Thursday, April 9, 2020

Like An Animal Crossing Or, If You Will, A Crossing For Animals

When I was a boy, if I did something stupid because all my friends were doing it, which was often because I was a boy and my friends were boys, or at least the ones who did stupid things were, my grandmother would ask me "If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?". It never seemed to me to be much of a reason not to keep doing whatever it was I'd been doing, especially when what I'd been doing, as it sometimes quite literally was, had been jumping off a bridge.

Actually, I don't know if my grandmother ever did ask me that. It's one of those things you read about grandmothers saying and after a while you remember your own grandmother saying, whether she said it or not. I know for certain she did tell me that if I swallowed gum it would wind round my heart and kill me and that if I cut myself between my thumb and index finger I'd get lockjaw and die.

Those seemed like good reasons not to pay attention to anything she told me or at least not if it was going to end in a fatality. Anyway, my grandmother sadly met her own end (not from gum) in the late 1970s, so she's not around to pass an opinion on whether I should jump off the latest bridge and start playing Animal Crossing.

The universal language of obsessive hoarding.
To be honest, it seemed like a bit of a moot point. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the game that's sweeping not just the nation but the world right now is, as far as I can gather, a Switch exclusive. I don't own a Switch.

The last console I personally owned was an Atari 2600 and the last one I had access to was, I think, the NES - possibly the SNES. The kids had one when they were quite small. I played a Mario game on it a few times, as I recall.

The youngest is now married and expecting a baby in May so it's been a while since there was a games console in this house. I certainly don't plan on buying a Switch just so I can find out what I'm missing.

No, I thought I'd just ride this one out, like I have almost every other gaming craze of the last few years, from Minecraft to Pokemon Go to Fortnite. It's a bit like grandmother lore - I end up reading so much about these things it feels like I played them anyway.

And then I read this post at The Book of Jen, where Jen says "I don’t have a Switch, so I’m playing Animal Crossing Pocket Camp instead. It works on my phone." Hmm. A phone is another thing I don't have. Well, not true... I do have a phone and it is a smartphone but for months all I see when I power it up is static. Works fine as a phone so I've done nothing about it and most likely won't.

But I do have a Kindle Fire. And you can play Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on that. So last night when I got into bed, instead of going straight to Virgin Prime to watch the last couple of episodes of the excellent Doom Patrol, I downloaded AC:PC.

Here's something no-one tells you about Animal Crossing. It has the most annoying character voices in the history of gaming. Why does no-one ever mention that? Is there some kind of pact of silence? If so, God knows, I wish the bloody characters would sign it!

Apparently not everyone finds the high-pitched, glitchy yelping as intensely irritating as I do. In this excellent and highly informative video essay from Polygon the (unnamed) presenter describes it as "warm and familiar", "adorable baby talk" and "cute".

Yeah, no. Or at least not on my Kindle. It may be that this is a particular issue with AC:PC. In the course of researching this post I listened to a few clips of various versions of Animal Crossing on YouTube and I have to say that none of them is as teeth-grindingly horrible as what I'm hearing.

The upshot of all this is that as yet I don't have too much to offer on Animal Crossing because I spent the first half hour googling ways to turn the sound off. Not all the sound. Obviously I could just turn the sound down on the Kindle if that's all I wanted.

The trouble is, I like the music. It's pretty good. And the ambient sound is fine. It's just those screeching, squalling voices. I want to mute them and leave the rest but that doesn't seem to be an option.

Oh, wait... Yes it is! I just found it when I was taking screenshots for the post. It's not ideal, because it also mutes the ambient sound but it does leave the music on. I can work with that.

Freya's a fox, which means I have to invite her to my campsite. Going to be playing until that happens at least, I guess.

Visually, things seem much better, even if the camp itself is a surprisngly awkward and cluttered starting point. I couldn't figure out how to move around it, either. I just seemed to be standing outside peering in over the non-existent fence.

Moving around the world outside the camp is slick as butter, though and the gameplay feels natural and intuitive. I ran through the tutorial last night. Shook some trees, picked up some fruit, traded with Apollo (I think he's an eagle?), got him to check out my camp. Isabelle seemed nice, if a little organizing. She kept telling me I was in charge and then she'd tell me what to do. I was glad when she went off to do her own job somewhere else. Perhaps I can get on with mine now.

