were interviewed stated that the main appeal was that, to play successfully, one really had to stretch one's mind/ Concentration and involvement is such that they often found themselves shaking with nervous tension after a game. Apparently the most successful game is Space Wars, and it is ironic that the inventors of this, as well as the other games, are Japanese, who still commemorate in most dramatic fashion the horrific happenings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
However, let us end on a optimistic note. These computer games were originally invented to train space pilots in manipulation and navigation of their craft. The representative of one of the manufacturers foresaw games being produced which could be used to plan agriculture and the best use of resources, especially in under-developed countries. Used in this way, they would not only stimulate the mind, but help a socialist society to organise best use of the world's resources for the good of the world's community.