The scary cult of Nintendo

Kevin Cowherd

November 13, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

DOES ANYONE else find it odd that the government has looked into the Moonies and Scientologists and Hare Krishnas -- as well as every two-bit devil-worshiping, goat-slaughtering sect in this country -- and yet does nothing about the largest and most brazen cult operating today?

I speak here of the Nintendo People, who clearly fit the definition of a cult:

1 -- Members exhibit blind devotion to a single cause (i.e. the safe passage of cartoon geek Super Mario through a graphics nether world of predators);

2 -- Underlying elements of secrecy are present (furtive hand signals indicating which control panel button to press, arcane codes used to achieve a higher "level" of play, elaborate instructional manuals only the initiated can understand, etc.);

3 -- Rigid thought control is practiced ("I MUST save Ninja Ryu from the evil Ashtar, I MUST save Ninja Ryu . . ." on a level unseen since Chairman Mao and the Chinese Cultural Revolution;

4 -- Members refuse to acknowledge reality (in the form of hunger, fatigue, outdoor play, homework, etc.).

According to the latest figures, there are some 32 million Nintendo sets in this country, giving the Nintendo People the kind of visibility not enjoyed by an alliance of young people since, oh, the Hitler Youth Corps back in the '30s.

(By comparison, the Boy Scouts have only around 5 million members. No wonder the country's going to hell in a handbasket.)

Be that as it may, each day the Nintendo People gravitate robotically to their units, eyes gazing blankly at a colorful screen, little fingers and thumbs tapping out a hypnotic rhythm on the control pad while anxious parents fret about what all this is doing to young minds.

Occasionally a cry of joy punctuates the eerie silence as a cult member successfully accomplishes a "task" set down by the group's "leaders" (who, for you paranoid conspiracy buffs, are the people who run Nintendo Co. Ltd. of Japan.)

More often, what emanates from the tiny bodies of the "players" are unearthly wails of anguish and frustration as the hero they commandeer via joystick is gunned down, blown up, stabbed, crushed, karate-chopped across the windpipe, etc.

At times such as these, you want to hug them and whisper soothingly: "There, there . . . it'll be all right."

But of course it won't be all right.

It won't be all right until they finally penetrate the Realm of Darkness and vanquish the evil Ashtar or help Mario save the Mushroom People or accomplish a similarly heroic, if foolhardy, task, which can take many days.

And once that happens, the Nintendo People will simply move on to another, ahem, "game" such as "Bad Dudes" or "Adventure Island" that will rivet their attention once again to the exclusion of everything else. God help us all.

Now there is further depressing news for parents who monitor the cult. It's probably just a coincidence (snicker, snicker) but, just in time for Christmas, Nintendo Co. Ltd. of Japan is introducing a new Nintendo video game deck.

This unit will retail for (steady, now) 200 bucks, which is what this writer paid for his first car back in 1969, a used pale green Volkswagen that had about the same cruising speed as a Shetland pony. Still, it was a car.

Anyway, the new Nintendo system is said to have "enhanced graphics," which means that all simulated gun battles, mortar attacks, stabbings, beatings, etc., will be even more colorful and lifelike, which is no doubt a comfort to parents as well as to juvenile corrections personnel. (Memo to moms and dads of Nintendo players: I'd think about locking that bedroom door at night. You know how impressionable the little dears are.)

Here is the part I love: the new Nintendo system (did I mention it goes for 200 bucks? I should mention that) requires all new Nintendo game cartridges. These will retail for an average of $50 a game. None of the old game cartridges will work on the new system, which means that parents of the Nintendo People will be besieged by their rotten, whining kids for a systems upgrade.

And the government sits there and does nothing.

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