Animal Crossing and the Missing Genre

By Bay Posted Sunday Sep 25, 2022

Filed under: Epilogue, Video Games 43 comments

I first played Animal Crossing when I was way too young for it. This wasn’t a case of being not ready for the content, like that time I watched someone play Doom when I was sevenThanks dad. 10/10. No, Animal Crossing required the player to read, which I could not yet do. I tried my best, but I can only imagine the endless stream of little-kid-voice shouting out ‘what does this say?’, ‘can you read this for me?’, and ‘what’s he saying?’ that I imagine my poor mom just loved hearing day in and day out. But, by the end of it, wanting to play Animal Crossing was one of the driving forces of my actually learning to read. 

I have some really horrible learning disabilities and was a pretty late bloomer in that particular court. My younger brother, Peter actually learned to read before me (by a good few years) and at higher levels. So, it’s safe to say that my little animal friends were pretty integral to my growing up.

I will preface this entire article by saying that I am a biased source. I loved the game young, and that is going to color my perspective on it. Maybe I would love the newer games if I didn’t have nostalgia for the old format. But, from my own experience, my complaints seem pretty founded. It’s not that the newer games are bad, it’s that they changed genres. Lots of new players love the new games, and lots of old players love the new games, but they love them for entirely different reasons.  Alien and Aliens are both good movies, and a viewer can like both, but they are very different formats.

In the original gamesI’m talking about the GameCube version of Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: Population Growing, here, the first that reached the US most of your time was spent doing one of five things: fishing, shaking trees, speaking with villagers, catching bugs, and running errands. The goal was to log in every day and do little tasks.

This was long before the days of mobile games and rampant ads made that ‘log in every day for a reward’ system feel manipulative. The developers didn’t have anything to gain from making it so time moved with the real-world clock. They weren’t going to make any extra money because they chose that system; it was a true creative decision.

There was a certain innocence to it. You logged in, did your little chores, and that was it. If you liked, you could spend hours fishing, or looking for bugs, but there wasn’t any extra incentive to do so other than enjoying the task in itself. Making money was slow. You did your chores and sold what you found or caught to Tom Nook for profit. You weren’t going to pay off your loan in a single afternoon, and it wasn’t expected for you too. The game was a little like a camping trip, meant to get away from it all.

In the newest game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, that innocence is just…gone. The personality of it should be still there, the fishing, trees, and villagers are still there, but they begin to feel like…mascots, rather than the heart of the game.

There are seaplanes, cell phones, and ATMs. You can swim in the newer games, dive, and vault across rivers. There are other islands to visit, new stores to go to, and a connected interior designer game. You can customize your character, landscape your entire island, make clothes, visit friends, be bit by tarantulas, collect in-game currency (two types!), achievements! Make friends! Pay loans! Take a train! Campsite villagers! Be a mayor! 

Okay, okay, fucking hell. Take a deep breath. 

The days of ‘log in and do a few chores’ are long past. You still can do that, but you’d make very little progress doing so. The economy has changed; things cost more now. Not only is there more to do, but there is more you have to do if you want to continue in your world.

It’s still a cult favorite, people like all these things they added, in theory. But nearly everyone I meet who used to love Animal Crossing finds something about it just…off, now. It’s still a fun game, but it’s no longer what they fell in love with.  

The issue is the same with many other ‘casual’ games. A publisher might strike gold with that market once, but I have yet to see one continue to do so without just…releasing the same game over and over again with very little change (except for aesthetics and minor story additionsCough cough, Harvest Moon). Developers have no idea what people who like ‘casual’ games are looking for, and I partly blame the name of the genre.

‘Casual Games’ just isn’t very descriptive. When I say something is an ‘action’ game, everyone knows what I’m talking about. It’s the same with horror, and survival, everyone knows what that looks like already. ‘Casual’ is a broad term, am I talking about Harvest Moon or Farmville? Animal Crossing or Candy Land? Hey, I really love casual games, you wanna play some Uno later? 

The word ‘casual’ just doesn’t convey enough meaning, it doesn’t tell anyone about yourself to say you like them, and it doesn’t tell devs how to make them.

