Try it and you’ll see why dude. Honestly, it’s awesome.” These were the words of a friend of mine when I enquired as to why whenever I spoke to someone about the latest Animal Crossing title, New Leaf, they began to grin like a Cheshire cat at the very mention of its name. Having never experienced any past titles of the series, I was apprehensive as to how engrossing a game could be that wanted to me to listen to the animal folk rather than squish them. The answer was very engrossing. Addictively fun, Animal Crossing: New Leaf was given a pile of praise when it was released last year and as I began picking my way to the top of the cherry heap, I quickly started to realise why. However, Animal Crossing: New Leaf was not the gaming experience I expected.
With taglines such as ‘A cosy life with friendly neighbours awaits,’ I imagined New Leaf to be a sweet, jovial game speckled with a few lessons here and there about friendship and community. This however, was not the case. Deeper than the voice of James Earl Jones, my experience with this game was much more thought-provoking than I had anticipated, as it jogged my memory of some of the most valuable life lessons that I’ve come to learn in the midst of my supposedly ‘adult’ years. Below is a look back at the top five life lessons that I was reminded of through my time with Animal Crossing: New Leaf, all of which I wish I’d been taught before my angst-ridden, nu-metal loving, teenage years.
#5 There’s No Shame In Asking For Help
There were an abundance of times that I needed to ask for help in New Leaf and since ‘Mayor’ wasn’t exactly a regular role featured on my characters CV, I needed all the support that I could get when it came to my governmental duties. Thankfully, such help could be found via my very chirpy assistant Isabella who was on hand to give me advice whenever I needed it. There were also many other friendly villagers in the town who were more than happy to help me with my enquiries and when I was unsure of how to a fishing rod, all I had to do was say so. Did I ever feel ashamed about this? No, because if I hadn’t of asked then I would have wasted god knows how may hours of my life throwing that rod in the water, only to catch the virtual flu. In the real world, there’s no shame in getting help either, especially when you’re up against a Giant Bowser that you just can’t seem to defeat.
#4 Patience Is A Virtue
During my New Leaf journey, I had to be prepared to wait for things, which of course, meant having a little patience. Moving along in real-time rather than the more traditional game-time, if two hours passed in my village, then two hours passed in my bedroom. So, when someone told me that something such as an overly priced house (see below for details) was going to be built by the next morning, I actually had to wait until the next morning to finally get rid of the cloth and poles I’d been calling a home for the past few days. Granted, a 24-hour turnaround for a new home is the best building quote I’ll ever receive, but in the land of video games, it’s still quite a while to wait. However, on planet reality we all have to wait for the things we want and whilst having a major temper tantrum may seem like a good idea to achieve the things you crave, it still won’t make the new Super Smash Bros. come any quicker.
#3 Looks Can Be Deceiving
I’m not going to mention any names here, but let’s just say that there is a certain raccoon in New Leaf that knows how to get what they want. Deceitfully cute, he who must not be named may at first appear to be a ball of lovely, helpful fur but actually he’s just another shady mammal looking to get a quick payday off those in need. Unfortunately, doing business with the above was a situation that I wasn’t permitted to avoid, regardless of the fact that I felt the words, “Sorry, right now I can’t calculate how much the building work is going to cost. . . “sounded like those of a shifty racoon trying to jib me out of some dollar. A valuable lesson to remember, looks can too be very much deceiving in the real world, although sometimes this can go the other way. For example, just because a person appears to be an unapproachable cookie doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be a nasty piece of dough. Take New Leaf inhabitant Apollo. Initially he doesn’t look like an overly friendly bird to converse with, but surprisingly he’s quite nice once I got a closer look inside his feathers, figuratively speaking of course.
#2 Treating People Badly Will Get You Nowhere
A lesson that needs to be taken quite literally in this game, early on I was asked to get my town approval rating up on the premise that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get the planning permission I required, thereby stalling my game progression. Therefore the only way to get anywhere in New Leaf was to treat the inhabitants of my village with some consideration, thus allowing me to develop both my town and game advancement. Since Animal Crossing series isn’t big on violence or profanity-laden insults, it’s no surprise that I was required to act this way to further my in-game ambitions but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have a choice. If I wanted to insult people and tell them that their clothing selections were at best questionable, then I could have, but that would have meant being stuck in the same gaming loop in New Leaf forever. Treating people badly in this game then, really doesn’t get you anywhere, and unless your ambition is to be a regular on the Jeremy Kyle show, then you’ll probably find that treating others with respect tends to get you much further than sleeping with their sisters does.
#1 Nothing In Life Is Free
The harshest and truest lesson of all, it’s one that I was reminded of very quickly during my time in New Leaf. When I wanted a roof over my head, I had to pay for it. When I wanted a shovel with which to find more valuable things to sell for said necessities, I had to pay for it. When I wanted a hat that made me feel more sophisticated than James Bond at a Mozart concert, I had to pay for it. Whether you pick cherries, hawk seashells, or sell your own shoes, one way or another, you need to find a way to get those bells or your already freezing tootsies are going to get even colder. It’s a horrible thing to learn whether you’re a real person or a computer-generated Mayor but unfortunately the above lesson is just one of those sad truths that we all have to learn to live with, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t the case. That being said, there are some things in life that are free but chances are you won’t want them. I know I certainly don’t.
Original article first appeared on the BagoGames site on 11/02/14