Friday, September 19, 2008

Animal Crossing's 6th aniversary

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the American release of one of my family's all-time favorite games: Animal Crossing, for the Gamecube. You remember Animal, Crossing, right? You moved your little human character into a forest town filled with animals. A talking racoon met you at the train station, gave you a house to live in, and then indentured you into slavery to pay off the cost of the house. You worked for the racoon for awhile, met your new neighbors, maybe delivered a gameboy or two from one to the other, dug up some fossils, caught some bugs, pulled some weeds, and did a whole lot of fishing. At some point, you stopped playing.

The disturbing thing?

Your town is still there.

Your animal friends are still living in it.

And they wonder what happened to their only human friend.

Yep, if you were to fire up Animal Crossing again right now, you'd find your town is still intact on your memory card, your house vacant and untouched, infested with cockroaches. Though some of them may have moved away in your absence, some of your animal friends are still there, living in that ghost town, surrounded by a choking overgrowth of weeds that you weren't there to pull, possibly wearing clothing in a style that you popularized before you abandoned your town and everybody in it. They may still cling to long-ago letters you sent to them, show them to each other, and wonder where you've been.

In the town museum, the curator, a lonely owl named Blathers, sleeps eternally, with no-one to visit him and wake him up. Your mailbox is likely stuffed with letters, many from the mysterious Happy Room Academy, who have continued to clandestinely enter your home and award it points based on style and layout while you've been away. Some are from former animal friends, who have moved away to places where weeds actually get weeded, and humans actually visit them and perform menial tasks for them. But saddest of all, many of those unopened letters are from your mother, who has undoubtedly continued to send you exotic fruit and updates on your father's well-being, and will do so forever, with no response from you. She'll do it because your mother loves you, whether you care or not.

That's the problem with persistent game-worlds, people. Even when you stop loving them, they never stop loving you. Creepy, isn't it? To know that on your dusty little Gamecube memory card a whole town exists, one that you created, and it will never completely die, but persist in a kind of macabre unlife without you, waiting forever for your return?

Unless you delete it, of course, murdering the innocent animals still living within, who want only to continue living in the town you made and then forsook, to see their human friend again, and possibly to have that friend deliver a comic book to another animal for them. But you wouldn't do that.

Would you?

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