The truth is, they’d be much better off being called ‘meditative games’. The fishing, the tree shaking, the little chores. They don’t do well as a gimmick because they used to be the point, to get away from it all and take a breath. ‘Casual’ is just as synonymous with ‘occasional’ and ‘irregular’ as it is with ‘relaxed’, which is a shame because it’s become the industry standard way of referring to these games. The word undermines the individual who plays it, to imply they are only doing so ‘casually’ and, at the same time confuses the developer trying to design it. 

Unfortunately, Animal Crossing misses that goal just a little more with every new title, and I will continue being a chump and buy every single one of them.



[1] Thanks dad. 10/10

[2] I’m talking about the GameCube version of Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: Population Growing, here, the first that reached the US

[3] Cough cough, Harvest Moon

From The Archives:

43 thoughts on “Animal Crossing and the Missing Genre

  1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    So what would you do, if anything, if you were put in charge of the franchise?

    1. Bay says:

      Okay, that’s a bit of a tricky question, but I can answer it if split into two parts.

      If I was stone cold ‘put in charge’? Nothing, I would turn that responsibility down hard. I don’t envy people in places of power like that, especially with nostalgia and people’s long-term expectation on the line. Idiots on the internet might complain about me and how I failed them personally on their blogs!

      Really though, taking up this blog alone was a long mental battle with myself. I don’t think I would have taken it at all if it wasn’t for it being my dad’s and having a personal connection to it.

      But, if I was put in charge in a magical fairy utopia where I could hit ‘undo’ if I made an egregious error or upset a group of plays? My first try would likely to be to split the franchise up into two different games. One modern, social game with all the options and gadgets like what we have now in New Horizons, and one game centered around the literal theme of camping and getting away from it all. Planting trees, fishing, talking to your neighbors and generally being just an old old man about things.

      What’s so frustrating about that, is there is actually, literally a camping-themed Animal Crossing game! It’s just…not at all that. It’s a social mobile game doing exactly all the things I hated about New Horizon. A really disappointing wasted opportunity.

  2. Zora the Snake says:

    Being a sickly child who, for a variety of reasons, had trouble making friends. I enjoyed animal crossing in my youth because it let me ‘go outdoors’ and ‘do outdoors stuff’, it also let me have all of these colorful personalities that I could befriend and enjoy different interactions with.

    As an adult who’s slightly more capable of ‘doing outdoors stuff’ and has figured out the friend thing a bit better (turns out sometimes it’s the kinds of people you were trying to befriend that were the problem!) it’s possible that the things which drew me in just don’t hold the same sway anymore and for the outdoorsy stuff that’s probably the whole story since it feels like it’s gotten better than ever in that respect but for the socialization I can’t help but look at how similar two villagers of the same personality type feel compared to the old games, how they never /really/ get mad at you anymore or tell you to go away because they don’t feel like talking more. The social aspect feels like just another source of meters to increase and maintain instead of something that felt roughly alive. I’m positive that part of the illusion becoming so visible is age and experience exposing the artifice that was always there but there’s a strong sensation that there’s been a slow simplification in how the villagers interact with the player that really makes them feel less alive.

  3. Inwoods says:

    I actually think “action” is another one of those words that has been broadened beyond all meaning as a genre word. I feel like that was even talked about in a post here at some point, but I’d never be able to find it again. Putting games in boxes is hard.

    1. Adam says:

      See also RPG – seems like that’s applied to everything with individual characters. Though I guess it’s more because bits of the RPG genre and smeared over everything, rather than the label itself being applied more broadly.

      1. Amstrad says:

        Agreed. Setting aside the breadth of different styles of RPG (western vs eastern for example) the adoption of RPG mechanics into so many other games have left the genre a little overburdened. Nowadays you need to get really specific when you explain what sort of RPG you enjoy.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Developers! Having a skill tree does not make your game an RPG!

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      While I agree I still think “casual” has it worse. All the farmvillelikes? Casual. Hidden object? Casual. Match 3s? Casual. Jigsaws? Casual. Time management (that’s apparently what Diner Dash and the likes are called)? Casual. Idlers? Casual. Harvestmoonlikes? Casual.

