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I Heart Animal Crossing

11/09/2008 Family Family Gamer Article
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I have never ever found a game that consumed me quite as much as Animal Crossing, for quite such a length of time.

Driving games bore me. I like platform games for a while but I'm not always that good at them. Shooting games? No thanks, far too noisy, not to mention violent! I quite liked some of the dance mat and bongo drum games, but they don't hold appeal after you've completed them, really. A lot of games have unlockable levels or items, but you often have to have a fair bit of skill at a game in order to finish them, and I often come unstuck there and then get frustrated, as I like to be able to finish things.

Animal Crossing is different - there is a little bit of skill to it, but generally in itself it is an easy game to play, although very involved and you need to know what you're doing in order to complete it. And therein lies the appeal. A game which, for someone like me, with a slightly obsessive personality, appeals a great deal - the collecting, ticking off, and step by step logical approach.

I first started with Animal Crossing Gamecube, that someone mentioned to me as a game my kids might enjoy. We started playing it together, and I was soon hooked, looking up codes on the internet in order to try and complete the catalogue - and getting up at 6am to play the game at the right time for Aerobics week and get the special boombox, just as one example! The children got bored long before I did, I only stopped when I had the golden statue in my garden, signifying that my bank account had hit some astronomical level. I bought my first ever GBA on ebay just so that I could visit the island (I'd never had a GBA before, only a very old Gameboy for playing tetris on!). I think I played through a year of the game, although by the end of that period of time I was changing the clock to hit each day at the time I needed in order to do that day's vital activities.

The children got bored long before I did, I only stopped when I had the golden statue in my garden.

Then there came a wait - thankfully not too long a wait. I had time to buy a second hand DS specially for the game just before the US release of Animal Crossing: Wild World DS. I have never imported a game before but was desperate to play this, so I had mine on pre-order from the States. Within hours of starting the game I had registered on a forum as it was clear that in order to get very far, you had to connect with other players. I quickly hooked up with a player from the UK so that we would hit the same timezones for playing - and subsequently joined a group of UK and European players who chatted online throughout the first year of gameplay.

I had decided to stick to the clock when playing the DS game, and I pretty much did - perhaps changing the odd hour here and there, but mainly sticking with the season or time of day when I could play. My husband thought I was completely mad. Luckily for me there were other people as interested in the game as I was and we had a web page written by one of our members where we tracked turnip prices, or if one of us got a special item from Gulliver we'd let the other players come to our town to catalogue it. People shared tips for how to grow hybrid flowers, or how to determine an item's feng shui properties, or how to find that elusive item. Someone created an Excel file in which you could easily map your town's 'acres' in order to achieve that perfect town status to get the golden watering can - and although my family thought I was daft to be so involved in the game, it was reassuring to have friends out there who loved it as much as I did! There was a huge buzz from the social element of the game, with people hosting virtual parties in their town, and such frivolities - I guess to live in this virtual world was a form of escapism from the mundane humdrum real life, but then all games are, to a certain extent.

There was a huge buzz from the social element of the game, with people hosting virtual parties in their town, and such frivolities!

As an aside ... when the game was released in the UK I bought it for the children, so that they could have a town without the risk of them messing mine up!

I played for a year seriously, and then after that I had completed all the seasonal things, so it was just a case of working on completing the catalogue. After another six months of trying to keep all my flowers alive and just checking the shop for items that I didn't have, as well as checking for special characters each day, I finally got tired of trying to keep the town up. I'd stopped playing with other people too, as lots of people gave up before I did (not before a couple of people on the email group announced that they were boyfriend and girlfriend as a direct result of meeting one another through Animal Crossing - they are getting married soon!).

So after 18 months in total, where I didn't play anything else at all, it was a struggle, but I finally kicked the Animal Corssing: Wild World DS habit. I've missed it though, despite playing a few other games since I stopped, nothing else has quite taken its place, so I can't wait for the next instalment. I'm sure there will be just enough new features in the Wii version to make it worth playing all over again, so I can't wait!

Written by Andy Robertson

You can support Andy by buying I Heart Animal Crossing

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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