What I Learned When I Attempted An Alternative Lifestyle In “Animal Crossing”

I’m an artsy fartsy litwank creative type (you may have noticed!). When something comes along that claims to support individual expression or freedom of choice, I just have to do something different to everyone else to show I’m a special lil snowflake.

avatar-saddam

For example, when Facebook introduced a new range of avatars you could use for reactions … actually I made a pretty good-faith attempt to be a normie on that one, but when you chose the long hair braid the system automatically put you in the female body category with no recourse to male body types or clothes, and we’d need a whole new blog post to talk about that, we’re doing socioeconomics today not gender assumptions, so at that point I just decided to lean into it and gave myself a sexy romper and a beret and that, coupled with the big grey beard, turned me into transvestite Saddam Hussein and I’m kind of okay with it.
I won’t curse you with a larger picture, mostly because I couldn’t find one.

Anyway.

I was already sceptical of Animal Crossing: New Horizons by the time Wump got it for her birthday from the always awesome Itkoblooms, but to be fair the Itkoblooms were the ones who described the game to me and they’re the best kind of pinkos so what I got of the premise was this:

You arrive on a desert island, and this cartel of sleazy raccoons tells you that you owe them money for the trip as well as for the tent and phone they give you to survive. There is no immediate way of earning money so they allow you to pay your debt in “miles”, which is basically doing grinding-style tutorial side quests around the island. After a while, you pay off your debt and are free to enjoy your island paradise … except the raccoons immediately push you into getting a house, which is an even bigger loan. More people (animals) start showing up and you have to prepare places for them on the island, which requires more grinding to make furniture and gear for their houses…

There are also some issues with multi-player and online mechanics that I really don’t like about the game (or the Nintendo Switch in general), but that’s a whole other rant. What we ended up doing was letting Wump be the “owner” of the island (since it’s her game), even though technically the raccoons are in charge. Wump, whose in-game name is Ruby, is the main decision-maker and the only one who can influence the construction and development of “Tiny Isle”. The rest of us (me, Mrs. Hatboy, and Toop) have our own characters and we can do some stuff but mostly just grind and help Wump to build the community.

Oh, and there’s an additional player character on our island, because only one player profile can connect to a Nintendo account and go online (if and when I pay for a proper online subscription apparently), and you can’t swap them, and so this was the profile we nailed permanently to the online / multiplayer feature back when I got the Nintendo Switch.

So, the players in our little drama are:

  • Ruby (Wump)
  • Werhag (Mrs. Hatboy)
  • Emma (Toop)
  • Big Papa (me)
  • Nin10drone (our family player character for online[1] play)
  • The Nook Cartel (NPCs)

There are also some other randos – a pair of dodos who run the only airline in and out of the place; a hedgehog whose shtick is selling turnips but has not displayed a single turnip in her inventory yet; a couple of other island residents; an owl who runs the museum once you build it; and more. It’s all very cute.

animal-crossing-bum_01

Yay! Here are the Nooks and a couple of others celebrating the opening of the island’s general store, which replaced the previous system which was “the Nooks have things and you can buy from them.”
Tom Nook’s nephews, Timmy and Tommy, run the general store. Nepotism and corruption are the least of their crimes, and I’m going to blow it all wide open.

I forgot to mention, the game operates on real time. So when it’s Monday at 22:15, that’s what time it is in the game. The shop closes at certain hours, they don’t trade certain goods on Sundays, and when you build a house or order something from a catalogue, it takes a few days for it to happen. It sounds painful (and I know there are cheats out there to fudge it) but it’s actually a pretty cool part of the game. Everything’s very laid-back. Also it means I have yet to play the game during in-game daytime. It’s usually around 21:00 in the evening when I sit down to do a bit of fish-insect-wood collection for my raccoon overlords and my firstborn Ruby who is the populist puppet dictator they have installed.

So. That’s the game. You build a little happy animal farm animal island, and enjoy a variety of fun little side-quests in the meantime.

I decided immediately that Big Papa was going to be a thorn in the Nook cartel’s side.

animal-crossing-bum_02

No way those stinkin’ trash pandas get me to march to their capitalist drum.

As you can see, I again had a problem with being a guy with long hair. This was the closest I could get so I again decided to lean into it and Big Papa is officially genderfluid. Subsequently, after my initial debt to the Nooks was paid off (I could have left it unpaid but I didn’t want to be beholden to them, and the starting loan is pretty small anyway), I decided they weren’t going to get a single cooperative moment from me from that point on.

