Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
College of Arts and Sciences
The Just Say NO! Family Arcade in Louisville, Kentucky operated from 1989 to 1996 and was the only anti-drug themed arcade in the world. Jack Turner, owner and operator, got special permission from Nancy Reagan and the Just Say NO! Foundation to use the branding and imagery associated with the Just Say NO! campaign. While anti-drug advertising, Just Say NO!, and D.A.R.E. were all relatively unsuccessful campaigns in preventing drug and alcohol abuse in American youths, the Just Say NO! Arcade provides an alternative angle in teaching prosocial behaviors. This research seeks to answer whether or not an arcade can be an effective prosocial space, provide a safe space for youths, and prevent drug and alcohol abuse. In this essay, I examine the history of arcades, anti-drug advertising, U.S. drug policy, and “Third Place” theory within the context of the Just Say NO! Arcade. I also interviewed Jack Turner of the Just Say NO! Arcade to provide deeper understanding and expand the history of the regional arcade franchise. Third places provide spaces for social interaction and community building, and video games have been shown to have a positive impact on the development of children both individually and cooperatively. The gaming atmosphere embedded within the local community provided a gaming-focused third place in the Louisville neighborhoods, which would have been spaces for youths after school and on weekends. These spaces promoted cooperation and friendship under an anti-drug theme. Parents felt comfortable with their children visiting the space due to the strict rules of the arcade, and some children admitted to quitting smoking so that they could play games longer. Providing this space to the community promoted positive behaviors and discouraged drug and alcohol abuse. Likely, Turner’s arcades promoted the prosocial behaviors he was intending to build within his community.
Truman, Philip, "The War on Games: The Just Say NO! Arcade as a Pro-Social Third Place" (2023). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Capstones. 164.