I can already see how the game could be relaxing. It has that vibe about it. I'd guess that, being a mobile app, AC:PC is probably faster-moving and more goal-oriented than the console versions. Gotta drive those microtransaction sales after all. Even so, it feels pretty laid back.

Psssst! Wanna buy a butterfly?
Chances are I won't play much. Not because of the annoying voices. I was already beginning to become desensitized by the end of the first session and anyway now I know how to switch them off. It's just that if I have my Kindle in hand I'm far more likely to start playing music or video than games.

But at least now I can say I've played an Animal Crossing game. Even if it was only for about an hour.

Aaaaand.... In the course of taking screenshots for this post I ended up going to the beach and learning how to fish. And picking some pears and collecting some shells. And basically playing for about twenty minutes. And levelling up and getting a fox called Freya added to my contacts list. So maybe I will be playing some more after all.

I do like fishing in MMORPGs. Which raises the question of whether AC:PC is an MMO, let alone an MMORPG. I didn't for a think it was either until I clicked on a girl standing by the jetty and she turned out to be a player. I bought a butterfly from her just so it would look like I'd known that all the time. I'm sure someone I meet will want a butterfly...

If there are players in the world that I can communicate with and they're people from around the world who I've never met and there are, potentially, many of them, does that mean it's an MMO? If not, why not? Discuss.

So here we are. Or here I am. Playing an Animal Crossing game. It's kinda looking like my sort of thing, too, just a bit. If it wasn't on mobile this might be a runner. Maybe I should re-install Nox, which I appear to have uninstalled without meanming to when I removed it from start-up.

Aaaand... I'm just rambling now. Bye!


  1. And when you're tired of the saccharine nature of the games, there's always reading Animal Crossing creepypasta instead. The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing / Welcome to Camp from the LPArchive is a classic.

    1. I'm getting my dark fix from Doom Patrol right now - I don't think I need to go all David Lynch on AC quite yet...

  2. And I guess no campsite would be complete with out a VW Microbus in the background. Feels so retro it's hip again.

    1. I think the VW Microbus is like Levi jeans. Timeless.

  3. My daughter informs me that Pocket Camp isn't REAL Animal Crossing, but she is way into the whole thing so suffers from the connoisseur problem; things unnoticeable to the uninitiated loom large to her. Still, I suspect it is close enough to get a taste.

    She has been vacillating on recommending Animal Crossing: New Horizons to me. I do have a Switch Lite. But she isn't sure it is my sort of game. I'm trying to get her to write 500 words about it for the blog, but she has moved into a teen cycle of sleeping most of the day and staying up all night. Three weeks of little or no school will do that.

    1. I think a lot of people would say the mobile version of most things isn't the real thing. I'd certainly say that about Dragon Nest, for example. It'll do me for a taster though.

      And Mrs Bhagpuss and I were saying only the other day how glad we were we didn't have a lockdown like this when the kids were still at home. Doesn't bear thinking about!

  4. I accidentally hit unmute on an AC video today and the mumble mumble bingely boop voices made he hit mute again VERY quickly. From the talk on the internet I'm assume the animals spoke some kind of generally annoying but harmless simlish thing, but ugh.

    1. The gibberish is fine - it's the extremely harsh tones that do for me. It's ironic, considering my delight in static, feedback and glitching in music but it just doesn't work for me in simulated speech.

  5. Pocket Camp is cute but even that I ditched way to soon. Somehow Animal Crossing just doesn't work for me.

    1. I've decided I'm going to get Freya the Fox to join my camp so I'm going to stick with it until then. Ihave no idea if that's likely to be ten minutes or ten weeks though. After that, who knows?

  6. I play this halfheartedly. It's not quite so fun as Actual Animal Crossing, but it fulfills my urge to have animals praise me for doing the menial checklist tasks they set. That helps when I can't get on Discord.

    I've never minded the bibbilybabble yippityyap of the chat noises. I find it quite soothing, actually. There's a character by the name of K.K. Slider who sings in those, I often have a playlist up in the background.

    1. I'm all in favor of having the animals talk in their own language - it's the sonic quality that's the problem. On your recommendation I checked out KK Slider on YouTube and he's way less annoying than in game. I'm listening to him doing Foster the People's Pumped Up Kicks as I type this. I'm guessing all those covers aren't actually from the game... especially ones abnout school shootings.

    2. Yeah there's a soundfont or something floating around.


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