Animal Crossing Needs a Rent Freeze

I look so stupid.

I look so stupid.
Screenshot: Animal Crossing

We are all looking for an escape. It’s that desperate need for a slower world, for people to take a moment, for Republicans to develop an ounce of compassion, for Democrats to grow some kind of backbone, and all of us villains without strength to just … damn breath. Animal Crossing, a game where you join a bunch of anthropomorphic animals on an island, is literally a virtual escape from the world. When you get ready to board, that’s what the two little raccoons even tell you. Animal Crossing is intended as a balm for our anxious little lives. Only it sucks immensely.

I am not unfamiliar with Animal Crossing. I certainly ignored my friends for hours while they played it and I smoked vodka-enriched hookah in 2005 (don’t do that). I playfully checked it on the Nintendo DS and gave up when I missed two days of gameplay and all my in-game friends let me down (don’t do that either). A few years ago I even spent some time with the mobile version of it. Most things are fairly consistent from incarnation to incarnation.

You are human in a world of cartoon animals speaking in a digital rhythm that Nintendo translates into human speech in speech bubbles underneath. You collect fruit and insects and rocks. You build things. You run huge debts to a bunch of raccoons and work all day and night to pay off that debt.

That’s really my problem with this game. Right now, the real world we all want a vacation from is led by capitalists with no concept of wholesome socialism. Powerful men and women think a single $ 1,200 check will make up for months and months of lost income. These people like to give billions to billions of companies, but let hospitals waste away. People starve and children remain uneducated.

The world is already run by the raccoons, so why on earth would I want to interact with them in a game?

Animal Crossing isn’t the only real sim that puts you in a rut similar to the one you’re likely to experience in the real world from day to day. Games like The Sims and Stardew Valley can definitely feel like work. You get up. You work your ass off. You are happy with the sweet sleep at the end of the day.

But those games are a lot less aggressive simulacrums of capitalism that you have to take into account every day. By forcing you into a long-term and reluctant relationship with a landlord / borrow shark raccoon, Animal Crossing is a better reminder of the world we live in. At a time that so many people are screaming for a rental stop, the last thing I want to do is go to a simulation where it doesn’t even come close to a possibility.

My many friends and colleagues would argue that I just had to play Animal Crossing more (Gizmodo editor in chief Kelly Bourdet told me not to write this blog until I played at least a week). They would say I should embrace the game’s most beloved feature: travel seamlessly to your true friends’ island to hang out or demolish their own digital limbos.

But I didn’t want real people in my real house before a highly contagious pandemic getting close or touching hands turned into a real Victorian scandal. Why would I want you on the overgrown island that I’m just a serf who lives?

So even though I only played 5 minutes of the game and did little more than pitch a tent on a piece of land I don’t own, I can safely say Animal Crossing sucks and Stardew Valley rulez.


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