Animal Crossing: Life Lessons

I’ve been playing a lot of animal crossing. I mean, more than is healthy to play. Something about being in debt to a raccoon just seems so much more fun than being in debt to a university. During one particular long play session reality and the game began to blend into one; no longer could I tell if it was my soulless eyed character or I who was selling butterflies to a poodle and writing berating letters to a cat for constantly asking me to do trivial chores. It was then that I took an unbridled look at the world of Animal crossing; I saw it for what it was, and how it compared to the dull world that I actually inhabited. Upon waking from my haze a day had passed and I found myself in a dog kennel requesting a haircut and a song. I quickly raced home to transcribe what I had learned from the experience, and so this is what I bring to you today: Life lessons from Animal Crossing.

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DEBT MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

The first thing you learn upon entering the animal crossing world is that nothing comes for free. Before you have time to ask the questions “Where am I?”, “Why did I come to this place with absolutely no money and motive?” and ‘WHERE IS MY SOUL!?” you’re immediately thrust into a contract with one Tom Nook. You better get used to this Raccoon, because he owns you. Everything you do in your town goes through the Nook family (So much for being Mayor). If the above box art wanted to be anymore accurate to the game, there would be a large translucent Tom Nook in the sky laughing manically while looking down upon the town that crumbles at his whim.  Tom Nook has what you need: somewhere to live and the tools required to live. He starts small of course, giving you a measly single room home with room for little more than a bed and a light, but he plays on your own greed, roping you into contracts for bigger and grander houses until you’re his slave. It’s then that your  play time is consumed by fishing and bug catching just to pay back your immense debt to the Nook family.

This sound silly, but that is animal crossing in a nutshell: a cutesy debt simulator fueled by the labor of fishing. If you had to learn one lesson from Animal Crossing it’s that life is about owing others. But hey, that’s not a bad lessons to learn, especially if you’re young. Animal Crossing in some ways teaches fiscal responsibility to children. While Bells are certainly easier to come by than dollars, at least Animal Crossing is teaching kids that they’ll have to work for their money. Is it instilling a strong work ethic? No, probably not, but at least it’s an ethic. It’s only if we start seeing the next generation of kids become really into pawning anything and everything that we should  be concerned.

WANT BIGGER AND BETTER

Of course Animal Crossing also plays on the heart of capitalism, acquiring more wealth and possessions, but it’s all so adorable and silly that you forget that you’re essentially doing what you’re doing in the real world (Most likely minus the fishing). Multiple stores, new items everyday, and a year wide system of changing aspects makes your town an ever changing world, so it’s inevitable that you’re house’s design will go through multiple make overs. Making your house bigger and better is the essential goal of Animal Crossing, and with the addition of wi-fi play you’re no longer doing it for yourself. You can visit and compete with players around the world to see who has the most elaborate and coolest towns.  The most recent title, New Leaf, even lets you live out the fantasy of being a looter in someone’s town. That said, it’s fun. Unlike in the real world, Animal Crossing has a lot more immediate gratification than the real world- You like that cactus with a happy face but don’t have the Bells to buy it? Go fish for 20 minutes. It takes all the mundane parts of accumulation speeds them up and makes them less boring.

You can also be somewhat charitable in the world of animal crossing by donating items to your local museum, but the Owl who runs it is an ingrate who sleeps all day.

Kindness is Key

Although you have ulterior motives in your town, the game very much rewards kindness. Whether your helping out your neighbor by finding him a peach or making your town’s satisfaction higher by composing a new town melody, a big theme in the game is to make others happy. It shows, as the world of Animal crossing is a harmonious world where all types of animals live together under one town. The alligator resident isn’t ripping into the cat resident and there are no major fights over property: it’s a nice world. These acts of kindness make for a good lesson: be nice and play nice, and maybe you’ll be rewarded. Sure, you can also be a terrible villager and axe all of the trees and let your town go to ruin, but that would make for a pretty dull gameplay experience.

However, we don’t know much about what goes on beyond the walls of your town. Perhaps constant war? Famine and disease? Maybe your town is a controlled society in a larger world devastated by war? For more conspiracies about the Animal Crossing world, please read my book “Animal Crossing: The Lies of Tom Nook”.

Other quick lessons:

  • The land provides, and what the land provides will make bank.
  • Animals are sometimes really petty.
  • Not Saving is like committing an unspeakable crime.
  • New fossils appear in the ground every day.
  • Animals are living breathing things that should be treated as such. Not bugs or fish though; capture them and put them in cages.
  • Fishing is the most valuable skill ever.

So there you have it, some life lessons from the world of Animal Crossing. Take them as you like, whether its to your normal life or to your life in your Animal Crossing town. Perhaps one day, when games and virtual reality become one,  we’ll be able to owe Tom Nook huge amounts of money for real. Wouldn’t that be paradise….

