Lessons from Animal Crossing

For those who may not know, I’m a fairly big Nintendo fan. I’ve been playing their video games since I was a toddler. I started with the Super Nintendo (I was born a little late for the original NES) and have played my way through nearly every console they have released up until the Wii U, which is the latest system that I own. It’s a lot of fun.

There’s an extra special place in my heart, however, for Nintendo’s handheld systems. Growing up, my family did a lot of travelling, and some of my best memories from childhood are playing GameBoy titles like “Pokémon” in the back seat of the family minivan. Handheld gaming has come a long way since the era of the GameBoy, however. Today, the flagship portable gaming system from Nintendo is the New 3DS XL.

NewN3DSXL_black

As you can see, the console is quite different from its dusty predecessors. One screen has given way to two, a joystick allows for more precise controls, and internet connectivity is enabled to allow play with friends. In addition, the bottom screen is touch-enabled and the top screen allows for 3D viewing effects. Welcome to the future!

My favorite title for the 3DS is probably a little game called “Animal Crossing: New Leaf.” “Animal Crossing,” while simple enough, is difficult to describe to someone who has never played it. In short, it could be called a “life simulation” game. There are no clear-cut objectives and the gameplay is almost completely non-linear. Instead of advancing through levels or destroying enemies, players are left to their own devices in a village filled with cute and cuddly animal characters.

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In this village, the player serves as the mayor who tends to their little paradise by receiving feedback from residents and enacting town ordinances and public works projects. They can also intervene directly by planting flowers and trees. Other activities include fishing, fossil hunting, home decorating, and shopping. The 3DS’ online connectivity also makes it easy to visit other mayors’ towns. Just based on the description, it may not sound like much. But it’s really a lot of fun.

What makes “Animal Crossing” such a great game is not necessarily its open-ended gameplay or slew of things to do – although these help. It’s really the laid-back, relaxing atmosphere and ambience that it provides. You can do anything you want at your own pace. There’s nobody rushing you to complete objectives. Days and nights advance in real-time and you can check in on your town at any time you like. When you’re not playing, the game keeps on progressing on its own. Which brings me to the best part of “Animal Crossing.” The villagers.

Fauna

Each player’s town is inhabited by various villagers, or animal characters of many different species that interact with one another. These cute characters each have their own personalities, likes, dislikes, and hobbies. Just like real people, they live out their lives in real-time, pursuing their own goals. Most interesting, though, is their ability is actually carry on conversations. When the player approaches each animal for a chat, they belt out constantly varying dialogue that changes depending on what’s going on in town. One villager may request you trade items with them. Another may tell you a secret.

This is where “Animal Crossing” really shines. Over time, you can actually build relationships with these characters living in your town. And there’s a lot that can be learned from them. For example…

Friendship

Maintaining friendships takes work! In “Animal Crossing,” you can build great relationships with your villager pals, but it takes time. If you talk consistently with a particular animal, they may reveal more and more about their personality to you. They may invite you to their house or give you gifts. You can even receive letters from them, which plays a key role in building and maintaining friendships. The animal characters seem to place an especially high value on letter-writing, which is largely a lost art in today’s modern culture! When’s the last time you actually sat down and wrote a letter to someone? You can do that in “Animal Crossing” and it goes a long way in showing your friends that you appreciate them. Even a short note with a small gift makes a huge difference. Definitely something we can learn from the game.

Community

There’s a strong sense of community in “Animal Crossing.” Everyone belongs to the same town and everyone plays a role in making it a better place to live. When you visit Town Hall as mayor, you can check in with your secretary to see the latest feedback from your town’s villagers. This is a great way to see how the community is progressing and how it may be improved. Sometimes the feedback will be positive and sometimes it won’t. It all depends on how much time you, as mayor, have put into building public works projects, planting greenery, or connecting with residents. Communities can always be improved. “Animal Crossing” reflects this.

Personal Style

A really great concept that “Animal Crossing” reinforces is that everyone is different and that’s not a bad thing! In fact, it’s what makes the game and life more fun and interesting. Each of the animals wear different outfits and have different interests and personalities. Some may enjoy fishing while others prefer gardening. When you visit each of the character’s respective homes, you see that they have their own sense of style. Some may collect over-the-top, festive furniture while others have a more reserved decorating style. This is a really cool, real-life truth that the game reflects and plays up in a positive way. Despite the differences of appearances or even species, everyone can still get along and belong to a collective community or cause. That’s a positive concept our culture could use more of today!

There’s Always Something to Do

Are you bored frequently? In “Animal Crossing,” you don’t have to be. Each day, there are different activities to do and different events in which to participate. There are always flowers to be watered, fish to be reeled in, bugs to be caught, and items to be dug up. Even if you complete all that, there are still villagers to talk to and visit, shops to be shopped at, and other locations to see. There’s even an exotic island that be can sailed to for a little fun in the sun. Since there are no set objectives, you can advance your town and character in the ways that you enjoy most. The same applies to real life. Are you tired of your current hobby? Check out another one! Are you feeling lonely? Reach out to others! Life, when repeating the same routines day in and day out, can get a little stale. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s always something new out there to do or learn about. We should always stay curious and active, as “Animal Crossing” teaches!

Stop to Smell the Flowers

When it comes down to it, life is to be enjoyed. It’s all about the experience. While in the era of cell phones and constant busyness, we often don’t recognize this, the developers of  “Animal Crossing” clearly did and do. In the game, half the fun comes from simply taking in the sights and sounds around you. There’s ambient music, wildlife sounds, and even records to be heard. The landscape in your town, which is constantly changing with the seasons, is often beautiful and offers a consistent source of eye-candy for the player. There are trees and shrubs and flowers to be seen. Even the sky is often a sight to be seen! Sometimes you may notice the occasional firework, shooting star, or even UFO. In our modern lives, how often do we take the time to just slow down and enjoy the fact that we’re alive? Not often enough, I would say. “Animal Crossing” reminds us to stop and smell the flowers.

In Summation

Overall, “Animal Crossing” is an excellent game from which we can learn a lot. It’s not only enjoyable, but valuable in the sense that it reinforces several positive life lessons that are often forgotten amidst our busy daily lives. Make friends! Give back to the community! Embrace your unique style! Make time for leisure! Slow down! All these things are overlooked far too often. Life should be about helping others, building relationships, and having a little fun along the way. What kind of difference could be made in the world if people were cognizant of this simple fact? I would say quite a big one – probably even enough to turn over a “new leaf.”

Have you played “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” before? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

-Chase

 

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