The original game launched 15 years ago today, in North America.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/mb7j78/15-years-later-why-animal-crossing-has-always-felt-like-home
The original game launched 15 years ago today, in North America.
I’ve never been as deeply in love with Animal Crossing as some people I know, but the series (particularly the GameCube and DS iterations) still have a special place in my heart as an indulgent space, where I could do as I wished and decorate as I will away from the prying eyes of the world. While I never had a great creative or design flair for making the games work, I could do my best and make my pokey designs feel like home.
My memory of going over to a cousin’s house and seeing Animal Crossing in his voluminous (and weird) GameCube collection and finding it a super engaging and fun little thing. I’d love to see how a new one would interact with the robowitch of 2017, rather than the one of 2007.
edit: sorry this got kind of long. a lot longer than I expected. im going to leave it as-is though.
I feel like I come back to Animal Crossing whenever things are uncomfortable, unstable, or lonely for me. On the Gamecube it was a way for me and my brother to escape from the weird changes to our life when my mom remarried, and it sort of transitioned into a way we were able to bond with our new step-siblings too. They never played as much as we did, but they were able to be part of that world, and it helped us all feel like we belonged in the same place, as weird as that might sound. Sharing a virtual space made us all more comfortable with sharing a physical one. (and Smash Bros let us take out our aggressions, which was good too)
The DS Animal Crossing I kind of skipped. I mean, I had it and I played it and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t need it at the time. Things were mostly comfortable and I had a lot of real-world friends to rely on, so, it ended up being a bit neglected.
The Wii version of Animal Crossing I similarly didn’t really engage with… at first. Several years after it came out, when I had moved to Kansas City for college and gotten an apartment with a few friends, we picked it up and used it in the same kind of way that I had used the Gamecube one. An escape from stressful changes, into a shared virtual world, that helped us all get more comfortable with sharing a real space with one another. Unfortunately, things with those roommates didn’t end up great in the end. I had some spine surgery and while I was on insane amounts of pain medication to recover from that, some falling-outs happened, and before I was even able to go back to school or work everyone had gone their separate ways. The town wasn’t on my console, so, it was gone too. I didn’t care about that at the time, but I kind of miss the shared world we had all been working on. We were art students, so making the town look nice was important.
New Leaf has helped me out more than once. When it initially hit, I was stuck in a job that caused me huge amounts of physical pain, struggling with depression and anxiety, and living with a roommate who eventually kicked me out because, from what I can tell, he just didn’t like that I dropped out of college to focus on getting help for my issues. So I ended up living in the cheapest apartment I could find, on my own, in a gross basement of a really old building. It was a one-room apartment and I was stuck right next to a 24-hour laundry room that the rest of the building used. Like living in a maintenance closet or something. It was terrible, and intensified my depression and my anxiety. Animal Crossing helped me cope and push away the darkness and the pain. It gave me a place I could make outfits and share them with friends online, and even on my own I had simple, fun tasks I could focus on. Eventually even my online friends stopped playing though, and as my own issues worsened so did I.
Eventually, I got the help I needed, I got out of Kansas City, and since then I’ve been trying to rebuild my life. And it’s been going well. But from time to time I still feel lonely, or isolated, or hell just bored at work, and I jump back into New Leaf. I’m actually not sure if I want a new Animal Crossing game at this point, just because I’ve had my New Leaf town for so long and it’s gotten me through so much nasty, awful stuff. It’s meaningful to me, and it stays with me.
Animal Crossing isn’t my favorite game, or series, or even one that makes it into any lists of my top 10 favorite games or whatever. But it’s one that’s important to me and feels personal to me, and there’s still not anything else that lets me relax and feel comfortable like Animal Crossing does.
I was young when the first animal crossing came out so I did not quite have the same experience. However I had a very similar experience in my life with the Monster Hunter series. The summer after my Junior year in College I got an internship in a town of only 900 people. I lived in a dark basement apartment with no TV and no internet. The only thing I had was my Nintendo 3DS.
My fiancé (girlfriend at the time) had bought me MH4U to help me pass the time. Wandering around the landscapes in 3D with my cat friend (who I named Sam after my cat in real life) I was able to feel like I had some semblance of home. I had friends who wanted me to collect mushrooms and researchers who wanted me to hunt some of the biggest baddest monsters to help further their ventures. I felt 100% connected to this virtual world.
I’ve only played the one Animal Crossing game, Wild World, but it left a similarly strong impression. So much so that I’ve almost bought a 3DS just to play New Leaf on multiple occasions.
I remember reading about the AC:WW in NOM/ONM/whatever initialisation it was at the time, and being immediately inexplicably hooked by it. The same thing would happen each time I started playing; I remember long car journeys, where I’d look up from my town and realise we were 4 hours down the road.
Something about Animal Crossing pulls you into a headspace that is way more potent than it should be on the surface. What do you do in Animal Crossing? Not much, and it’s amazing. The low-poly art is adorable and expressive, and the music is full of charm.
It’s not zero stakes: I remember being so sad when my favourite villager of my first 3 finally moved out, after months of me successfully convincing them to stay at the last minute. But the games also (especially with Resetti) encourage a zen kind of acceptance of change, of sub-optimal play and missing opportunities. Oh you didn’t get the turnip market right? Try again next week. You stayed too late catching bugs and the shops are closed? Do it tomorrow morning. A villager moved out? Save their letters in a chest of drawers, cherish the memories, and just maybe you’ll see them again if they move to a friend’s town.
I have (and heartily recommend) the chrome extension Animal Crossing Music. Whenever I want to tap into a pocket of that calm mood, especially at work, I’ll turn it on and sink back to those familiar hourly jingles.
[Edit: Griffin made a joke in his GOTY video about how he might just disappear if Stardew Valley comes out for switch. The same will probably happen to me when AC:Switch happens. That or I’ll just become about 3 phases of matter more chill.]