For Tobey Von Altoids it was just another day at the arcade back in 1992 when his mother gave him a fistful of quarters and set him free for an afternoon of fun. In those days most arcade games would show the FBI: William S Sessions “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” sign during the attract screens. But unfortunately for Tobey his life would change forever when he walked up to a glitchy version of Street Fighter II.
Toby watched with amusement as the glitchy graphics of Ryu and Ken beat each other up with “Insert Coin” repeatedly pulsed on the screen. Then the screen faded out, and the “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” sign appeared. The glitched graphics covered up the “Don’t”, and to Tobey’s young influential eyes the message was clear: WINNERS USE DRUGS.
“Looking back I know precisely what caused me to pick up the needle,” explains Tobey as he checks in at a methadone clinic located in the same strip mall where the arcade once stood. “The video game told me to.”
Like many kids in the 1990’s video games were an important influence on children so it comes of no surprise that a glitchy machine would send a child down the path of self destruction.
“My mom thought I was stealing from her purse so I could go play video games, the reality is I was stealing to buy heroin.”
The broken arcade machine was just a gateway to further deviant behaviors. When the arcade closed in 1994 Tobey took his habit to his cousins house where he would use a Super Nintendo controller cord to tie off his arm and make his veins bulge.
“I reached a point where I didn’t care any more. My cousin would be playing Mario Kart, and I was just shooting up. The euphoria made some games like Bill Lambier’s Combat Basketball tolerable.”
Tobey has been clean and sober for 3 days. He plans to create a foundation to discourage anti-drug messages in computer equipment and toys.
“Until then,” he explains, “don’ t bother playing a glitchy video game unless you want to throw your life away.”