On the Changing Values of Animal Crossing
This piece was written by Emily Mozzone, one of GeekGirlCon’s Marketing Designers. If you’d like to pitch a guest post, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
There’s no doubt that Animal Crossing has come far as a Nintendo IP. For those of us who have played since the beginning, Animal Crossing has metamorphosed from an odd, obscure game that none of your friends played into the worldwide phenomenon it is today. The data backs this up: Animal Crossing for the GameCube sold a little over 2 million copies worldwide, while Animal Crossing: New Horizons “sold some 1.88 million copies in its first 3 days on sale in Japan” only, and that’s not even including digital copies.
A lot has changed in the Animal Crossing universe since its launch 19 years ago, and overall I think these changes are for the better. The game is generally more accessible and friendly to players: I’m thankful that I live in a world where I can just fly to my friends’ islands over the internet rather than try to find another kid who owns Animal Crossing on the GameCube and then trust them enough to physically swap our memory cards. I’m glad that kids don’t have to get constantly berated and teased by their villagers (let’s be real, GameCube NPCs were savages).
But as the series has progressed and strived to be even more fun and enjoyable, I think a little bit of the magic and freedom has been lost. f
Historically, Animal Crossing has been about taking your time. We live in a world that constantly asks you to rush, be productive, make money. In video games, we fight, we level up, and we try to win. Animal Crossing throws all this out the window. There is no way to win: Animal Crossing simply asks you to value “family, friendship, and community.”
So what’s changed in the Animal Crossing world? Why do I feel like the game has strayed from these original values?
The Commodification of Villagers
With the introduction of smooth online play, it’s easier than ever for players to get their favorite, ideal villagers, known in the community as “dreamies.” Historically, getting your dreamies was simply pure luck. You had to wait for one of your current villagers to move out, then pray that one of your dreamies moved in. Just like everything in Animal Crossing, good things came to those who waited.
Beginning in Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the 3DS, players are now able to easily “adopt” villagers from other players’ towns. This was implemented so your friends could invite your villagers to live in their towns.
In practice, it’s resulted in villagers being sold like property in internet forums. A quick scroll through the r/AdoptMyVillager Reddit reveals bidding wars for popular dreamies, with villagers selling for 5 million+ Bells (in-game currency) or dozens of Nook Mile Tickets (NMT).
Villagers can also be obtained in the game via physical Amiibo cards, which have been out of print for years. For popular villagers, these cards sell for more than the value of the game.
In the Animal Crossing community, having undesirable or “ugly” villagers is no longer acceptable. Instead of living harmoniously with your island’s animals, players often push, bully, or hit villagers until they eventually move out.
Time Traveling: A Race for the Best Island
Time travel, also known as time skipping, is a hotly debated act in the Animal Crossing community. Put simply, the player can change the in-game clock forward or backward to make days go by faster. As Animal Crossing gameplay is tied to the real date and time, players can manipulate the clock to make holidays last for longer, skip around seasons, or jump ahead in time hoping one of their “ugly” villagers moves out. Many older players (myself included) consider it cheating and not in the spirit of the game. Historically, there wasn’t much reason to time travel. It made weeds grow in your town, gave you bedhead and put roaches in your house, and it made flowers die. Oftentimes, it just wasn’t worth it.
But as the game has grown in popularity, players feel pressured to have the “best” island.
In New Horizons, the “tutorial,” which unlocks all the tools and key buildings for your island, takes over a week to fully complete. The game staggers these events over real days to fully immerse the player in the island and give the player a sense of delayed gratification. Unfortunately, many players feel an urgency to immediately try and get the “best” villagers, have the coolest island layout, and the most impressive furniture to show off to their friends. The only way to do this quickly is to time travel. By doing this, players can burn through weeks (even months) of gameplay in just a few hours in the pursuit of perfection and “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Overall, I can’t complain too much about Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The game is a worldwide phenomenon for a reason, and undoubtedly the most fun of the series. The greater ease to get your dreamies, the ability to change the landscape of your town to make it just how you’d like, the new achievement-based gameplay involving Nook Miles…these are all fun new additions that many players, myself included, find engaging and exciting. It seems like I’ll just have to get used to the new Animal Crossing world that focuses less on the values of “family, friendship, and community” with your NPC villagers and more on connecting with your real-life friends.