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The joys of Animal Crossing

Posted: April 2nd, 2004, by Marceline Smith

I’ve been thinking a lot about gaming recently and why, after 4 or 5 months of Gamecube ownership, I still only own three games. The reasons I put down mostly to lack of money, waiting for my sister to just buckle down and kill Ganondorf so I can borrow Wind Waker and that the two games I was playing (Majora’s Mask off the free Zelda disc and Billy Hatcher) were just TOO HARD and/or too time consuming.

My favourite games are the Zelda and Pokemon series and my favourite parts of them are just wandering around collecting stuff. You can guarantee I’ll have done all the sidequests way before I get anywhere near the final dungeon.

My least favourite gaming experiences have been bosses and impossible (to me) puzzles, usually involving jumping. I’ve lost count of how many games I’ve completed to the final boss and then got frustrated never to return and see the world saved.

(Coincidentally, there’s a similar thoughts going on at the Do You See? blog)

Thank goodness, then, for Animal Crossing. None of my friends seem to understand the appeal of this game and my best shot at describing it has been, “imagine an RPG without any bosses, or any plot”.

Basically the game runs in real time as you go about your daily life in a town populated with up to 15 animals. Every day you read your mail, buy clothes and furniture at the shop, go fishing or bug catching, chat to your neighbours, write letters, do errands, dig up fossils for the museum etc. There’s no plot whatsoever. You can work towards getting a perfect town, a completed museum and a huge house or you can just re-arrange your furniture and play NES games in your basement.

I was looking around today to see if anyone had started an Animal Crossing blog which I think could be really funny in the right hands. Instead I stumbled across a discussion on www.gamegirladvance.com which I found interesting for a number of reasons, the main one being how you only need to play Animal Crossing for 15-45 minutes at a time. I hadn’t quite realised that this what I most enjoy about AC – getting home of an evening, loading up AC and just reading my mail, checking the shop and chatting with the animals. And then I can switch it off and get on with all the other stuff I need to get done or get more involved as I try to pay off my debt and get some new trees to grow.

This is why it would be a tragedy if Nintendo stopped making games. Forever accused of making kids games, what they actually make is accessible games, games that anyone can play. In some ways, yes, that does often mean they’re easy. But in other ways, it means you’re not frustrated from enjoying huge parts of the game because of a lack of skill. Instead you get an immersive experience where your friends are encouraged to help out or join in through connectivity or multiplayer. And surely gaming should be as much about entertainment as challenge. Even with Grand Theft Auto, for all the talk of what an amazing game it is, people I know seem to just spend most of their time arsing about, kicking in prostitutes and doing ridiculous stunts in fire engines, much to the general amusement of onlookers. Zelda and Animal Crossing for two I think are really fun games just to watch someone else playing.

Surely now it’s time for all games to have realistic difficulty levels where Easy can actually be completed by your little sister or your gran and SuperHard can give those people who will happily stay up half the night trying to complete a level a real challenge.

Or even better, can we just give Nintendo a monopoly on games? Aw, go on…

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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