I pitched my tent on the beach, got myself some camo clothes[2] and flip-flops, and refused any offer to “improve” or “scale up” that came along. I made my living picking flowers from the other players’ gardens and selling them to buy crude tools and DIY recipes. I fished and dug shit up on the beach. And I absolutely under no circumstances upgraded from tent to house.

animal-crossing-bum_03

The Tiny Isle bulletin board (which you get grind-points for leaving messages on) was the first place I struck a blow for alternative lifestyle choices.

Amusingly, right after I left this message on the bulletin board, a gift appeared in the sky (floating presents sometimes appear, you can shoot them down and they contain an assortment of power-ups). I opened it to find it was a new piece of clothing I could wear. What was the clothing?

A nose drip.

Like, a snot bubble hanging from your avatar’s nose.

This was the point at which I realised I was at war with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and it would use every weapon at its disposal to deligitimise my life experience and choices. I put on the nose drip and wore it with pride. It became my symbol. It was the snot blob of freedom.

This is not to say I didn’t take part in society. No, I am part of the team and I do what I can to help Ruby out. She needs wooden block toys and furniture to fill a new resident’s house, I build stuff and leave it for her to pick up. I buy and sell (on my own terms!) and when I wind up with clothes I don’t want (that’s all of them, basically), I give them to Emma or whoever wants them.

The new building sites, incidentally, produce a lot of random waste and recycling materials that end up in a bin inside the Tiny Isle administration centre. I forage in that bin for gear, and that was where I found the “moldy dress” (actual name of item) that is now my garment of choice. I sold my camo shirt and now live ecologically and sustainably on recycled gear.

Nin10drone and Werhag (with whom Big Papa shares an uncomfortable love despite the fact that she is a blind happy cog in the Nook Machine) occasionally help me out with their better gear and resources, but there’s only so much you can do. And this is where the really insidious late-stage capitalism sneaks in.

animal-crossing-bum_04

animal-crossing-bum_05

Did I have to turn my beach shack into a wasteland of discarded trash? No. No I didn’t. But the Nooks didn’t have to deny me the basic tools to improve my situation so here we are.

You can absolutely refuse to take out a giant loan and build a house. But there are a lot of in-game functionalities and bonuses that are not available to you until you do. New purchasing opportunities, access to DIY recipes that allow you to build metal tools that won’t break after a dozen uses, all of them are dependent upon “Nook Miles +”, a program in which you can only be enrolled once you have a home loan.

You are trapped, in short, in a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and are unable to improve your situation, and the game is set up to make it look like it’s entirely your own fault for not playing right.

Refuse the loan, miss out on the bonuses. That feels like a choice, as presidential candidate West once said.

Oh, and you can’t buy plane tickets to get off the island without Nook Miles + either. This is a moot point since only Nin10drone can go (in theory) fully online multi and go to other player character communities, but the other players on Tiny Isle can go to randomly generated islands to farm better resources and things you can’t find on Tiny Isle.

All of them, except Big Papa.

This experiment is still in progress. I am obviously nowhere near the first person to eschew the alluring baubles of Animal Crossing: New Horizons capitalism and remain in the neotenic tent stage. And there are probably ways for me to acquire airline tickets and other gear. But so far, this has been a very enjoyable way of sticking it to the man and holding up a mirror (possibly upcycled from a rusted car wreck I found while snorkelling) to consumerist society.

I look forward to the day Tiny Isle becomes a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis of paved roads and electric lights. Big Papa will still be squatting on the beach, nose drip on proud display, surrounded by the rest of the garbage left behind in the tank-treads of the unfeeling juggernaut of progress.

 

 


[1] It will probably not surprise you to know I chose the name of this communal entity as a form of protest against the fact that Nintendo doesn’t allow each player to have their own individual self-determination.

[2] Not pictured above. It was a bit of a rigmarole, as I mentioned, to get screenshots and share them online so I only took a few. This dress is a whole other story, I’m getting to that.

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22 Responses to What I Learned When I Attempted An Alternative Lifestyle In “Animal Crossing”

  1. aaronthepatriot says:

    That’s so awesome, we got this for my little one (13 now, do I have to stop calling her that?) and she has been playing the crap out of it. It’s too grindy for me with no danger or much risk, so I am sticking to my own stuff but I have watched her from time to time, as has her big sis. But it’s just her in the game.

    She has messed around a lot too, the best example I can provide is the quests where you take pictures of that poodle or whatever who is getting married, or…whatever. At any rate, I think it was wedding photos.

    So she kept arranging it so that it looked like her man was making out with my daughter, there’s like an expression you can do that sort of leans in a bit like a kiss, from side to side, if you angle it right. And she has the poodle bride crying in the background, or looking dead inside, stuff like that. It was hilarious.

