One of my goals is to read three books a month. I set this as a goal back in 2012, and while I didn’t hit it EVERY month, I did well. Then last year I think I only read like three books the whole year. For someone who considers myself an avid reader, that’s really pathetic.
You might think things like work or my laborious admin program got in the way, or maybe I just couldn’t find the right book. You would be wrong. Something very near and dear to my heart got in the way, and it’s a video game called Animal Crossing.
Basically, it’s the best game ever made in the entire history of video games. I have literally played this game most nights for the past 13 years. You heard that right. THIRTEEN YEARSSSSSSSSS.
Let’s backtrack, shall we?
It was the year 2001, and I was “surfing the web” in my cubicle at General Motors, doing a little “personal” research on the Nintendo site. Hmmmmmm…what is this cute looking game with a animals on the front? I pondered to myself. The description read:
“It’s Not Just a Game…It’s a Way of Life. There are no points or levels, just an amazing array of sights and sounds, places and activities…all yours to explore. Spend your time passing new ordinances—or going fishing. Hang out at a coffee shop or visit a tropical island. It’s all up to you.”
For a young girl working her way through college, working the night shift for $8.00/hr, it sounded like the perfect escape (cue up Don’t Stop Believing in the background right about now). A week later, I was glued to my couch, talking to my new animal friends in my new town. I caught fish and bugs and donated them to the museum; I traded furniture with my neighbors to decorate my modest house; I pulled weeds and planted flowers; I would dig for rare and unique fossils. All the while, the game was on a real 24 hour time cycle, where things were different depending on what time you played. (When other college aged kids were out partying at 2:45am, I was looking for rare beetles). When the seasons changed in the real world, they also changed in the game.
WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE????
I grew up playing intense games set up on “winning” or “defeating” or “killing” but this game has none of that. When you accidentally bump a character too many times, their feelings get hurt and you feel like a jerk and end up giving them a present to apologize. As much as I loved Streetfighter II, Dr. Mario, or Puzzlefighter Turbo, this game provided a gentle relaxation into a place where everything was happy. Even the SIMS has objectives.
But it gets deeper. At my first hellish trip to Outdoor School (a 5 night camping excursion with 6th graders), the woman I was forced to bunk with SNORED LIKE A JET PLANE. I was so miserable! Rather than stab her in her sleep, I turned on Animal Crossing, plugged in my headphones, and fell asleep to the soothing music (that never ends because the game just sits there). I found this to be a useful trick on any long plane ride.
Here it is, 2014, and I am heavily invested in the most recent version on my Nintendo DS. It’s a slightly upgraded version, but basically the same thing I’ve always played. Every night, I pick up my DS in bed and continue to hunt for matching furniture or new fish. If you go more than a few days without playing, the animals worry about you, like, “Is everything ok? I thought maybe you were sick.”
But I’ve decided to have a serious talk with all the animals in Cat Town (yes, that is my town’s name). I need to read more. Playing 6 hours of video games and reading a book one hour a week is out of whack (for christ’s sakes I have a degree in English Literature). My days and nights and months and years within my simulated life are not over (because that would make real life not worth living), but I’ve been making a concerted effort to finish JJ Abrams’ new book by this Saturday and that takes commitment.
Good night, my sweet.