I sunk about 12 hours of playing Animal Crossing just this last weekend, and came across an extremely interesting video about Why We Love to Play Animal Crossing. This video is in Korean only unfortunately, so I wanted to roughly translate the video here. All ideas and theories are credited to 승우아빠, with some of my own research and opinions added here and there.
If you look at twitch today (April 1, 2020), there’s about 91.1K viewers watching streamers playing Animal Crossing. This is in comparison to 138K for Fortnite, and 180K for League of Legends.
If you don’t know what this game is, it’s essentially a single player game (can be multiplayer with shared friend codes) where the user goes around doing various activities like fishing or finding fossils, as well as interacting with the numerous NPCs who befriend you and participate in events.
So what makes this game so interesting?
1. You get a house, and it’s easy to make money.
One of the first things that happens when you move into your island (or town) is receiving a house. It’s your own house to decorate, invite friends into, to upgrade, and more. Only catch? It costs money, and what seems like a lot in the beginning.
But don’t worry, Tom Nook is a generous man, and he tells you you don’t have to pay back quickly – but that you shouldn’t forget about it.
It’s not too difficult to pay off, either. There are many ways you can make money, mostly by selling your catch (fruits, fish, bugs, or literally anything other than trash), but there’s also an aspect of a simple buy and sell stock market based on turnips. In fact, players have dedicated an entire subreddit tracking turnip prices, not to mention its similarity in dynamics to bitcoin.
In reality, finding a job is hard, and making money isn’t easy. You often need a degree for things, or prior experience is highly recommended. Job searching and interviewing is stressful and you may not even love the work you do. Animal Crossing doesn’t have jobs, just tasks that you do as favors for your NPC friends.
On top of that, we all want to be homeowners. I’ve always had the dream of decorating and making my home just the way I want it. Is it realistic that I’d buy one? Sure, in the next 10 or so years, given Bay Area prices. Is it realistic that I’d pay it off that easily? Hell no.
2. You have friends.
Yes, you have friends.
No matter what you do, what course of actions you take, you will always have friends that come up to you and say hello. If you write them letters, they’ll sometimes send you presents. Do favors for them, and end up with a rare furniture piece or a snazzy shirt that sells for quite some Bells (the currency in AC).
While a bit sad, having friends may come across as new to some people in reality.
3. You get bragging rights.
Animal Crossing wouldn’t be fun without having a million tasks and accomplishments available for you. You can catch new fish and insects and donate them to the local museum. It’s completely empty at the start, and watching the displays fill up is a joy on its own. There are random tournaments like biggest fish or butterfly where users can compete to win.
If you catch a fish, no matter how small, while a
NPC friend watches you nearby, they’ll clap for you and tell you you’re amazing. You can design clothing patterns and put them up for display, for viewing worldwide, exercising those hidden talents as a tailor.
No negativity here, you’re always doing a good job.
4. You have no manager.
So I have to admit, this is somewhat more pertinent to East Asian cultures where a strict top-down hierarchy exists in many companies. I don’t want to propagate stereotypes, but it’s largely true in my own experience that there exists a significant amount of stress from management to employees.
In this world, you don’t report to anyone. Yes, you are to pay Tom Nook your 100,000 bells of loans, eventually, but he doesn’t pressure you. He tells you it’s okay to be slow in paying back.
In fact, you never have to pay him back to continue with the game. But, it does mean for you that you’re stuck with a small house that fits only a few things, and the Happy Home Academy will come by to say a few things about how you might want more room for more furniture.
Aside from that, no one’s telling you to do anything, and the consequences for saying no is never permanently negative. You can go back to happily digging fossils or shaking trees for money.
It’s all up to you whether you want to make your house three times larger, to finish all the collections for the museum, or to make the space pretty.
Okay.. so what?
Here’s one way to rephrase these 4 things:
- You get a house, and it’s easy to make money: You have security of money, resources and property.
- You have friends: You have friends, and you are loved.
- You get bragging rights: You earn the respect of others and your self-esteem.
- You have no manager: You are own your own in controlling your morality, and thus your own self-actualization.
This is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Animal Crossing doesn’t even bother with the first and most foundation human need – physiological. You never have to sleep, drink, eat, or go to the bathroom.
Otherwise, it crosses literally every level of the pyramid – providing a feeling of safety, love, esteem, and even self-actualization.
This is why everyone loves to play Animal Crossing, whether that be non-gamers, your mother, kids, or yourself. We want our needs and this game provides it for you, easily.
The Youtuber says it in his video: “it’s a god-tier game.” I can’t help but agree after seeing this phenomenal breakdown of the game’s meta-level analysis.
“Wait, but I don’t play Animal Crossing.”
Well, that means you either don’t have a way to play it (lack of a console and/or the game), or you are happy with everything in your present day reality.
That was fun, I’m going back to fish some more koi.