GameCube Week “technically” today on In Third Person! One more official post in the series; this time about Animal Crossing!
Whether I’m cracking skulls with gravity-defying uppercuts, or launching mystical dragons from a bow and arrow, or dropping blocks down a well, I primarily use video games as an escape from the ordinary. Animal Crossing – while maybe not the most dramatic departure from reality, was an escape nonetheless. One that I obsessed over for a solid year.
Hopping off the bus to my new hometown, Animal Crossing was the first simulation game to ever truly hook me in. Having dabbled in games like Sim City beforehand, the more hardcore aspects of simulation games always threw me for a loop. How the heck am I supposed to know what a good tax rate is? What do you mean building factories beside residential areas is a bad idea? I eventually just end every play of that game by sending Godzilla in to destroy the city.
Animal Crossing gave you the sensation of living in a setting similar to real life, but with less of the chores of real life. You didn’t have to worry about eating, sleeping, or using the bathroom, though you could do all three if you wanted. Once you paid off your initial debt to Tom Nook, you were free to do whatever you wanted.
Become a master fisherman? Collect all the dinosaur fossils? Design your own clothes? Make friends with your neighbours? Decorate your home to your exact specifications? There was so much to do. Even menial tasks such as picking up weeds was oddly satisfying. Many focused their efforts on paying Tom Nook for the full-sized house, but there were many different ways of gaining satisfaction with your time.
What fascinated me the most about Animal Crossing was how it worked in real time. If you played the game at 6:30 in the morning, it was 6:30 in the morning, with the sun rising, stores closed, and your neighbours still asleep. The world changed depending on what time of the day and what time of the year you played it. Seasonal events such as Christmas only came about once a year, so you better play it to order to experience it!
For about a year, I played this game for a few minutes every day. Collect a bunch of stuff, talk to some friends, play one or two of the unlockable NES games that existed within this world, then end things off by making a payment to Tom Nook. I loved that world and wanted to experience everything it had to offer. It never felt like a chore, as there were no deadlines for any of my actions. Maybe it was overly aimless for some, but it was a refreshing break from the norm for me.
Eventually, I put the game down and moved on. Over time, my desire to go back to Animal Crossing has waned, as I’d driven the first game into the ground and the changes from one to the next were minimal at best. But that one year where Animal Crossing was almost better than my real life was an experience I’ll never forget.