The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

At some point, and very early on in my Animal Crossing's town's short existence, a green parrot named Frank moved in. He and I did not get along the minute he opened that brutish mouth of his. He sounded mean and gruff, and spoke Animalese in a tone that was very much like how Okami's Susano sounds.

He's one of those animals that had the heart of a jerk. You know the sort if you've played any iteration of Animal Crossing: the judgmental type who is unpleasant in his mannerisms.

I wanted him gone. And so, the fastest way to get rid of him was to have little to no interactions with him. Day in and day out, I uttered barely a word to that ugly green bird. An occasional pleasantry was exchanged, and I may have run an errand once or twice but not much more was done to further the friendship.

The day finally came when he saw me happily carrying out errands for my other animal neighbours and he stopped me to have a chat. He informed me he was leaving Tennant and I was prompted with the usual option to beg him to stay or wish him luck on his journey.

Without hesitation, I opted to have him leave my sight forever. A few days later, he bid the town of Tennant farewell and wrote me a tearful goodbye. In his departing letter, he thanked me for things I had (half-heartedly) done. He said he'd never forget me and hoped that I would never forget him. As I read it, his words almost made me regret carefully planning his exit. For a moment, I felt somewhat guilty but I quickly tossed that letter and moved on with my life.

The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

His next stop was my sister's town but there he was met with similiar treatment. He packed his bags and decided to leave the town of Feels.

He was an unwanted bird but with many of our real life friends playing Animal Crossing too, and gates constantly opening between towns, I thought for sure he'd find a home somewhere.

As the months went by and with new games hitting the shelves - Grand Theft Auto V, Final Fantasy XIV and whatever else - the hype of Animal Crossing in the community died down. Fewer people started playing. No longer did I see familiar names pop up on my friends list at regular intervals. It's of course, a common thing. There are new worlds in new games to explore after all.

Having a fondness for my town and most of its inhabitants, and still intrigued to watch the seasons go by, I still boot up the game on a daily basis. I may not spend as much time as before but I still water the flowers. I still check my turnip prices. I still buy candy for the Halloween madness that will follow on the Devil's Night. I even celebrated my birthday with some of the animals and experienced the infamous kidnapping on the day.

Life keeps going in Animal Crossing in its microcosm world even if you're not there to experience it. Apart from dealing with 'real world' matters such as mortgage payments, it's also designed to mimic the real world in certain ways when it comes to animal personalities. The personalities of the animals reflect the sort of personalities of people you may find in real life.

Certainly, it's not as complex as human nature and they are overly exaggerated in some cases but it does a good enough job to recognize particular traits. There are your friendly animals, your gossip mongers, shy folk and even the animals who may represent current cultural phenomenons - such as the ones I found in Colton my Hipster horse and Hugh my Food Loving (and sometimes Food Critic) pig.

And then there are those animals like Frank who have no idea how to properly engage in a conversation without being mean-spirited.

Or maybe it's that I never gave him the chance to assimilate into my town.

Make no mistake, as your relationships with your animals grows stronger whether bonding by doing errands or constantly talking to them, their personalities may not necessarily change but they do become friendlier in some regard. In a way, they become your character's virtual friends. They'll start writing you more and giving you presents. They'll ask you for your opinions. It's an odd, and incredibly intriguing thing to notice how an NPC grows and evolves.

The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

Nintendo's Animal Crossing, and much like The Sims, lets you play God. But Nintendo some how made it so much more complex. Animal Crossing feels like a social experiment. By putting all these diverse personalities and feelings into a little gaming Petri dish, I have the ability to interact with the animals (do not forget, on a smaller social scale) as I would with real people on a daily basis.

I can make them cry. I can make them laugh. I can make them angry. And I - in not liking a particularly personality - can ignore them.

And they'll leave because for all intents and purposes, they are not my friends and I am not theirs.

Indeed, that too is also the reality of the world. Relationships require a measure of maintenance and friendships can form based on certain like-minded attributes. And sometimes, personalities do not always mesh. Being a game, and completely true of life - you are often met with a series of choices. I made one here with Frank.

The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

But Nintendo, I noticed, did something horrible with the already horrible decision I had made.

What happens to those animals that you reject from your social circle?

Friendless and in the same t-shirt on his back from the town he last left, I noticed Frank aimlessly skulking around my shopping district.

I thought he was just hanging out. It's not uncommon to see a former resident animal paying you a visit. I shrugged it off the first day.

But then it started happening with frequency. Every day since before I really started paying attention, I noticed he would be lurking in the shopping district.

October 3rd, he was outside the post office.The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

October 4th, he was at the Able Sisters Clothing Store.The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

October 5th, he was at the Shopping Center T.I.Y.The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

October 8th, he was lurking outside T.I.Y.The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

Yesterday, he was back again and he was uttering the same two lines about great deals and/or how shopping is the best when searching for bargains.The Seedy Social Experiments of Animal CrossingS

I suddenly felt a sharp twinge of sadness when I realized what had happened. I made an unwanted animal be friendless and alone. And not only was he friendless and alone but he also had no where to go. Forever stuck in limbo, Frank has become a two line NPC Hobo. There's no more character development for him. He's now a wasted NPC, and I'll never get to experience all that his brutish personality had to offer.

Frank is a social experiment gone wrong and one that I failed at. Suffice to say Nintendo made me feel very much like a bully. I became a person who, with a clear conscience, intentionally put on a face in stark contrast to my real life interactions.

And while most games set you up in a role that you may never otherwise inhabit; Animal Crossing to a certain degree, allows you to inject as much as your personality and personal preferences into your character should you choose to play that route: from your design choices in decorating your ideal house to your choice of dress, and to the company you keep.

I probably would never have a friend in a Frank in the real world either but the fact that I did not even really take the time to engage him just reflected how much manipulation Nintendo had me engaged in. Perhaps it would be more truthful to say that the end result would have been the same, whether I took the time to become friendlier with him or not. But I acknowledge that I based some of those biases on my previous interactions with similar animals in previous installments.

And that gave me pause.

Nintendo gave weight to the saying that birds of a feather really do flock together.

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