When I was younger, the premise of Animal Crossing always seemed ridiculous to me. Paying off a loan by doing mundane tasks? That seemed like the most boring, adult premise to a video game I have ever heard of. But as the years have gone by, and the new Animal Crossing game is on the (new) horizon, I’ve started to find the gameplay loop exceedingly more appealing. But what does age and getting older have to do with it? It’s mostly just a change of perspective and what it means to live a good life.
An unfair critique I gave to Animal Crossing was that the gameplay is boring because the things you do in order to get money and move forward in the game are pretty mundane. This was unfair because I was still enjoying the hell out of games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, where you pretty much just water plants and raise animals to make money.
Things don’t need to be action-packed or wildly different from ordinary life for you to enjoy them. Humans lead pretty boring and uneventful lives, and we still find meaning and enjoyment out of that, but Animal Crossing is better than everyday life for so many reasons.
So why does the thought of paying off my island getaway debt excite me when paying off my student loans in real life make me want to cry? Because there are absolutely no consequences in Animal Crossing when it comes to money.
If you don’t pay your debt in real life, you ruin your credit, the bank starts to call you, and you always have this feeling of dread and consequences hanging over you.
In Animal Crossing, nothing happens.
There are no deadlines, no interest rates, and you don’t feel like a failure. The only consequence is that you can’t expand your own home, which may stop the flow of gameplay a bit, but it’s nothing compared to real life.
In real life, it takes years and countless hours of work (possibly at a job you don’t like or find unfulfilling), to pay off debt and achieve long terms goals. One of the reasons we love to play games is that it gives us a feeling of accomplishment when we reach short term goals within the game, and the longer achievement of actually beating the game.
Animal Crossing gives you that huge achievement of paying off your debt much faster, and on a much more lighthearted tone. There is no skill involved to play the game so it’s incredibly accessible and there is never any feeling of guilt involved. The ease of acquiring currency also really ties into why the customization of the game is such a huge deal.
Animal Crossing is about creating and customizing your living space and life, just as much as it is about catching bugs and going fishing to pay off your debts. New Horizons is taking a huge leap forward with this aspect as you will be able to customize every inch of the island.
Customization has never been a big selling point for me in video games. I like more linear, carefully constructed experiences. But damn, does thinking about how I’m going to have my own personal island get my blood pumping.
Again, I think this has really come with age because in real life, you don’t get the chance to customize to your heart’s content. Renovating and adding to your home is a huge financial burden that takes a lot of time. And a lot of people do not have this kind of financial freedom. Very few of us get to have our dream homes, in our dream towns, and live only with people whom we like. Sure, we do have a lot of control over our lives and how they play out, but it’s no surprise that the idea of endless creativity is more exciting the older you get.
Animal Crossing may be a simple game with a simple premise, but it’s very cute how excited people get to just create another life they can be proud of, and I am officially among those ranks.
Life is just hard. There are a lot of expectations and obligations from those around us and those which we put on ourselves. It makes sense that as we get older, we want an escape where we get to do the simple, mundane activities of life without the threat of any social or financial backlash. So let’s all just relax and live our island getaway life.