Released in 2005, ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World’ (known in Japan as ‘Animal Forest: Come on Over’) is a life simulation game for the Nintendo DS, where the player is a person who lives among animals. The game happens in real time, with time progressing even when it’s turned off.
My experience with the game was tinged with excitement as I’ve wanted to play it since it came out. It was quite different to what I was expecting; especially the ‘real time’ aspect. I suppose I was hoping I’d get to be an animal. Alas, my character was a cute little girl with bubblegum pink hair and big googly eyes.
I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t enjoy playing ‘Animal Crossing’ as much as I thought I would. On the surface it’s the sort of game I should love, as I’m a big fan of life sims. But this love of other life sims could easily have influenced my experience as I looked for certain factors which are usually present in the games I play.
Was I perhaps heaping a stereotype of Japanese life sims onto ‘Animal Crossing’ without even realising it? I certainly wasn’t experiencing the game with a clear mind. I was playing it and thinking about all the things I should be paying attention to; like game tropes, areas which could cause miscommunication, any aspects which could be considered typically ‘Asian’ (but seriously, what does that even mean?!).
For the next couple of weeks I will need to try and separate myself from the whole reflective aspect until AFTER I’ve played the game. Otherwise I won’t be able to really get to the core of what I’m experiencing, and I won’t be able to give anything a ‘thick description’.
One of the most popular characters in the ‘Animal Crossing’ series is the racoon, Tom Nook. He’s a bit of an a-hole, and people really like making memes and fanart about him (check out the Tumblr tag, it’s golden). He continuously torments the player’s character. In fact, you begin the game in debt to him as he loans you money for a house. He then makes you work for him to pay it off, and according to Stephen Totilo (2013), he “seems to be laughing at you all the way”. Seriously, if you look him up on Urbandictionary.com you’ll find that he’s defined as both a “cheap bastard” and a “slumlord” (while I think the first applies, the second is a bit harsh).
He’s become the face of ‘Animal Crossing’, and is one of Nintendo’s celebrities; though not quite up there with Mario or Link. He has appeared in both ‘Super Smash Bros. Melee’ as a trophy and its sequel ‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl’. He is also in the Nintendo Collector’s Edition of Monopoly. In other words, he’s a drawing card for the ‘Animal Crossing’ series, and has a fairly large presence within the fan community. Mutual loathing has produced a lot of online content, including a number of dedicated twitter accounts.
Also, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to present my final findings, and I think I might try to create a video, or YouTube playlist. I suppose we’ll see how I go.
Totilo, S 2013, “Nintendo: Tom Nook is ‘Misunderstood’”, Kotaku, accessed 11th August 2014, here: kotaku.com/nintendo-tom-nook-is-misunderstood-506751609