      Except when they aren’t. Because Stardew Valley is “chill” not “casual” because “casual” is a term for games for “not real gamers”, you know games that girls play. So let’s add in all the visual novels. And walking sims. And then let’s muddle the waters further by determining that “casual” is not a type of game, but a level of skill, or a style of play, or actual difficulty setting…

      Yeah, “action” is borderline useless (back in the day I would not think to call an FPS an “action” game which is apparently the norm now) but at least it’s not used as a slur.

  4. RCN says:


    This reminds me how I learned english.

    I played X-Com (the original… actually, it was Terror From the Deep) with my brother (we each debated strategic decisions and then divided the soldiers among ourselves in the missions. And mostly got into each other’s way) when I was about 10 and he was 9.

    We couldn’t read a thing of english, but the game prompted which language you wanted before it started a session. And we would choose spanish, which is similar enough to portuguese we could translate about 80% of it.

    Then one time we started a new game (we’d usually lose the game at around the time we finished researching the gauss weapon line, without realizing it was useless) and accidentally chose “english” as ther language. Then it turned out we memorized everything so well we could play without problem in english and not only that we started to slowly absorb english through osmosis.

    Sure, the grammar was still iffy, but by the time we started to have english classes in school we both were well ahead of the curve.

    1. Retsam says:

      . Then it turned out we memorized everything so well we could play without problem in english and not only that we started to slowly absorb english through osmosis.

      I’ve been playing some games in Japanese trying to learn the language, and this can actually be a problem because I can end up playing the game on auto-pilot without really having to read any of the buttons that I’m pressing.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I would have said Japanese is just…too different to learn this way?

        Spanish and English have a common alphabet, a common root (latin), and a similar(-ish) grammer structure. But Japanese doesn’t – the sentences are constructed differently, there’s no alphabet but instead two syllabaries and dozens of characters that represent ideas.
        Without someone to explain the fundamentals of the language, you’d be adrift, surely.

        1. Syal says:

          You look up the hiragana alphabet beforehand, and the sentence structure markers that tell you which words in the sentence matter most, and then you play a kid-friendly game where they spell the kanji out in hiragana because the children aren’t expected to know it yet, and look up kanji definitions as you go.

          Worst case scenario, you get to play a videogame.

        2. Retsam says:

          I know some people successfully learn the language just by basically pure immersion. I have a hard time imagining that you’d actually pick up much kanji this way, as there’s just so much of it – there are people who live in Japan and are fluent in Japanese who know very little kanji – but like Syal said, a lot of games have furigana where knowing the kanji isn’t necessary.

          This isn’t what I’m attempting though, I’ve just been using some games as practice to supplement a more normal study.

          1. Chuk says:

            Native Japanese speakers learn it by pure immersion and there are millions of them.

            1. Retsam says:

              Yes, of course spoken Japanese is learned by native speakers by pure immersion, but we were discussing the written language. It’s much easier to learn a spoken language from immersion than a written language, and even native speakers generally don’t learn written languages by pure immersion. Children are explicitly taught how to read and write, you don’t just hand them a pile of books and tell them to get cracking.

              And especially kanji is something that’s taught gradually over the entire course of primary and secondary education: the jōyō kanji list is explicitly broken down based on what year each character is taught, up though secondary school.

    2. Lino says:

      I swear, if it wasn’t for video games, Disney movies and Cartoon Network, I would have never been able to learn English!

      And literally all of my friends who speak English well learned it from the same sources (although I am one of the few who had access to so many Disney movies in English)!

  5. Octal says:

    Huh. I never thought about how adding more stuff–that is, good stuff, interesting stuff, fun stuff–could take away from other aspects of a game. Interesting.

    1. Bay says:

      I should specify. The addition of those things does nothing to ruin my experience. Someone else having and even enjoying those additions does not mean I cannot enjoy fishing and bug-hunting. That would be some prescriptivist BS.

      The problems arise when they become a mandatory part of the experience. I cannot enjoy just my little fishing game, because the format forces the player to partake in those other activities if they want to receive rewards or make progress. THAT is where I find the game has failed.

