I don’t wanna talk about E3. After watching some of the pressers, I want to get back to a special little place called Parallax, Animal Crossing. Yes, my sweet Parallax. Named after ancient technology heavily employed in past generations, it was established all but a few days ago and has flourished ever since. We pride ourselves on laid-back attitudes, our delicious, seasonal pears and a growing collection of indigenous fauna from the region.
See, we do things a bit differently in Parallax. It’s a slower, quieter life here, far away from the explosions and gunfire of those big screens. We don’t change too much over time, growing slowly and surely as an old tree with new leaves. But that’s not the real difference, no. While those place – ahem, those games – strive to keep you coming back, never letting the hook out from your cheek, Animal Crossing builds a more loving relationship by knowing when to let you go.
I know, I know. This doesn’t seem right. You’ve heard stories of people falling into AC addiction holes, clawing at the loose dirt and gazing up as the moon phases. Yes, the game has that smacking taste of one that demands you to keep coming back but it’s not the shallow Lookit Dem XP Bars sort of way. In fact, what makes it so pertinent is how it willingly you can just put it down.
Animal Crossing is not the first series to dabble in real-time worlds. However, I’d argue it does it most effectively. Each day in Animal Crossing: New Leaf ushers a fresh batch of stuff to do. Stores are replenished with wares, trees burst forth with ripe fruit once more and the random chances all re-stack. In other words, you can very easily exhaust all the viable content for a day and just put it down. The key is not that you get new content, it’s that the content can be stepped away from.
Sure, you can continue to grind for a few hours catching bugs and picking seashells; tasks no more engrossing than standard RPG fare, but why not just go to bed? Really, just nap and come back (both in- and out-of-game; your pick), the world will have caught up and even changed a bit by then. Man, I don’t know about you, but there is a real beautiful thing there. Amidst the sea of mobile games micro-transactioning you to death and MMOs stealing your sleep and multiplayer games demanding actual practice, a game that acknowledges your time is a breath of fresh Parallax air.
Take your time, in other words. Come back as the sun sets, let those weeds grow and forget about the pear crop for a short while. Just take in some of that fragrant breeze and relax a bit as you catch a firefly or two. There are no progress bars to fill, only the ambivalent, invisible spectrum of your happiness to gauge your success. Screw your approval rating and perhaps design a new T-shirt.
To this end, Animal Crossing is the laid-back, anti-game we’ve all been looking for. That game that is really, honest-to-goodness for anyone. While it’s all casual with depth, streamlined but rewarding, pick-up-and-play, drop-in / drop-out, it’s the freedom of being shackled to it that makes it shine. The feeling that video games just miiight not be the most important thing around is what makes it the most important thing around.
That’s an odd thing for a game writer to say but, still, something I’ve said times before. I like games that respect my time and so should you. The slower pace and open air of Animal Crossing repeatedly and nurturingly reassure you that games will go on without you for a bit. It’s a bold design choice, but one that resonates with the often-overlooked side of my gaming psyche, the one that just wants to take a load off and enjoy the world.