I’m in a mood to write something empirical at the moment so bear with me. Get it? Bear with me? Oh, come on!
I wanna talk about one of my favourite games ever: Animal Crossing. I really think this game is one of those “cult favourites” if you know what I mean. Like, people know of it, but a lot of people don’t really get super into it like some of these other games out there. I doubt Animal Crossing will ever usurp Mario as Nintendo’s number one thing, but I’m always going to be a big fan of it.
So, for all my readers out there that don’t know what Animal Crossing is, it is a sort of life simulator video game. There’s really no easy way to categorize Animal Crossing because it is pretty unique. If I say “life simulator” people think The Sims, but this isn’t The Sims. I can say it is a city simulator, but then people start thinking Sim City and this is absolutely not Sim City.
What I will do is explain the premise of the games for the most part. I mean, Wild World is pretty close to the original Animal Crossing game that came out on GameCube, but City Folk and New Leaf added a few more objects to the game, but the whole game is about the same.
You sit in a train car with a mysterious destination. Your past? A blur. You’re just excited to go into the real world. You’re sitting there, just enjoying the ride when all of the sudden a cat walks by and asks to sit with you. You allow him. He then goes on and on about himself and how he’s just a wanderer and then asks about your destination. You give him a name of whatever town you are heading to and he remarks that he either never heard of it or likes it. He then asks what your name is and then makes fun of you because he thinks your name is odd. You then tell him it is “cool” or “cute” and he remarks that it must be some kind of human boy/girl name. Then the train arrives at your town and you get off, bidding the cat farewell.
When you get off the train, a rather plump racoon greets you saying he knows all about you and they you’re settling down in whatever town. He allows you to purchase a house that he owns, but puts you in crippling debt because you have like 100 bells (the game’s currency). He offers you a deal to continue to catch fish, catch bugs, or sell things to pay off your house loan. Along the way, you befriend your fellow animal villagers and participate in town events. The villagers come and go, but your friendships will never die! Eventually, you pay off that loan and boom! The racoon throws a bigger addition to your house, throwing you in more crippling debt. This goes on and on for the game’s entirety.
So, this doesn’t sound like much, but it really is.
My first encounter of Animal Crossing happened when I was just a lad in school. The school library had bookmarks out, and one of them was a picture of a dorky looking racoon. I looked at it because I was looking into buying a GameCube and said “Wow, Animal Crossing? This looks really stupid! Cross animals? What?”
Years later, I had a friend that I only saw every other weekend since he lived so far away and we had tennis lessons together. He was going on about this new game he played called Animal Crossing and how it was really cool. I asked him “What do you do? I saw it and it looks really stupid.” He didn’t know how to answer and that was the end of that.
Then one day my brother and I went to GameStop to buy a game or something and he was like “Hmm Animal Crossing. Let’s get it. I think it looks dumb, but it is really cheap.” We bought it. He started a town and got the familiar Rover questions and he instantly hated Rover. Rover asked where he was going and he was like “What happens if I just put this stupid open mouth face?” so he did. He was then stuck with a town named “:O”. He grew to hate Rover because he made fun of his name. There’s something wrong with my brother and I when naming our stuff. In Harvest Moon, he named his character “Takaharu” because he thought the game asked him “what is the guy’s name that you just met.” In Pokemon Red, I didn’t know how to read, so I named my character “B” and my rival “U!”
Anyway, I saw him play around town and decided that maybe this game wasn’t so stupid after all and made my own character. That began my Animal Crossing life. I would later go on to buy Wild World and then upgrade to New Leaf after Wild World refused to load after hours of play.
So, what is it about Animal Crossing that keeps me so into it? I honestly think that Animal Crossing is a great mirror to real life. I mean, obviously if I befriended a talking eagle, people would think I’m crazy. That talking eagle has a name by the way. His name is Apollo and his birthday is the 4th of July.