      1. King Marth says:

        This came to mind with the Warframe rants. One of the better things about Warframe is that there’s so much of it – the more esoteric mission types decay once the player base has gotten all the rewards they need from them, but there are many different ways to play. The problem is that to unlock all mission nodes, especially with the junction locks, you are forced to experience a little bit of everything, and if the first time you engage with a mission type is on a high level planet because that was the first time you had to, then you also skipped the difficulty progression of learning the new mission type in a low stress environment and will have a tough time of it (or alternatively you need to practice something you don’t like). The game is co-op which gives the tools to bypass this unlock stage with outside help, but that doesn’t negate how the breadth ends up as a negative once you go from “if you enjoy at least one of these then you can have fun” to “you must enjoy all of these to have fun”.

        At least the PvP mode is still entirely separate.

        1. Steve C says:

          I was thinking about Warframe and World of Warcraft.

          Warframe forced me away 10months ago with an update that required a quest. 5-8hrs of game play I truly hated. Which is the full length of some games. I gave up after ~3hrs. There was no way to abort out of it and go back to the regular game. I’d rather not play vs be forced to do something I hate for hours on end.

          WoW is literally the ‘classic’ of “we changed the game so much that its popularity has nose dived.” Hence the entire re-launch of Classic WoW. At least they understood that ‘more is not better.’

      2. Fallonor says:

        I think it would be prescriptivist to argue that the game was wrong to include them if you don’t like them. But I think it’s totally valid for a player to have a reduction in their enjoyment because *knowing they could* go to the island and get way more bells per minute etc drags on that part of their mind.

        In my experience the first Animal Crossing had little of consequence to do and you could break it by planting orchards or something with little effort, because it wasn’t about a balanced, challenging experience, it was a Zen garden in game form. You had little chores to perfect and little expressions to fiddle with but none of it was going to result in long term consequences. As soon as things like growing the Nook store(which I don’t remember in the first) started to be part of my experience, there was progression and a timeline and I could feel guilt for failing to keep up.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I found that Persona 5 did that to itself. It improved pretty much every aspect of the game, adding new things to the story dungeons, created a separate system for random dungeons and expanded that, added a lot of new activities, expanded the Social Links and various requests, and added a lot more to pretty much every area. While there might be debate over certain aspects, for the most part these were all improvements to those areas and made them better and deeper. But all of those areas are pretty much mandatory, and so you always had to engage with all of those systems, and the addition of the depth meant that you needed to do more with them and thus play in those areas longer. If you weren’t all that fond of one area — I was never really a fan of the random dungeons, for example — then you ended up having to play and do more in those areas that you weren’t fond of. It also doubled, at least for me, the time it takes to finish a game, which meant that it was very difficult for me to find the time to replay it, and replaying the game to get different Social Links — or complete them — and different romance options and to have the time to do more activities on a New Game+ when you don’t need to increase your attributes anymore was always a big part of the game for me.

      So, yeah, in isolation each improvement really does make its area better, but since there are multiple areas making them deeper and more detailed hurts people who like one system but not the others, or who don’t have the time to focus on all of them anymore.

      1. Retsam says:

        Tangentially, on the “more is not always better” idea, I’m finishing up Persona 5 Royal, and it’s incredibly clear to me that someone on the writing team was paid by the word. (It may sound silly to say that a Visual Novel has too many words, but I’m comparing to P4G here)

        The biggest offender were the constant text-messages between the party: you’ll have a big plot scene, then 30 seconds later, you’ll have a lengthy group text message where everyone just recaps and reacts to everything that happened in the previous scene. They never add anything new to the plot, and they’re rarely even entertaining – they don’t even really pretend to be text messages as everyone talks in complete sentences with perfect grammar.

        Similarly, they tacked on a phone-call at the end of almost every social link interaction, again this is just recapping what the player just watched. (Apparently this is a Royal version addition?) It is an an extra opportunity to get some social link points… but honestly if they wanted to speed up social links, I think just adjusting the thresholds would have been better.

        Plus, the pre-Mementos meetings where you have to discuss whether you want to take on every individual request, traveling scenes (subway, walking to school) where the characters overhear a few lines of dialogue from random people talking about plot relevant stuff, etc, etc.

