There is a video game out there, if you haven’t heard of it, in which you are a human living in a town of talking animals that have a lot of psychological problems. Though it may sound like I am harboring negative feelings about the game, I’ve got more hours logged than a lumberjack.
It started early. Somewhere around 1st grade, more specifically. Along with our shiny new Gamecube, we brought home some classics including Super Smash Bros, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, and of course Population: Growing. I plugged in the sucker and popped in AC, welcomed by the opening train scene (no, I’m not getting confused with Final Fantasy VII) and listened to Rover mock me for not securing a place to live before leaving and bringing along only 1,000 bells (the super creative currency in this beautiful game).
Here is the first problem. Rover, likely a responsible member of society, calls me out for being financially reckless. I appreciate this. However, he also asks if I am a boy or a girl. Gender is a spectrum, ya jackass!
Anyway, after a horribly awkward conversation Rover calls up his pal Tom Nook and gives him a heads up that I am on my way to his town– a wandering child in need of a place to stay. Nook, a raccoon, meets me at the station upon arrival and shows me to a small neighborhood containing four small houses. I browse what each has to offer, only to realize that they are furnished exquisitely with a shitty radio and a candle atop a cardboard box. Isn’t this a fire hazard?
I pick the lesser of four evils and talk to Nook to find that I am instantly 19,800 bells in debt. Fantastic. At this point I am nearly convinced that Nook is a serial killer or the leader of some sick cult, and that opinion is affirmed once I am forced to work at his sad excuse for a general store to repay my mortgage.
So I do odd jobs, including stealing the flowers meant to be planted in front of his cheap shack and greedily placing them around my new abode. Eventually I pay off enough money and he releases me. But wait– there’s more! I won’t be satisfied with this tiny square room forever. How will I entertain all my furry friends? I should expand! The scam artist brainwashes me into expanding my home and I am slapped with another debt of 148,000 bells.
This reminds me of college. “No, in order to be successful you MUST dump thousands of dollars into an institution to purchase a degree that doesn’t guarantee you a job! But wait– THERE’S MORE! GRAD SCHOOL!” Tom Nook is essentially brainwashing and enslaving us all. I don’t have enough money for this crap!
I decide to get acquainted with my new town. Meet some neighbors, explore the map. After circling a few times it hits me: where are the other stores?
There’s one tailor shop, but other than that it’s all residential. So, wait a minute. You’re telling me this fucker Tom Nook has a MONOPOLY on LITERALLY EVERYTHING? No wonder why the cost of living is so damn high! It costs half my bells for a freaking fishing pole! He’s got everyone in the town under his control, with all of us picking fruit and begging for pocket change. If we could just get one more store in this town, the competition as allowed by the free market would solve all of our problems. But the game doesn’t allow it. Because the developers are probably working for Nook Corp.
Let’s talk about government employees for a second. Each town has a post office, police station, museum and a town hall. The post office is home to Pelly and Phyllis, who run the mail service during the day and at night, respectively. Pelly is bubbly, positive and kind to customers. Phyllis on the other hand, is quite frankly a bitch. They’re probably unionized and I bet Phyllis makes as much money as Pelly, if not more, as she works the night shift.
At the police station, another government run operation, Booker and Copper run the show. Inside is a lost and found full of items dropped across the town. You can literally take anything you want. Booker stands there and watches as you steal from your neighbors– then bids you a good day when you exit with your loot. What about stopping crime? How about you quit standing around all day and investigate whatever Tom Nook is doing in that sketchy shack of his? My tax dollars are supporting this useless crap!
Over at the museum, an owl named Blathers sleeps all day. Again, paying for this nonsense.
But the town hall is the worst of it. Tortimer is the mayor: an elderly tortoise that only emerges on holidays to hand out free gifts. Yeah, “free”. I wonder what his salary is. Or who will pay for his retirement…
Fast forward to 2013. The 3DS is the handheld of choice, and the first 3D Animal Crossing installment comes along with it: New Leaf.
The thing about this game is that YOU are the mayor! Tortimer is gone at last! Although, he is retiring luxuriously on a nearby island, likely funded by the taxpayers. You can go there to play games that he hosts, where he awards medals based on your success. Power trip, much? At least he awards additional medals to those who worked the hardest, instead of giving equal reward to unequal effort. So he’s not all bad.
As the mayor, you are responsible for erecting “public works projects” around the town. Citizens propose things such as bridges, lampposts, and other buildings that they want. The more you build, the more citizen satisfaction goes up. A donation center sets up where the project will be established, and collects from the animals until the goal is met. Sounds good, right?
The more my neighbors complain about wanting new stuff, the more I feel pressured to build for them. If I want the perfect town status, I need to keep them satisfied!
Except that they are all apparently broke. Every time, I find myself contributing 99% of whatever it costs to build. Say the project costs 400,000 bells to complete. In total, the townsfolk will contribute maybe, MAYBE 2,000 bells. In a whole week. I could make that much money in 2 MINUTES! Is this an issue of income inequality? In my wealth, should I be obligated to pay more for the city’s growth?
This mayor gig pays absolutely nothing. You know how I make my money? Catching bugs at night on the island. I have never once seen Drake pick fruit. Or catch fish. Or bugs. Or do ANY kind of work whatsoever. Yet, he complains about my inability to build a new Park Clock!
Still, I can’t put up a toll on the bridge that I completely funded. After the project goes up, the animals have a ceremony to celebrate their accomplishment. Bullshit! Our hard work? How about MY hard work, free loaders!
Another power as mayor (tyrant) is declaring ordinances. You can choose between Beautiful Town, Early Bird Town, Nightlife Town, and Bell Boom Town. These are basically government regulations. The first one is an environmental boost, keeping flowers alive and weeds rare. Who’s paying for the weedkiller? Taxpayers. Insecticide? Taxpayers. Fertilizer? Employing citizens to water flowers? Taxpayers! Now, environmental health is important, but I can only imagine it is costing us more than necessary. My guess is that our environmental department creates more waste than we are cleaning up.
The Early Bird and Nightlife ordinances both dictate how late and early shops must be open, and when citizens go to sleep or wake up. This is just a constitutional nightmare.
Bell Boom is the most interesting of them all. It increases buying and selling prices at each of the shops. Nice. Government trying to stimulate the economy. How could it go wrong?
Basically, I love these games. But in reality, not everything would be as perfect as it seems. Or perhaps I am actually a closet big government advocate, living out my fantasies in a virtual world.
… nah, no I’m not.