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February 12, 2018 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Animal Crossing is a Dystopian Hellscape [The Verge] “But does something darker lie beneath its cheerful exterior? Animal Crossing has always been a game that is as strange as it is cute, full of odd tics and design choices that raise probing questions about what, exactly, is going on in the larger world of this woodland hamlet. Some might suggest that Animal Crossing is its own answer, an adorable, absurdist experience that exists purely to delight. If you prefer this reading, feel free to exit now. But for those willing to go down the rabbit hole, a closer examination of the series — and, particularly, the recent Pocket Camp mobile game — reveals something much more unsettling: a dark mirror that inadvertently reflects some of the most ruthless and dehumanizing elements of modern society, and how they can degrade our social and ethical bonds.”

• People Are Making Cults And Prisons In Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp [Kotaku]
“Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has a couple weird rules about furniture, and players are using those to make some really creepy camps. There’s a couple quirks to how furniture works in Pocket Camp. If you place a lamp down, villagers will stand in front of it and turn it on and off. If you put an instrument down, they’ll also stand in front of it, playing a random note at random intervals. If you put a chair down, no matter if it’s accessible or not, a villager will sit in it. You can even get villagers to spawn inside a maze of fences, as long as they’re on your campground. Using this knowledge, you can make some fucking spooky ass camps. Check out these lamp cults, for example.”
• Why Do The Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Villagers Have Nightmares? [Player.One]
“Do animals dream of electric sheep? In the blessed, wholesome utopia of an Animal Crossing game (even “just” a mobile one), what concerns can the villagers possibly have? [...] So why the bad dreams? Is there something sinister in this utopia? Are they aware it’s all a simulation? Do they know they’re just imports from other, fuller games, refugees from once-flourishing villages now choked by weeds, doomed to a nomadic existence set to a three-hour timer? Does the compression of their affection into a gauche numerical meter offend them? Does the reduction of their platonic love to something that can be purchased through overfishing the local ocean and river depress them?”
• Should "Animal Crossing" Players Revolt Against Tom Nook? [Inverse]
“At first glance, Tom Nook is a simple small-business-owner-slash-raccoon. He wears an argyle sweater vest and mumbles the end of his phrases sometimes. He has two large adult sons (or nephews?), Timmy and Tommy, who are twins — we think. But what you absolutely need to know about Tom Nook is that he wants his money. Now. [...] In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the game amps up Nook’s robber baron persona by giving him a monopoly over the town’s real estate industry. When your player arrives in town, Nook is the only businessanimal who can sell you property. Conveniently, you can purchase items that’ll allow you to earn money (e.g. fishing rod, shovel) from Tom Nook’s family store, Nookling Junction. Do you see how this works? Do you see who’s supposed to win?”
posted by Fizz (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
a dark mirror that inadvertently reflects some of the most ruthless and dehumanizing elements of modern society, and how they can degrade our social and ethical bonds

Or, as we call it in 2018: Monday.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:49 AM on February 12 [20 favorites]


I realized that Pocket Camp is really about supply-chain management and networking after about a day of playing it. It's about making sure you have enough items to supply customers and making enough contacts with potential suppliers to get what you need when there's a suddenly high demand for crucian carps. Because this is 2018, though, all of this has to be wrapped in the packaging of friendship and giving, so as to hide the actual levers of capitalism. *sigh*
posted by heurtebise at 10:17 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Your collections of seashells and bugs do not impress me, I'm the one who gathered them all up for you in the first place.
posted by ckape at 10:35 AM on February 12 [13 favorites]


Despite the wide variety of avian characters in the game, including penguins, chickens, ducks, and owls, you can also own a bird that lives inside a cage — an item that the game specifically says inspires “no reaction” from the other characters. How can characters like Jay and Goose be so nonchalant about the imprisonment and enslavement of a fellow bird? Either they lack empathy to a degree that borders on sociopathy, or they do not see themselves when they look inside the cage, but rather a sub-human creature undeserving of liberty and free will.

OR! is it more like your regular human friends irl inviting you over to look at their infant child inside a playpen
posted by poffin boffin at 10:50 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Surprised to see no mention of Raddle, who asks you to collect stuff to kit out an operating theatre...
posted by pipeski at 10:53 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


My theory is that Raddle made Stitches
posted by pipeski at 10:54 AM on February 12 [12 favorites]


Animal Crossing: it's the Good Place.
posted by SPrintF at 11:04 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I can't decide if this makes me less or more interested in checking out Animal Crossing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:04 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


i do really enjoy the dystopian capitalist nightmare aspect of it though, because the irl couch in my own home is very nice and no one is allowed to sit on it but me
posted by poffin boffin at 11:09 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


These analyses remind me of the deep readings done of Goodnight Moon or Paw Patrol, in that they are a creative exercise that explores way to deep into a lighthearted exercise. I waffle between feeling guilty that I'm not giving my animals what they want and binging deep into the capitalist enterprise.

