Image captured by Hatm0nster
As time passes, I’ve been finding myself less and less able to dedicate it to playing video games. Where once I had full nights, and even days to spend in the digital realm, I now have a mere handful of hours each week. Those hours have become a precious commodity; something to be spent wisely making as much progress as possible in one game or another rather than idly whiled away in multiplayer or simply wandering around. “Making progress” has somehow become very important to my gaming experience; it’s even gotten to the point that I have difficulty considering games like Bloodborne simply out of concern that I’ll somehow end up wasting time with them (what with all the difficulty and retrying, and well you know…death). Oddly enough, there is an exception to this. An oasis of stillness amidst the almost absolute desire to “make progress”. That bastion being the admittedly odd, Animal Crossing games.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to get to know these games, Animal Crossing is a series of games in which you do…well nothing really. There’s no story, no enemies, no main objective. You’re just a person living their daily life in a town populated by talking animals, and that’s it. It’s a game that sounds boring, should be boring, and should be something that a progress-making gamer would never want to touch. It should be all these things, but instead it’s none of them.
I liken Animal Crossing to a deep, calming breath. There’s little to do, and no pressure to do it. It doesn’t ask you to do A, B, then C; instead it simply presents you with the options of A, B, and C. And It doesn’t care if you do all, just one, or simply choose none and spend the whole day fishing. What Animal Crossing is is relaxed, and that quality is exactly what makes it so fun and appealing. It definitely wouldn’t be the same if any of its activities had overt goals that players needed to achieve.
Animal Crossing has always had things to work toward: filling the museum, paying off the house, catching the different kinds of fish, and so on, but it never goes any farther than implying that those goals exist. You don’t have to pay off your house, but you can. You don’t have to collect bugs, but you can. You don’t have to prank your neighbors, but you can (and should; somebody needs to keep them on their toes after all). It creates a dynamic where you can pick up the game at any time and define your own goals for however long you want to play. Want to just pop in and catch a couple of fish? Cool. Want to spend 5 minutes looking for fossils? Great. Want to spend hours farming golden beetles to finally get that shifty racoon’s paw out of your pocket? Rock On! The point is that you have the option to play exactly the way to want, with no pressure to do anything more or less. Not even Minecraft‘s sandbox of infinite possibilities can claim that, what with the constant pressure to build stuff and ever-present possibility of hissing-death waiting around every corner.
If you’re a results-driven gamer and are finding yourself starting to feel tired of it all, I recommend introducing yourself to Animal Crossing. It’s relaxing atmosphere and complete disregard for progress may be just the sort of break you need before heading back out there and getting things done!