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Lessons from the Social World: Mega Man

In light of Mega Man joining the roster of Super Smash Brothers, why don’t we take a dive in to looking at what Mega Man, the blue bomber, has to say about the social world:

Shootin’ and stealin’ all day

Before I start, let’s get it out in the open. I’m a big Mega Man fan, and not only of the good series like Classic and Legends, but the crappy ones too like Starforce! But it’s not just me, with the series spanning over 25 years Mega Man has been an influence on an  entire generations of kids and gamers. For the sake of this article, I’m going to be focusing on the original 2 series (X and Classic), but so much could be said about the oddities of some of the other series.

So what this little guy teaching us?

INDUSTRY!

Rock is a man of industry, and I’m not just speaking to the fact that he’s a robot. If you look at the original Mega Man games, what’s Mega Man doing besides going around, dominating an industry and then using its resources to dominate others? Nothing. He’s arguably the most capitalist character out there. I mean, the guy steals the bosses weapons and then uses the same weapon against another boss- what a cut throat bastard! Really, Mega Man is the industrial leader: he dominates industries one by one with an iron fist (Metal, same difference) until he’s has defeated (or owns) them all. Now, of course not many kids are going to be playing Mega Man and gradually learning lessons about cut throat business tactics, but the series certainly has a capitalistic spin on it. Time and time again Dr. Wily tries to make a product that can best Dr. Light’s finest product, but of course time and time again he fails. Of course, we’re led to believe that’s because Mega Man is fighting for the common good and Wily is only fighting for evil, but certainly Mega Man is quality product. Like Astroboy, (Who Mega Man is undeniably inspired by, and the original game started as an Astroboy game) Mega Man is fighting on the behalf of humans against the evils of the world and that’s not such a bad storyline for kids to follow.

Of course, later on the X series is more murky and robots have kind of taken over.. and they bleed. and it’s scary.

THE WOES OF INDUSTRIALIZATION

“DON’T DO IT MEGA! YOU CAN’T SERVE TIME AGAIN!”

All of the MegaMan franchises take place in future where robots co-exist with humans, but the brunt of the problems  come from robots rebelling and doing harm to humans. In the originals there’s still a human at the helm, but further along in the series the robots are self-aware enough to know what they’re doing. “Going Maverick”, as the X series describe, is rebelling against their human creators. In fact, one of the series main characters, Zero, is supposed to be a robot who has led a massacre against humans and robots alike. So.. it’s pretty much a dystopian future. The key problem in the series is excess and overpowerful machines; fear of technology. Now of course, that seems cyclical as the series protagonist and antagonist are both machines (industry vs industry), but it seems apparent that the series is warning against technology becoming over powered and over used. Of course, that’s probably not a true concern of Capcom, developer of video games…but it works for the series. Of course, it also wouldn’t be the only franchise to put up technology and industrialization as a key problem in the gaming world (We’ll talk about Sonic at some point…). That said, it’s not really a bad subject to instill in kids. To question and value technology is something that we should all do, less we become brainwashed and over saturated. Mega Man lets us take a look at what technology is really doing for us, and where it’s going.

But really, the game just teaches you not eff with robots.

The world is your Oyster: Use it.

As I mentioned before, Mega Man is just a dirty rotten stealer. No, really. He comes to your house, destroys your friends and pets (who happen to drop pictures of his face, clearly meaning they’re fans of his), shoots you, and then steals your greatest attribute to then use to burglarize other people’s homes. He’s terrible. But what’s all of this home invasion really telling us? Mega Man, like many games, is teaching us that we should to be the best. How do we become the best? By defeating others and using whatever skills necessary. Healthy competition, eh? But really it’s not so sinister, learning from battles and learning from your mistakes is a big part of the franchise. The classic games themselves were the epitome of the try-again gameplay in which gamers learned from their mistakes after mercilessly dying many times. That’s a healthy thing to learn: not all things all easy, but if you stick to them and keep at it you’ll eventually prevail (Unless there’s disappearing blocks, then you’ll just go insane). Likewise, the franchise teaches us that you may not always start out being the best or being the strongest, but if you work towards it you can improve yourself by learning from your encounters and using what you’ve learned in the future.

In the end, good prevails and evil will be fought back. That’s kind of nice, right?

Other Quick Lessons:

  • The prison system sucks and is not robot proof.
  • Most robots are men, and the only female ones have to stay at home.
  • No matter how many times you die you can always be rebuilt.
  • Viruses make robots go insane and murder.
  • Beware of your Roomba
  • Scientists are the real global threat.
  • A gun is all you need. A gun that steals others guns.

So that’s all. I hope you enjoyed this ridiculous impromptu look at the Mega Man franchise. They really are great games that all should play, especially the originals and Legends franchise. If you enjoy these looks at classic franchises in this manner, please let me know and I’ll continue doing them.

Until next time, I’m just excited for Mega Man in Smash.