    • stchucky says:

      That’s fantastic. I haven’t had much opportunity for that yet, I’ve done a ghost quest and a marooned pirate quest (got some fancy clothes as a thank-you for that but I gave them to Emma [Toop]), but not much else.

      Apparently when we activate our Nintendo account all of our crew can go online, with the possible exception of Big Papa who still may not be able to buy airline tickets because they’re off the grid. So I am definitely considering a subscription, then maybe your kids and mine can play together!

      • Well, we don’t do the online option in any of the Switch games, though I do have a Nintendo account. Not sure what it involves or might cost, but I’ll ask Droolia to look into it. (thought I’d finally break out the nicknames too). It would be neat if our fams could play this and maybe other switch games together. Especially in these isolated times.

      • stchucky says:

        If you have a paid Nintendo account (that is, there’s apparently the account, and then a paid account which is like $4 a month) then you don’t need to pay anything else, it’s all included. But yeah, you do need that payment. It gives you access to other games and stuff too. I haven’t looked into it much but will share more info when I do.

      • Cool cool, we can afford that if it comes with some perks. I also tasked my new teenager to look into it.

  2. Toon says:

    Happy Saturday Hatboy!
    Not a whole lot I can say about the game – the only person in our family with a Nintendo Switch is a nine year old nephew who told me when I saw him today he didn’t have Animal Crossing, but wanted it, and he thought the nose drip was cool. I know you were keeping this discussion to the economic manacles and relentless pressure of acquisition of the game but I just can’t help picking up on the whole long haired guy avatar thing. Besides you making a pretty damn awesome transvestite Saddam, what is WITH this idea a guy’s hair should be short to be a male avatar? I’m a live and let live do whatever you want with your hair and clothes kind of person when it comes to my kids, and everyone else, for that matter, what possible business is it of mine? I get to wear the clothes I want and my hair the length I like it. I have a daughter who has always chosen to wear her hair styled short (for a while was the only girl in her entire primary school with short hair bless her individualistic little cotton socks) and I have a son who has fast-growing, long, very curly, gravity defying – and when he tries to brush it – upright Fido Dido kind of hair. His own naturally unique hair. The girl has never been told she should grow her hair or wear it differently by anyone, but the boy – wow – so many people love to express their opinions (too long, too curly, too big, Ronald McDonald (that was from a teacher!) ) and he was once told three times in a single school day to get it cut! I used to tell him everyone who had a problem was just jelly of his hair but clearly avatar world and it’s creators have the same issues…so….well… just tell ‘em to go lick my nanna’s, is the polite and not quite complete version of the phrase I’d generally use….

    • stchucky says:

      You’re absolutely right. Well, for my own part I went to a fancy schmancy school (*cough-cough-Scotch-College-cough-cough*) where there was a regulation hair length and boys stuck to it. I haven’t had a haircut (beyond the trimming of split ends) since I graduated in 1995.

      For me, the “gendered” way of putting together avatars in assorted online contexts is funny because it allows me to make my hilarious Saddam and my incorrigible Big Papa. But I can absolutely see that for people further along the trans / genderfluid spectrum who have their life experiences denied and belittled in a thousand other small (and huge) ways every day, it would be a whole lot more painful and way less of a joke. And it’s really not cool.

      Mostly because it’s so easy! I mean, they have the options: Choose your hair style. Choose your facial hair. Choose your face shape. Choose your clothes. Why channel that into separate “boy” and “girl” streams at all? Add in a body shape category and spectrum that shit from Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson through to Baron Harkonnen, with Jessica Rabbit somewhere in the middle, and call it a day. Make it all customisable. I would have thought that would take less programming.

      • Toon says:

        Yeah so it was teachers from your old school who were jelly of his hair, well that’s what I have always maintained anyway…Perth right? He subsequently ended up at a different school (not because of hair issues LOL that would be a tad extreme of us) which actually on paper had exactly the same hair rules for the boys, most schools whether co-Ed or single sex seems to have an identical list of rules it seems, just depends on individual teachers whether they actually care about enforcing it, rather than particular schools, has been our experience. Boy or girl, rock your hair however you want, it’s your hair, right? Provided you know, it’s not lice or rodent infested or something. But clearly I’m preaching to the long ago converted if you haven’t had a significant hair cut for 25 years.
        So is Hindle your real name or a pseudonym? I did wonder when I entered the blog if you were related to the Hindle I know who went to and teaches at your old school and who is a cracking fella. Hard to tell if there’s a family resemblance because of… you guessed it… all your hair. LOL

      • stchucky says:

        Oh man. Yeah, James is my big brother 😀

        Hilarious that your son went there too for a while. I imagine they were stricter back in the Good Ole Days but it’s still very much a stodgy conservative enclave. My brother is director of wellbeing there now and has a constant uphill battle with the establishment who firmly believe that putting two boys in a boxing ring is the best way to sort out interpersonal conflict.

