Faves of 2013: Animal Crossing New Leaf
“Well then, shall we get started?”
- Animal Crossing is one of those franchises that I’m actually willing to call myself a fan of, a hard thing to do considering my opinions on fanbases in general. Still, the games mean a lot to me, and so a fan I must be.
- New Leaf is sure to have been a favourite for many a person last year, and with good reason; it continues the high standard of quality, freedom, and immense cuteness that the series has become known for, whilst expanding the experience in several simple ways, not the least of which being that you are now the mayor of the town in which you live. For the first time, this is truly *your* town.
- This increased level of control affords you a certain amount of power as to how your town develops, financing public works projects, ordinances, and so on, with your cutesy, money bag-themed doggy assistant Isabelle (bells being the currency of ACNL, so… Is a bell. Geddit?) guiding you along the way. It’s great, growing the franchise from simple, soft life-simulation to something a bit more like a town-building or management sim, if you want to go that way.
- And that’s the thing: you have a choice. Sure, mayoral duties are always there if you want to do them, but everything in this game is dictated by how you want to play it. You can be as social, as active, as into fishing, bug-hunting, anything really, as you want to be. You don’t even have the obligation of paying house payments anymore. You can pay off one level, at any point in the process, and then just choose not to proceed on your property development, keeping things as they are. It’s a huge weight off your mind, and allows you to think about what else you can use your well-earned bells for.
- I love that. Many games claim to give you agency over player actions, but Animal Crossing New Leaf actually delivers on that claim so much better than just about any other game currently on the market, without ever pressuring you to make use of that. It’s a carrot-based approach to gaming (the stick? nowhere to be seen), luring you in till you’re addicted, and feel the need to get your daily dose of village life. Though I imagine the increased presence of weeds if you neglect your real-time town is a bit of a devilish way to make sure you check in regularly.
- I don’t play this game enough at the moment, and over the christmas period right up till this week I only found myself checking in a couple days every fortnight, skirting the level of inactivity where villagers show concern for your absence, and graciously welcome you back into your lives. So god damn cute.
-The cuteness does a lot for me. Each villager (Pietro the horrifying sheep clown aside), is well-designed to look like the most adorable creature possible, and as you help them out, give them catchphrases and greetings, your love towards them grows, pulling you in all the more, even if you mess around a bit, by having villagers greet you with oddball statements, such as “DON’T TOUCH ME!” or “STOP THAT!!”. But then… Who would do that. Not me. I didn’t do that to Bam and Roscoe AT ALL.
- Still, there’s more to my love for this particular entry in the series than all this stuff. No, if you look up at the photo I’ve used to illustrate this post, a photo taken from my 3DS no less (for real, ACNL’s camera function? THE BEST.), you’ll get a bit of an idea of why it matters. I’m a male character in ACNL, choosing to play as an avatar of myself, as I’m sure most do, and my gaming experience was rocked forever by the fact that I could, with little judgement from the clothes retailers in the game, wear WHATEVER I WANTED.
- That’s an insanely important feature for an all-ages game like this. It’s a safe zone for people to play with gender, gender roles and such, and that’s… I mean wow. It goes beyond this too. If you get all the haircuts of one gender, for example, you can then get those of the opposite. That’s a beautiful thing.
- I mean… jeez, look, I’m queer, and more so than that identify with the trans label, I guess, but at the same time have never felt in my life that I could actually BE that. Not because of some sort of systemic oppression or fear of being ostracised, but rather because… Well, the gender I want to be, the one I identify with, it’s not what I’ve got, and the body I have (tall, kinda fat, bulky)… I wouldn’t want to try as such with it. So it’s cool that I can express this part of myself, a small part that may never see the light of day, in a pleasant video game where there’s no issue whatsoever with wearing these clothes or looking such and such a way. A valuable thing, to be sure.
- I guess that counts as coming out, online at least (as if you didn’t all already suspect). What a weird way to do it.