        In some sense, it’s a minor complaint (and it really isn’t my biggest complaint about the game), but I had a lot more of a feeling like the game was wasting my time in this one.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, the call at the end of the outing is new to Royal.

          I didn’t really mind either of those because I read fast enough that I could get through the texts without it really impeding me and I found the calls at the end a nice summary of the interaction and the character’s thoughts on it which I found kinda neat. But it does fit into the whole idea of them making people go through them even if they didn’t like them/didn’t like that part of the game. Either way, someone who just wanted to get to the next part is being held up by something that might not work for them, which then gives the feeling that the game is wasting too much time on those things and preventing them from getting to the good stuff.

  6. Just curious, have you ever played the game “A Short Hike?” As the name implies, it’s a pretty short little indie game (somewhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending on who you are) but while it’s different gameplay than Animal Crossing, it sounds like it has the vibe your missing.

  7. John V says:

    If you dislike modern Harvest Moon as being just re-releases, how do you feel about the spiritual successor series, Story of Seasons? Does it have the same problems with stagnation?

    1. CSilvestri says:

      I wouldn’t call SoS a spiritual successor so much as the same series; they’re the games made by the original developer, and the name change is a US localization thing (the older HM games and SoS are all ‘Bokujou Monogatari’ in Japan where they’re developed). The ‘Harvest Moon’ games from 2014 on seem to be basically the original localizers going “hey, making our own game instead of translating one can’t be that hard, right?”, and I’ve never heard a positive thing about any of them.

      As for SoS, half of the new Story of Seasons games outright are re-releases/remakes, with Friends of Mineral Town and the upcoming A Wonderful Life. They seem to be alternating between that and new ones. It is a pretty comprehensive update, though, eliminating weird old-series things like selling the player genders as separate games and adding same-gender romance (plus, you can even play as a nonbinary PC in A Wonderful Life).

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    You know, when Castlevania games turned from regular platformer sidescrollers into Metroid clones (coining the term “Metroidvania”, obviously) they became bigger hits than they had ever been (even though they were already pretty popular) and so that’s mostly the direction these games have all taken since. But, of course, not everyone was happy about it. Some people preferred the simplicity of the classic games. That’s probably why a few of them have included a secondary mode where you can play the game in a more traditional way (no character progression and no messing around with equipment, for instance). I assume more people would be more enthusiastic about those modes if you didn’t have to play through the normal mode to unlock them.

    This has brough me the question: why not leave these modes as alternate “classic mode” to be accessed from the get go, for those who prefer a more traditional way to play? I can see Animal Crossing doing the same as well. A few games do this thing where they remove constraints and just let you play at your leisure (they even call it “casual mode”). It really can’t be that complicated a thing to do (well, depending on the game, I suppose).

    1. Wilson B. Wilson says:

      Bloodstained, the spiritual successor to Castlevania because Konami doesn’t make games anymore, had a Classic-vania side game contracted to be made while they worked on their Metroidvania/IGAvania main game. It turned out to be popular enough to get it’s own sequel. I don’t know if it was a matter of IGA realizing there was a demand for that style of game, or was originally just a nod to the roots that grew big enough to see the value in continuing with it, but it exists.

      Castlevania Re:Birth on the Wii store had a “classic mode” from the start, but it was redundant because the game itself was still very much the arcade CV experience. All it did was strip out most sub-weapons for some reason and then add committal jumps. I honestly don’t know why it’s there.

      One possible explanation as to why they keep putting the option after you’ve beaten the game, is they’re putting it there as some reward/ challenge mode for people who like both formats. This does nothing for the metroidvania fans, annoys the classic fans, and only appeals to those in the middle of the Venn diagram of course. Large companies tend to lose sight of their audiences’ desires the higher up and richer they get. Appeal to the majority for big sales, and make token efforts on the side to occasionally try to squeeze money from the minorities.

      I’m more leaned to say it’s something like this, an issue of target audience, rather than a common sense error when it comes to a large company like Konami or Nintendo. It’s probably a common sense error if it’s a more indie effort, but that’s not guaranteed- common sense problems seem to be frequent in the games industry these days.