        Fun fact, none of my brother’s students believed I was his little brother when I went there for a visit a few years back. I was apparently too cool. Which is hilarious when you consider basically everything about me.

        https://hatboy.blog/2015/07/19/school-reunion/

      • Toon says:

        Ha ha anyone reading this would think Perth has a population of about 30 people. That school reunion blog is hilarious. My son always thought your brother was pretty cool. Probably because he never had a go at him about his hair 🤣

      • stchucky says:

        Yeah these days the population’s got to be closer to 50.

        Heh, seriously though, what a bizarre series of coincidences put us both in this corner of the Internet on opposite sides of the planet. I’ll pass on a nice non-specific “remembered fondly” to Jim next time I talk to him, he’s always brightened up hearing about former students.

        (No pressure to name real names or anything, by the way – I put a lot of myself out there and only wish the NSA and the Chinese government would pass on data about my books, but I know that’s not for everyone.)

      • Toon says:

        The Kate Foster website and a comment about tomato sauce was apparently all it took. Oh and a day off work sick and being bored enough to enter the fray. Glad I did!
        I enjoyed being anonymous for about 3 seconds which is apparently all I’m afforded living in Perth. I’ll probably let your brother know myself about the weird coincidence that is this blog conversation, I did want to ask him if you were related but if he’d never heard of you or if Hindle wasn’t your real name that would have been super weird.

      • Toon says:

        Hey Hatboy, all done, I’ve alerted your brother that I fell down an internet rabbit hole and ended up making a number of ill-considered comments relating to cheesy nuggets and the like on your blog, so no need for non-specific general comments protecting my anonymity if you do mention it to him, although I appreciate the thought. Weirdly you and I probably crossed paths in primary school watching our older brothers play in the same First XI cricket team (I seemed to spend an awful lot of time dragged along to that for years) but we probably didn’t notice each other because I was the girl who always had my head in a book. Always.

      • stchucky says:

        Hahaha, nice! I was probably wading in the Dog Swamp looking for tortoises because that was how I rolled.

      • Toon says:

        Hey Hatboy, hope you find this buried down here but…can I attach a photo in a comment? How do I do that? Been trying but it seems I’m a bit thick. You were the inspiration for something truly excellent in the Toon household this morning and I wanted to send you a pic.

      • stchucky says:

        Hey, cool!

        I think if you use this code it should work. The main challenge is, I can host pics on the blog as part of attaching them but you will need to host the pic somewhere else so you can link to it:

        [img src="XXX" alt="" /]

        So for the [ here you need to substitute <, and for the ] you put a >. And note the spaces in the code.

        For XXX, o’course, you want the https:// address for the picture.

        See how that works!

      • Toon says:

        Oh My God. Mate, you’re dealing with someone seriously fucking remedial here. It’s a photo. Like that I took and lives on the camera roll on my phone. Can’t I just send it to your bro and he forward it to you or something? Like the old school way? I’ve got a stress migraine just looking at [img src = “ “ = wtftoonisatotalfuckingcomputerretard “”]

      • stchucky says:

        Bwaahahahaha sorry, yeah it is a pain in the butt. If you want, you can email it to me (st.chucky [at] gmail.com) and I will put it up on a comment here for you.

        Like, you write the comment / explanation you wanted to throw down, and I’ll add the pic at an appropriate point?

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Ok Toon someone who types as well as you can fucking do HTML code Jesus Herman Fucking Christ SMH

      • stchucky says:

        We took it to e-mail, would’ve been more hassle than it was worth anyway.

        If you’re interested, it was a milkshake bar they put together with different syrups and a shaker maker. Looked mint. And other flavours.

      • Toon says:

        LOL Aaron no I can’t. I don’t even know what HTML code is AND I can’t even turn on our tv without the assistance of an amiable teenager. Clearly I greatly add to the diversity of this blog 😂
        I didn’t know you could actually buy industrial sized milkshake syrups for personal consumption until Hatboy suggested it. We now have 12 litres of syrupy goodness gracing our kitchen bench and oooh… about 100 kilos of weight gain ahead of us as a family….

      • stchucky says:

        Still bitterly envious, and just between you and me and Aaron and the dust bunnies on this blog, I’m living in dread of the day I need to ask my kids to do a technological thing that I can’t. The day is rapidly approaching, I know it.

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