Creator’s Intent 2 – A first timer’s approach to playing Animal Crossing

In the last part of this series I started off by making an effort to take a middle ground in the issue of inclusiveness vs. the integrity of the creator, mainly during the discussion on the issue of difficult games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. I failed, taking a pretty defined stance on the issue than I had intended by the time I was finished writing it. Getting into it so much so that I never got around to talking about the other point I wanted to touch upon; Animal Crossing.

Previously, I brought up the douchy types who would dictate to others about the “correct” and “incorrect” ways to play video games. How these people made the lives of people who streamed and produced video content a living hell. Most recently, I feel like the perfect example of this issue has been distilled with the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizon. Specifically when it comes to the point of contention that is time travel.

For those of you that don’t know, Animal Crossing is a slow paced, leisurely game that time-gates a lot of events and progression through the game’s connection to real world time. Often telling the player that they need to come back the next day to see their efforts come to fruition.

Creator's Intent 2 - A first timer's approach to playing Animal Crossing

The point of conflict here comes between the people who wish to follow’s the game’s own advice and wait for events to unfold over the days and weeks of play sessions, and those who want to bypass these time gates by altering the game’s internal clock, thus time travelling to see the game’s content sooner. Despite my impression of this game being one of leisurely progression, some players take the game very seriously and get very stressed out about not getting their town perfect as soon as possible.

This is all new to me, as this is my first time playing any Animal Crossing game. I can see the arguments for both sides here, My desire to see the new content in the game sooner is certainly a temptation, but at the same time, the feeling that I can just play for an hour or so a day and feel like I’m slowly getting somewhere. Coupled with the fact that I’m too lazy to actually mess with my game’s clock anyway, it’s a nice, low pressure experience in this world of levelling up seasonal battle passes.

It’s weird though, I’d imagine this has been a point of contention for the fans of the game since it started and yet Nintendo have been strangely passive in taking a stance on the whole issue. I’m used to Japanese developers like Nintendo being especially precious when it comes to their games, like with how they resisted the competitive aspect of Smash Bros. for the longest time.

Creator's Intent 2 - A first timer's approach to playing Animal Crossing

Yet, in this case it seems like the creators have been pretty open to allow players to approach and interact with the game in anyway they want. They’d still prefer it if people didn’t mess with the clock and time travel, as director Aya Kyogoku said in an interview that they’d rather still players meet the game’s content without jumping ahead, but didn’t condemn the act in any way.

In fact, she was pretty open to encouraging players to interact with the game in any way they want to. To each their own is an ideal approach to most things in life, one that a lot of people on the internet refuse to live by. As the debate, which has cooled now the game has been out for a month, continued to rage on pointlessly.

Back when it was hot though, I’d see even news sites, both focused on game sites and not urging not players not do it, and passively aggressively referring to it as a cheat. And you’d have the other side of the fence where fans and proponents of changing the clock would insist that it was the intended way to play the game.

I really don’t have a strong opinion on this issue, but that last assertion is pure delusion.

Creator's Intent 2 - A first timer's approach to playing Animal Crossing
Aya Kyogoku: Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s game director

Nintendo obviously intended the game to be a slow burn, something you play a little bit over a very long period of time. Yet they’re open to letting people play the game on their own terms despite that. Still though, they’ve made some alterations to the game, in order to both hold things back from the time travellers, but also give them a reason to come back further down the road.

The recent, controversial Easter event that come to a merciful end last week and other events like it are now tied to online patches and need to be activated as such rather than being natural within the game’s own calendar. At this point, many of the time skippers have seen everything the game has to offer, and some will most likely put the game down and forget all about it. Putting in these seasonal events will keep the game fresh in the hand of people who have pretty much exhausted their time with the game in terms of new content.

Personally, I don’t think I will mess with the game’s clock. But I’m not going to criticise those who do so, had it not been for the great things I’d seen people doing within the game on social media, once they got access to the terraforming functions withing the game, I most likely would have never picked the game up myself and started my time with the series.

Creator's Intent 2 - A first timer's approach to playing Animal Crossing

And it’s an experience I’m enjoying quite a bit, although I’m hearing some very divisive takes on the game from those who have been playing them for a long time, ranging from it being the best game in the series, to it ruining everything. Personally, I’ve got not point of comparison. Yet, there is one thing I feel the game is sorely lacking for. And that’s when it comes to the game’s multiplayer experience.

Visiting friends islands is cool and all, but it proves to be a reduced experience for everyone involved, for both the host and the visitors. Many of the game’s functions being disabled until the player is returned to some form of solitude. I don’t know if there were reasons behind this, but making the game a truly cooperative experience in every regard is the thing that should have been a focus from the beginning.

In the end, Animal Crossing is one of those games that can be any number of different things to any number of different people dependant on their tastes and what they want out of the experience. In that regard, the developers have been open to low players interact with their game in any way they want to.  Staying relatively silent on the time travel debate. Presumably because they know that punishing people who do it would reduce the number of active playing if they some couldn’t bypass the game’s own time gates.

Creator's Intent 2 - A first timer's approach to playing Animal Crossing

On top of that, time travellers end up being good marketing tools. Animal Crossing a slow starter, I’ve learned that first hand. But had I not seen what the game ends up being capable of by the late game, then I’d most likely have never picked it up myself.

A good portion of the player base have ended up playing and enjoying the game in ways the creator’s probably never intended them to. And yet it turns out to be the best outcome for all parties involved, the developers of the modern games have made some assurances that time travellers don’t destroy their own experience with time paradoxes, but for the most part they stay true to their vision and allow the fanbase to make of their game what they want. This is one of the few games where I see people raging at one another and not the developers for a change.

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