The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 

              Copyright (c) 1997, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, January 4, 1997             TAG: 9701040009

SECTION: FRONT                   PAGE: A11  EDITION: FINAL 

TYPE: Opinion 

SOURCE: Kerry Dougherty 

                                            LENGTH:   69 lines


When my husband crept into bed at 2 o'clock the other morning, he mumbled something about having dozed off in front of the television set.

I believed him.

But later the next day I overheard him confiding to our 6-year-old son: ``You'll never believe what I did last night. I got past the cave.''

My son's eyes grew round with disbelief and admiration. ``What was it like?'' he asked.


Since it came into our lives it has separated the men from the women, the girls from the boys.

Santa Claus decided the 6-year-old in our house needed a Nintendo, so on Christmas morning there it was - the almost-obsolete Super Nintendo (who could afford the Nintendo 64 everyone was talking about?) complete with a Donkey Kong game.

Life hasn't been the same for the males in my household since.

Minutes after the wrapping paper came off, my brother-in-law bounded up the stairs to connect it to the television set.

He didn't come back for four hours and almost missed Christmas dinner. It wasn't the hookup that was so time-consuming. He was hooked.

Every time I turn around the men are missing. They've lost interest in normal activities like eating, sleeping and walking the dog in favor of pushing tiny buttons on a control panel. But it's not an entirely unphysical game - their legs twitch furiously while their fingers work the controls.

Last weekend I sent my daughter up to the television room to fetch the guys for dinner. She returned, alone and dejected. ``They'll be down as soon as they lose another life,'' she said.

This is clearly a gender thing. My 8-year-old daughter, a cyberspace whiz and a demon at computer solitaire and chess, tried Nintendo once, shrugged her shoulders and left the room.

But my husband, his brother and my son - who, for some reason calls it ``pretendo'' - are already addicted. This is bad news in a house that is decidedly television-deprived. We have just two sets - one that is on its flickering last legs in our guest room and the other in a drafty, slope-floored playroom. We are not a family of television watchers. But with Nintendo in our house, we've lost all hope of ever again seeing the Discovery Channel or PBS or CNN.

In fact, late one night over the Christmas holidays I went down to the television room for a session on my treadmill only to find my brother-in-law breathlessly bouncing a gorilla into the air to retrieve bananas (hmmm, what would Sigmund Freud have to say about all this anyway?)

I was too polite to tell him that I usually watch the news while I sweat, so instead I got a full 30-minute Donkey Kong workout.

It's confusing.

First of all, there are no donkeys. It seems the entire game is a misnomer. Legend has it that the Japanese wonk who developed the game made a mistake when translating the Japanese for ``Monkey Kong'' into English. By the time the error was discovered millions of labels had already been printed.

And there are two apes. One follows the other, but the person with the Nintendo can move only one. Frankly, this aping makes me more nervous than having someone read over my shoulder while I'm working on my computer.

Even more annoying is this little cheerful riff of music that plays over and over and over as the apes bounce their way through various reptile-infested obstacle courses and leap for higher and higher bananas.

Pretendo - oops, Nintendo - invaded our house almost two weeks ago and I still haven't gotten a chance to try it.

I'm not worried. Only men seem to get hooked on simians chasing bananas. I'm sure I could play a game and still get to bed before midnight. MEMO: Ms. Dougherty is an editorial writer for The Virginian-Pilot.

by CNB