Tend & Befriend

With a month to go to the release of the new Animal Crossing game for the Switch, the hype is certainly building up — at least, I see a lot of people being excited over on Twitter. I’ve never really played any ‘tend & befriend’ games, and I am wary of the time-bound aspects: I do not want a game to dictate my schedule, I’ll play when I feel like it. Years ago, I played a kingdom sim where you’d plant crops that would ripen in 8 hours, but would have rotted on the stalk after 2 hours more, so you had to act within that two-hour window. I uninstalled the game (can’t even remember what it was called) and never invested in such a game again.
And AC does have real-time aspects to it, like everyone you meet has a birthday, and if you interact with them on that day, something special happens. Or certain events only occur within a certain time period. But since there is no ‘win condition’ (that is: you don’t seem to ‘finish’ the game), that’s not a problem — it’s not a ‘progress blocker’. And I’ve found through playing Pokemon GO that I don’t suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in such games: if I don’t catch that one ‘mon during that one event, then that’s fine with me, really. So I think I can deal with it.

I’m used to playing games with clear objectives, that you can ‘finish’ once a whole chain of objectives have been cleared. AC doesn’t seem to be like that, and it is really all about building relationships with the ‘villagers’. And that is its own appeal: Pocket Camp is amazingly affirmative. You pick fruit off the tree and give it to a friend, and they say something like “Wow, are you this generous to all your friends? You are amazing!”

I wonder what it says about our society that we turn to games to get experiences like that. But I do know that it shows there is hope for us yet.

2 thoughts on “Tend & Befriend

  1. I’ve played Animal Crossing on both the GameCube and the 3DS, and there’s a weirdly calming aspect to it. Personally, I prefer games with goals and endings, because I enjoy striving towards something. Also, it feels a little strange to build “relationships” with fictional characters because, at that point, wouldn’t it be more valuable to build those with real people?

    However, I did see the value in it while playing those, though. Particularly in a busy and stressful day, there was something nice about just walking around a small town picking up leaves, even if I was on a train.

    What is Pocket Camp, exactly?

    1. My point was exactly that: most of us do not get that kind of affirmation and validation in their daily lives. I blame the relentless grind of late-state capitalism that seeks to extract every last drop of productivity, leaving us feeling tired and isolated. And that kind of prevents us from building those kinds of relationships with others. And thus we turn to a game such as this to get our ‘fix’.
      Pocket Camp is the smartphone version of Animal Crossing. It has some typical ‘free-to-play’ traits, but it’s not as relentless as in other games. And it has the same type of charm. So far, I’m having fun with it, but the gameplay is not terribly deep.

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