Love the One You're With

Love the One You're With
Playing with Strangers

Pat Miller | 14 Feb 2006 11:01
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Put Animal Crossing on the DS, though, and all of a sudden it's a radically different game. No longer is your world contained to your living room TV; instead, it is in your backpack or your pants pocket or your glove compartment, where you can access it wherever and whenever you like, free to show it off to whoever may come by. Despite Animal Crossing's technical similarity to Animal Crossing: Wild World - and make no mistake, they are very similar games - the context in which you play one is so wholly dissimilar from that of the other, it manages to make the two feel like completely different games. Animal Crossing becomes a much more open, public space on the DS, where you are free to show off your fish collection to random passers-by if you so choose. People nearby can watch you play with the same bemused interest as one would watch a Street Fighter tournament, and, if they have their DSes handy, like one particular fellow at the Berkeley BART station whose name I never caught (I remember he has apples, though), they can feel free to join in.

Common wisdom was wrong about the original Animal Crossing. It wasn't perfect for your girlfriend because girls love decorating houses and nurturing homes and towns and such. Animal Crossing was always about doing nothing, and it just so happened by accident that some gamers figured out their girlfriends might like using the GameCube to test out different wallpaper/carpet combinations or design their own T-shirts with a 64x64 pixel grid. It suffered for this, because no one wants to do nothing for too long when they could be playing Super Smash Brothers: Melee.

But doing nothing with other people; now, that is a game people can get behind. This is because, once we grow out of making play dates with our fellow fourth-graders, spending leisure time with our friends and family and loved ones often boils down to having a decent conversation and maybe finding something to nibble on or keep our hands busy or provoke more conversation - that is, doing nothing. Animal Crossing: Wild World, with its wi-fi and all its mindless little activities and secrets and characters and holidays and collectibles, is a social space that facilitates doing nothing quite wonderfully in a way that online environments like World of Warcraft can't. For all the highly acclaimed social space massive online games provide, they just haven't constructed one that allows me to do on my gaming platforms with my friends what I do with them in real life.

Because, honestly, nothing makes for some quality time with the homies or the ladies quite like, well, nothing.

Pat Miller has been doing this for way too long.

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