  9. Daimbert says:

    Dragon Age: Inquisition is an example of not realizing that what is meant by casual isn’t really clear with the War Table missions. I’m sure it seemed like a great idea to encourage casual play, where someone who starts it up every day for a little while can do some quests and kick off some War Table missions, log off for the day, and since the War Table missions proceed in real time they’d all be done the next day. The problem is that not all gamers who’d fit into the “casual” category are ones who have a little bit of time to play every day. Some of them — like myself — can play for a long period of time once or twice a week. If I need a long War Table mission to mission before moving on to the next quest, then that pretty much ruins that entire play slot and makes it so that I can’t really play the game that week. Lumping too many different behaviours into that category — limited time to play which can be each day or as a lump each week, wanting the game to be easier, wanting the game to be simpler, wanting the game to be more relaxing, etc, etc — means that when they try to design for that category they inadvertently leave out a large number of their intended audience.

  10. ZzzzSleep says:

    Does Yahtzee’s definition of “Cozy Games” work any better than “Casual Games”? Or is it still too vague?

    1. Bay says:

      I hadn’t seen that video and had to go look it up, but yes! That entirely strikes the right nerve. I disagree with him, though, on why those games are suddenly getting popular. I would be more than willing to venture a guess it has more to do with people like myself, older generation Z kids, and younger millennials, finally joining the development world.

      There are a lot of people who grew up on things like the OG animal crossing, harvest moon, and the sims who have spent the last decade and a half wondering why the hell there aren’t more games for them. I’ve got a couple of articles on that subject in the drafts, I might turn this into a series if I get enough thoughts together.

      1. PPX14 says:

        I believe the term I’ve seen around and about is Life Sim that covers the broad category.

        I too disagreed with Yahtzee’s assessment that it’s a tiring with the stresses of the world in “this day and age”. They’ve always been popular in Japan I think, and in the West too to some extent, in various formats like the sale rack of image-search puzzles that I used to think of as “old woman games” when I was a child. Maybe because the picture on the front was often a Miss Marple-esque character. And with that boom of the Sims coming out. I think it’s as you say, maybe not necessarily the age of the developers but the nature of the accessibility of Indie development that appears to be the case now with things like Hollow Knight and Celeste (and Stardew Valley, House Flipper) coming out and breaking new-old-ground.

  11. Nevermind says:

    I haven’t played Animal Crossing basically ever, but from your description, I’m pretty sure that the game that you want to play, the one that shoots for that “old” Animal Crossing feeling, is Cozy Grove. You should try it out.

    1. Bay says:

      I’ve tried it, and enjoyed it, to a point. But, at the end of the day, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, not for any gameplay issue I could find, it just wasn’t something I liked.

  12. Wilson B. Wilson says:

    I grew up with the original Animal Crossing. Played a ton of it, never got anywhere close to what you’d even call completion, but I remember being rather proud of my house. I had most of the NES emulators though.

    I remember Wild World being good enough at the time, it being portable helped. I dropped out of the franchise somewhere around City Folk- I was getting into other genres at the time, diving into more fast paced, high action experiences.

    Now that many years have passed, I’ve looped back around to more chill games, as my hands have become prone to pain and my reaction time dulled. Curiously nothing about New Horizons ever caught my attention at the time, and nothing I’ve heard or seen since has made me want to get it. I’ve often thought about going back to good ol’ GCN AC, but I guess I’ve got enough chill games to play as is.

    It does always burn in an open-ended game when I just want to do something like grow flowers and find out I’m extremely restricted on doing so unless I do a whole bunch of other stuff first. Even if some of that stuff is things I don’t mind doing individually, it makes the content gate rather annoying. Especially when previous games in the series didn’t gate this content that way.

    In reality, nearly every game has some form of “content gates”- it’s part of the basic design. They just can end up feeling more egregious in an open-ended game.

  13. DaveMc says:

    Well, this is just delightful! I had no idea that the site might continue with brand new content from the Scions of Shamus, but what a welcome surprise.

    I’ve been enjoying your writing, Bay! Long may it continue.