It has been really nice playing with my kid, though because they're like "look you're giving gifts!" and we can talk about how nice it is to give gifts back and forth in a more abstract way. Even though we're working on empathy, they still don't quite understand the concept around "it's better to give than receive", especially when we're giving stuff they want to the other kids as birthday gifts.

Most of my first critters are closing in on level 20, and I've almost maxed out a lot of the camp sites, so I'm wondering if that is what it takes to break my addiction.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 11:17 AM on February 12


I also have no more memory on my phone :/
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 11:18 AM on February 12


A character named Goose who is actually a chicken wanting to eat a turkey is not cannibalistic.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:25 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


For me the nightmarish part of Animal Crossing has always been ME, specifically my neglect of my town. I have an Animal Crossing: New Leaf town that I have not visited in 6 years. I have so much anxiety about venturing back.

People who have moved away, friendships that I have let die, a town that is overgrown with weeds and fruit that is rotting off of the trees. It's easier to just never go back, to let that town fade into a distant memory. I'm sorry town, I'm sorry furry friends, I'm so sorry...
posted by Fizz at 11:28 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


The link below is to a fanfiction ... thing that I remember watching spool out in real-time:

https://lparchive.org/Animal-Crossing/

It embraces all the quirkiness of the actual game, and then goes deeper and darker, and it's pretty amazing to read.
posted by wells at 11:35 AM on February 12 [14 favorites]


I prefer my dystopian game where I capture wild animals in a small ball, force them to fight other animals for my entertainment and profit, feed them the cannibalized remnants of their family members, or send them off to a mad scientist for experiments.

Pokemon Go FTW.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:13 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


yes please clarify my main concern with PGO - when you trade in your extras for candy, it is a grim and horrible exchange of living creatures for their sugared remains, isn't it.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:35 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Came here to make sure the thing wells posted is posted and fortunately wells posted it so all is well
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:38 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


when you trade in your extras for candy, it is a grim and horrible exchange of living creatures for their sugared remains, isn't it.

The Pokémon is so delighted to be going to its new life with the Professor up-state that it gives you a candy it found as a parting gift. That's science.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:39 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I like to think that you're just releasing the pokemon back into the wild, so when you catch another one, it's the same pokemon who has returned, full of vip and vigor! THE.SAME.ONE

In animal crossing, I do also kind of wonder where the bat and butterflies are infesting, and how to they get to my garden?
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 12:43 PM on February 12


wait, and you then feed that same candy to your captives in order to make them grow larger and fight better?

what kind of nightmare hellscape
posted by poffin boffin at 12:51 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


[…] when you trade in your extras for candy, it is a grim and horrible exchange of living creatures for their sugared remains, isn't it.

Sure, the Pokemon Go candies could be from some dystopian slaughterhouse, but there are definitely other possibilities.
posted by JiBB at 1:18 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I actually quite like small, domestic kind of games, but Pocket Camp felt like a dystopia before anybody built a prison on it. There's a never-ending parade of needy people who want stuff from you, which might not be so bad, but what do you get in return? You're allowed to be yourself as long as "yourself" can be composed completely of ingredients that were meant to color-coordinate only with other elements in their appropriate boxes. And getting to the point of having enough variety to have a prayer of coming up with something interesting is grinding, grinding, more grinding. The fishing minigame isn't fun. The gardening minigame isn't fun. They're just more labor that you do to earn the right to have a furniture arrangement that differs just slightly from your neighbors. I loved Stardew Valley, for example, because the stuff you do isn't just constant repetetive busywork. If I wanted repetitive busywork, I wouldn't be on Metafilter at 3:40 in the afternoon.
posted by Sequence at 1:40 PM on February 12 [9 favorites]


I, on the other hand, find the repetitive busywork I do for cool or sporty furniture to be its own reward.

But not for kiddie furniture. Fuck that noise and fuck creepy ass Pietro clown ram.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:23 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Evergreen: for every periodic Dark Side of Animal Crossing article, the proper background music to read it to is Every K.K. Slider Song At Once.
posted by Drastic at 2:56 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Surprised to see no mention of Raddle, who asks you to collect stuff to kit out an operating theatre...

I know. He's the only animal I haven't invited to my camp and I refuse to make those creepy torture instruments for him. I like playing my various dystopian games (this, Pokemon Go, cookie clicker, Minecraft) but why invite the serial killer to come play? It says on his profile that no one knows why he wears a mask year round and suggests that he may be a super villain. For a game that doesn't comment on birds eating or imprisoning other birds, it goes pretty far to let us know that he's bad news.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:06 PM on February 12


I do not agree that the inclusion of Christmas means there is Christianity in that world. Christianity is pretty divorced from Christmas even in our own world and iterations of it in fictional worlds seems to be fair game for just a general winter holiday celebration.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:44 PM on February 14


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