The Leader Of The Pack.
You know, it's funny. The first time people come across an Animal Crossing game, they usual scoff.
"This is a kids game." or "What are you even supposed to be doing, anyway?" are some of the questions fans of the legendary Animal Crossing games have to deflect.
I should know. In 2001, those were exactly the sort of questions I was asking when the first Animal Crossing game released on Nintendo Gamecube.
The Animal Crossing series leaves me in an interesting position. A 30-something guy with a wiry beard playing a game like this? I get some funny looks on the train, for sure. But like a Pixar movie, Animal Crossing isn't just for kids. Far from it.
Animal Crossing is something that has bubbled under the surface of mainstream popularity. The portable entries of Animal Crossing especially are very successful. They even outsell some of Nintendo's more well-known franchises. Super Smash Bros, Pokémon, Zelda have seen fewer numbers pushed than Animal Crossing games.
For those of you who don't know what Animal Crossing is, the simplest and best way I've found is to just say "It's like The Sims, but... completely different." Sure, that blasts open a window of interpretation so wide you could fit a Tom Nook loan through it. Yet people always seem to understand a little better after the comparison. The Sims was also a game scrutinised for not having a traditional end game when it launched. Why are we doing this? What's the point?
You see, you don't "win" Animal Crossing. Nor do you ever achieve anything other than the targets you set for yourself.
There are elements of design that make for a simple and easy way to be creative. There are moments of obsessive completion and box-ticking. You won't be chasing high scores and kill/death ratios either.
You'll spend much of your time in Animal Crossing ticking off daily tasks. Paying off more of your mortgage. Collecting bugs or trying to build a friendship with a weird looking Cat that lives over the river.
It all amounts to busy word, yes, but it's busy work at it's most charming and enjoyable. Much like Pokémon, it's surface simplicity hides deeper nuance that, once opened up, is a vortex that pulls you in and grabs hold of you like no other.
I suppose you could make genre leaps to games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. They're quite a similar gaming experience. But more so than either of those games, you feel like you're tapping into a world that exists. Whether you're there or not.
This is thanks to the real-time clock system that Animal Crossing incorporates. Playing the game in bed at night? It's night time in the game. Always at work during the day? Well... you may struggle to catch all those daytime bugs you're missing out on. Logging in on Christmas Day? Awww, everyone is celebrating Christmas Day in Animal Crossing too (or, Toy Day, as it's known.)
All this means that the game has a certain pull on you that other games struggle to achieve. Sure, time-limited events and special gaming seasons are all the rage these days. But because Animal Crossing syncs up to the real world one to one, it becomes part of your life; part of your routine.
Animal Crossing takes over your life. It takes over in the most devastating and enjoyable way possible.
For those of you who are already down the rabbit-hole, you know there's no experience in gaming quite like it. It's a jewel in Nintendo's weighty crown and one of the most Nintendo-like games you'll ever play.
As the world falls in love with Animal Crossing all over again, I issue a warning to anyone entering for the first time...
Remember: You have real-life that needs taking care of. That doesn't involve asking a weird-looking Giraffe how great your clothes are.
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Posted by: Michael
Michael loves his consoles, especially his Nintendo Switch! He enjoys spending the weekend relaxing and playing the newest video games to let off some steam, he's basically a pro.
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