  14. Storm says:

    Definitely an interesting read! I’ve never been much of an Animal Crossing person myself, I tried a couple games but never got into them. What’s interesting is that when I tried one of the more recent AC games, I got closer to enjoying it than I did the earlier one, and I addee mechanics that did that for me – I don’t think I ever really considered how said mechanics might be making it less enjoyable to the longtime fans though.

    Thinking on it, it reminds me of something Shamus said during the Mass Effect retrospective I believe, regarding genre shifting within a series. How changes that make something more appealing to some players alienate others, and how you can have fans of both ‘eras,’ but they’re fundamentally different experiences. In this case, it seems like a version of the issue within a genre, instead of switching genres completely.

    What’s interesting is that the game Animal Crossing seems to be slowly shifting towards is an experience I can already get elsewhere – developing your area while having discrete tasks and areas to go off to and explore is not that far off from something like Stardew Valley, which achieves that goal more readily than AC does for me.

  15. Jennifer Snow says:

    My youngest brother was absolutely DRIVEN to learn to read because he wanted to play Magic: The Gathering with us, and we told him he couldn’t play until he knew what the cards actually did. He memorized the effects of literally hundreds of cards before he was really proficient with reading.

    If I’d had my wits about me I would have sat him down one afternoon and taught him the alphabet and how to sound out words and he probably would have been some kind of Magic grandmaster by the time he was eight.

  16. Mersadeon says:

    This wasn’t a case of being not ready for the content, like that time I watched someone play Doom when I was seven [thanks, Dad].

    Hah, I also have really fond memories of this kind of stuff. For some reason, my mum was against my father playing Legacy of Kain while I was around because it’s “scary”, but when she went to bed I’d sneak into the living room and my father would pretend he didn’t notice me hanging out in the dark to watch.

    (The reason why my mum’s rule was weird was because we literally would “play” Tomb Raider as a family activity: my father at the controller, my mother with her sharp eyes and out-of-the-box puzzle solving giving tips and me reading the guide and only giving tips when all else seemed lost. Great times and for some reason I loved reading the guide books for video games at the time. Literally read the one for Final Fantasy 8 like a novel, way more often than I ever played the game.)

    But, by the end of it, wanting to play Animal Crossing was one of the driving forces of my actually learning to read.

    Similarly, my life would not be the same if not for Wikipedia. I had a burning desire as a kid to read (because it’s like non-fiction books, for free!), but English Wikipedia articles at the time were about twice as long and informative as German ones, so I got fluent extremely quickly (but still have problems with everyday vocabulary like food).

    The days of ‘log in and do a few chores’ are long past. You still can do that, but you’d make very little progress doing so. The economy has changed; things cost more now. Not only is there more to do, but there is more you have to do if you want to continue in your world.

    [Insert joke about the resemblance to the real world here]

    But yeah, as someone who never played the old games and only got into Horizons, I totally get what you mean. It’s what eventually made me lose interest – I don’t want all the fancy stuff, I want to talk to my cute animal friends and catch a bug here or there. Both my mum and my girlfriend have instead fallen deeply for the game, having played until recently, making absurd amounts of money, though in slightly different ways: my girlfriend flips stuff on Nookazon, a third-party marketplace, while my mum just really enjoys all the chores. I don’t know how she does it, but every time I visit her IRL she gives me a few million in Animal Crossing bucks and has many more million lying around.

    The truth is, they’d be much better off being called ‘meditative games’. The fishing, the tree shaking, the little chores.

    Hard agree there. I think the scene in general is slowly catching up to that, at least it looks that way from steam tags and the like.

  17. Mephane says:

    When in doubt, we already name genres after the most prominent game in it. We got “Soulslike”, “Roguelike”, so why not “Crossinglike” or whatever?

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    I think you might be on to something with the “meditative game” label. Back when Popcap was the king of casual games, most of those games came with a Zen mode that could be played endlessly. Some of Popcap’s best imitators were also wise enough to do the same in their games.

  19. M. Solas says:

    The beginning of this post brought back an old memory from childhood – I also started playing video games before I could read, and learned to read through them! (for me it was Pokemon, though) I’ve never played Animal Crossing but I do like those kind of relaxing, low-stress games.

    P.S. Tom Nook is evil

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