I made a mistake last week and bought a Nintendo 2DS, complete with Pokemon X and Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
So, kiss my social life goodbye.
At its simplest form, Animal Crossing comes off as a life simulation game, only with cute animals as your citizens and neighbors. In New Leaf, you become the mayor of your town, combining social conversations with public projects and ordinances to make the best town ever.
And the game is freaking addicting. In the week I’ve owned it, I have spent hours fishing so I could sell the fish to raise money to build a bridge to connect the two parts of my town in a more travel-friendly way. It’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t be a mayor, yet here I am, campaigning for money to build a bridge.
The downside to that is that the game is freaking addicting. I had serious trouble getting my ass to class this week, and my normally-functioning social life was reduced to “meh” status.
Now, as you know, I have Asperger’s. So it’s hard enough to not be completely introverted without the distraction of virtual friends who like me with the press of an A-button. But put this game in the hands of someone with a more severe case of introverted behavior, and it could make a person regress.
I know I found it hard to really care about the plans I had scheduled for Friday. I considered going home early from work so I could dig up more fossils to raise money for this damn bridge.
I have since settled down, but that was a close one. What about someone with a lack of self-control? A game of this magnitude, where you can play it on a handheld without disrupting the rest of the world, can send those tight-roping the line between society and introversion over the edge.
So, why is Animal Crossing so addictive? A Huffington Post article noted that the game is designed to be played “a little bit at a time,” but with the ability to time-travel through clock adjustment, a player can do a few weeks of game play in a few hours, leading to a repetitive pattern that can be comforting.
For me, patterns are relaxing. I know what is going to happen in a pattern. So when I know that I can do event A, B, and C, then fast-forward a day and do event A, B, and C again, it is comforting. Compare that to humans, who are harder to predict, and you can see why Animal Crossing can hook someone with interpersonal communication problems.
I’m not telling people not to play New Leaf. Far from it. It’s an amazingly fun game and a great basic look into government functions. But please, if you have trouble creating interpersonal relationships, do not let this game act as a substitute. Friends are (generally) cooler than pixels.