In the '80s, "Parental Controls" Were a Master Lock Chastity Belt on the NES

In the '80s, "Parental Controls" Were a Master Lock Chastity Belt on the NES

Totally unbreakable. Totally insurmountable. Totally Master Lock.

For as long as video game consoles have existed, parents have been devising ways to get their kids off "the damn Atari/Nintendo/PlayStation/Xbox." Nowadays, parental controls make it relatively simple to limit kids' gaming time, but the '80s called for more… medieval methods.

On the Gaming subreddit, redditor "Quasargyle" posted a snapshot of an NES lock device tellingly named "Homework First." The mechanism seemingly prevents kids from inserting a game cartridge in the system unless they input the combination necessary to remove the device. "Control when and how much time your family plays Nintendo!" boasts the Homework First's ratty packaging. There's also a claim about how the lock prevents saved games from accidentally getting erased, but I'm honestly not sure how that would work. I guess technically if you're not playing a game, there's no risk of erasing your save data.

Many redditors in the Homework First discussion thread note how easy it would be to pick the lock. "I think I remember my cousin's family out West had one of these. Or at least something similar," writes "Cannibustible." "You could hear a pretty audible click for each correct number."

Other redditors reminisce about the lengths their parents went to in order to limit their time with retro game consoles. Taking away power cords was seemingly a popular option, though that problem was often solved by swapping out power cords with other electronic devices. Speaking personally, my mother just straight-up hid the Nintendo for months on end whenever I brought home a bad report card. To this day I don't know where she stowed it. I looked everywhere.

Modern consoles have built-in parental controls. Some of them are quite elaborate: The Switch interacts with an app that really lets parents control the nitty-gritty of their kids' gaming habits. To be honest, I don't know how effective Nintendo's measures are, since kids are infamous for getting around "net nanny" devices. In any case, digital locking systems are a lot more sophisticated than clipping a plastic-and-metal chastity belt on a game system.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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