From the beginning of the game, it is like real life. Right after college I was thrown into the real world and all I could say is “now what?” I’ve lived at my parents’ home for years and never knew anything besides school. Now, all my school friends are gone and I’m in a new town. I have to find a place to live and that’s where our good friend Tom Nook comes into play. Tom Nook, the racoon shopkeep and real estate tycoon, opens his arms to the player and gives them a place to live. Sure, his intentions are good, but he smacks you with reality. Nothing in life is free so why should your house be free too? I thought he was joking when I first played. 150,000 bells?! How?! I don’t have a job! Nope. He wasn’t kidding. He’s actually kind of on par. To buy a house, it is almost like $150,000 dollars. I don’t know I don’t own a house. It is probably more. Don’t ask me. Probably closer to 500K, but whatever. This game shows that houses are a huge cost and extremely necessary. The player lives there and needs the house to save the game. Nook also teaches us that thankfully we can get a loan to buy things.
The only thing I think Animal Crossing misses out on is interest and what happens if you don’t pay the loan. I suppose in a way it does mimic what happens if you don’t pay. If you don’t pay and have a bunch of cool stuff, then you can’t fit it in your house to decorate. This forces the player to have to pay off the loan to upgrade the house so it can hold more things.
Anyway, the economical factor doesn’t end there. Nook starts off with a tiny hut, but as you purchase stuff from him, he expands his small business into a huge department store. It shows his success is based off your consumption! This is true for real life businesses. A business can only grow if it has the customers.
The game also taught me about friendships. I mean, the animals have certain phrases they say all the time and sometimes it gets boring, but they come to befriend you. At first they’ll just kind of belittle you, but as the days pass, they kind grow to like you.
Yes, I say days.
This game works kind of like real life. You don’t become friends with someone in a day unless you spend hours talking to them. You talk to them a lot, then the next time you see them, you pick back off where you left and grow the friendship from there. That happens in this game. Talk too much to a certain animal and they get annoyed. Come back too much later and they could be in their house sleeping or something.
What really hits home is that sometimes the villagers move away from your little town. The same goes for real life. Sometimes people move on and you just have to accept it. This fact was more apparent in the first Animal Crossing game since most of the time villagers didn’t tell you when they were leaving, but still. In New Leaf, if you ignore a villager while they are thinking of moving, they’ll pack up and then there’s nothing you can do about it!
Granted, you grow to like some villagers and then not care about others. It is their personalities that really hook me. I really like the “jock” and “grumpy” personalities and tend to have a good time chatting with them. Like I said, Apollo was one of my favourite villagers and he was considered “grumpy.”
I believe the game also teaches some other important lessons like caring about yourself as well as learning life isn’t fair.
If you ignore the town for a couple of days, for example not playing, you’ll notice a bunch of weeds growing. You can pluck the weeds and make the town look nice again, but ignore it for too long and the weeds overtake the town! This teaches that you gotta take care of yourself. The villagers even seem to worry about you if you stay away for too long. The “grumpy” ones ask if you were on the lamb from the law while “peppy” and “normal” villagers ask if you got sick and needed time to feel better.
The game teaches that life isn’t far as well! If you die in some game and get mad, it is easy just to turn it off and forget about it. Not in Animal Crossing! If you turn off the game without saving, you get a huge, angry lecture from a mole named Mr. Resetti. He pretty much tells you the importance of saving the game. More importantly, this shows life isn’t fair. Maybe you didn’t win the fishing contest so you wanna turn off the game and try again. No. You didn’t win because you didn’t win. That’s how it is. That’s life. You don’t always win.
In the end, Animal Crossing might not seem like much other than a game, but it means something to me. It grew on me. It makes me feel less miserable. Maybe I’m just a grumpy villager in the end. So I’ll keep on catching fish and selling it back to Nook just to upgrade my house. I don’t mind. It’s life.
I just can’t believe I wrote it off as “stupid” that one day.
That’s really it. If you like Animal Crossing, go ahead and tell me about your tales.