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From: Kris Ligman
To: Christian Nutt, Mike Rose
The thing is, regarding the comparison to free-to-play: I don't find it inherently bad. Not the comparison, nor the charge that either is monotonous. Those games can be and often are, sure. And if you're of the sort of temperament where these sorts of daily routines are a drag or worse, definitely, at least some parts of Animal Crossing are going to be a disappointment.
I can't speak for anyone else but I find all the game's many tiny rituals relaxing. There's been some scholarly work done comparing repetitive gameplay and certain kinds of spiritual activity, for instance Buddhist koans which also draw a lot upon repetition. Not to say Animal Crossing is a religion (although some no doubt play it religiousLY), but when you take into consideration the sort of meditative state of mind it's possible to enter when you're doing certain tasks, whether it's this or Tetris or Bejeweled or whatever, I think the appeal of all of AC's little systems (and that of many F2P games) is quite clear.
Similarly, if you're not an adherent to whatever spiritual or meditative practice is being put on, it's easy to look at these repetitions and think "this is wasting time," "I've done this already," "when are we going to get to something new?" That was almost the EXACT reaction I had to much of BioShock Infinite, actually. If a game's verbs ring hollow for you, they're going to become less meaningful for you than the verbs that don't.
This is almost veering completely off-topic but I also don't believe there is anything inherently problematic about the "mindless clicking" of F2P and casual games. Zoning out can be great. It's the monetization and its ties with compulsion, as Christian mentioned, that make those titles problematic.
And, come to that, if we're just making the comparison to free-to-play based on the busywork aspect, I can think of plenty of "core" titles with the same amount of tedium. Borderlands, for instance, or pretty much any FPS, or practically any classic arcade title. Few games on the whole have actually transcended the "clear the screen" imperative, if we want to get bloody-minded about it.
Frankly I think all the reference to F2P does is serve as a dog whistle for "casual," "for women," "mindless" -- again, all supposing those things are negative or undesirable, which they're not, and all three of us know better. I feel like the more we harp on that the more we're doing a discredit to the game. And, yes, I include myself in that criticism, so I'm going to go ahead and move on.
Did I tell you guys I got StreetPassed by another ACNL player the other day? Not a colleague, just a random passerby while I was out on errands. To put into perspective, I live in Los Angeles and I can count the occasions I've StreetPassed someone in public on one hand, outside of events like E3 (and I hardly got any E3 passes this year either!). That, to me, says volumes more than all the buzz on Twitter ever could.
From: Christian Nutt
To: Mike Rose, Kris Ligman
I can't really stand for the game being labeled shallow. Sure, the individual mechanics are not deep -- the fishing isn't in itself complicated or rewarding, and there's no mastery component to it -- but that is not the only form of depth that a game can take.
Rejecting the validity of any game that doesn't concentrate on depth of mechanics is, I think, not really a great idea. It's very limiting. I love Bayonetta -- that game offers incredible depth of mechanics, so much so that I can't even get close to plumbing them because I'm just not good enough at games to do so. But that is not the only kind of depth games could, or should, pursue.
I guess what sticks in my craw is Mike's charge of it being "incredibly simplistic" -- the game is not simplistic. It's simple. There's a world of difference between the meanings of those two words. The fact that it is simple is what let me do this; the fact that it is not simplistic is what enabled me to do it.
And, of course, as Jeremy Parish described in that link I shared above, the game has tremendous thematic depth. I think that counts for a lot, too, and is exceptionally undervalued by the industry in general. HD games may have a lot of textures, but they don't usually have much texture.
Kris' Borderlands point in specific is, I think, particularly well-observed.
One of the things that keep me coming back, also, is that I still find something new every time I turn the game on, pretty much. Sometimes these are small things, and they can certainly be infrequent, but the truth remains: there is always something going on. My pace of play has slacked off dramatically, but I still play every day, and it's not because I need to get money from a rock (though I do that too, of course.)
In the end what I am left with is this: how long can this go on? I don't see an obvious end to it. I'm sure it'll taper down and down, but for right now, I've forged a real emotional connection to my game, and I can still see uncharted territory, too. I've rarely been so satisfied with one single game for so long.