« A Shot Across the Bow | Main | Innovation I »

Apr 25, 2005

Comments

1.

when i was in college my roommates and i would play animal crossing. it was a funny thing because we all lived in the same place, yet all interacted in animal crossing (as well as DAOC at the time). We competed to catch fish and find other rare things, got mad when someone sneakily planted a golden tree, etc.

i think it's a great game. apparently it's coming out for the Nintendo DS. If it does, and it's good, i may have to pick up a DS just to play it. the only thing is, to make it really fun you kind of need other people to be playing in the same world as you. nonetheless, addicting.

2.

Strangely familiar, yet different.

Great for kids to try out different personas as part of their self-process of understanding themselves, behaviors and normality. Great of adults to explore the same in the context of fantasy.

What's great about the design is the familiarity and normality of Our Town, which is used as a common platform to build collective experiences.

Taking this to a higher level of association, it becomes a Mecca, a Vatican, a place of spiritual and metaphysical significance.

But mostly, it's a strangely familiar, yet different world. A collective comfort zone, a safe neutral zone where all is fun and happy.

More run-on streams of thought :)

3.

My wife, who is not a gamer in any way, shape, or form, and my daughter, who is four, were completely entranced by Animal Crossing. For several months, our family played the game almost daily, for short periods at a time. It was a wonderful shared experience. We'd surprise each other with letters and gifts, discuss the town's latest inhabitants, and laugh at the game's quirky charm. Last year, when we were playing regularly, we almost brought the Gamecube with us on an out-of-town Christmas visit, so we could celebrate the holiday in Animal Crossing as well as the real world. It's a terrific interactive experience: relaxing, cute, completely non-threatening, and at the same time intriguing. Eventually, we moved on to other activities, but I have great memories of the time we spent with the game.

(blogging games at render)

4.

I bought (against recommendation) Harvest Moon: Mineral City for the Gameboy Advance last year, for a long road trip. It was a bit repetetive and bland for me, but my 6-year-old daughter can't stop playing it, for many of the same reasons you guys have stated for liking Animal Crossing. It's been very interesting watching her learn how to responsibly raise chickens, or even plant and maintain a garden until harvest time.

HMMC also has the concept of date-driven events, though time only passes as you are playing, not in real-world time.

I know that in WoW, the day/night cycle of the game works on a 24 clock (similar to a real-time environment). While this doesn't change critical gameplay much (if at all), it does affect some of the scenes--some NPCs roving the city in the day are not there at night, etc. Most MMOs also do events to coincide with big holidays to bring a bit of RL festivity into the world.

In general, I like this a lot. I always login to my current MMO on a holiday to see what is special. (I loved finding easter eggs on Easter in WoW, or Trick'o Treating in CoH on Halloween.) I wonder, though, if there's any damage to the perception to the integrity of the immersion in the virtual space that doing this causes, or if the benefit of having -any- event far outweighs the occasional nod from the virtual world that RL still happens.

5.

The thing that I found striking about Animal Crossing is the casual play pattern it supported--instead of playing in several-hour bursts, you'd find that after about half an hour you'd done all that needs doing in your town, and were free to log off and wait 'til tomorrow when it started up again. You could still fish or catch bugs, but it was a case of diminishing returns.

But there were enough maintenancey tasks--pulling weeds, picking fruit, talking to people so they don't forget about you--and scheduled events (you'd start hearing about special vendors coming to town a few days in advance, iirc) that you really had to play every day. It'd even mark off days you visited on your calendar.

Acrobat's being cranky at the moment, which is a shame; you've made me curious about the Bogost paper.

6.

i think the greatest thing about animal crossing and other persistent worlds, as others have brought up, is that it's a shared experience, something enjoyable to discuss even outside of the game. talking about the fun new people and events in animal crossing is ever more interesting than, "how was your day at school/work/home honey?" the family that plays together stays together.

i remember meeting a friend from high school at a summer barbecue the summer of my 3rd year in college--we hadn't kept in touch, but when we both found out we were playing DAOC, we talked the entire afternoon. i love the shared experiences and fond memories you can get from playing social games.

in some ways i wish my whole immediate family played WoW or something. im sure i'd talk with them a lot more and have a lot more to say if we all connected through a proxy like that. same with my old college roommates (well they are playing WoW, im not, so in that case it's my fault). but shared virtual experiences make it really easy to connect.

7.

This type of game has a lot of neat possibilities. Using something like this for group family therapy or just for helping groups be more cohesive could come about some day soon.

8.

My son, Dusten is in the 4th grade, this current school year, and I emmensly disaprove with the diffaculty level of this years terra nova test.

9.

This post inspired me to go back and look over my old Environmental Psychology notes on the concept of "place". I've posted a much larger response to this on The Guardian's gamesblog (here:http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/games/archives/game_culture/2005/04/a_sense_of_place.html), but in essence, the idea of "place" is hugely important in any kind of world, whether it's virtual or organic.

But Nathan, is your sense of "place" due to the sense that there are consequence or because the designers of the environment (including the I programmers) have done such a good job that you feel you can really suspend your disbelief?

10.


But Nathan, is your sense of "place" due to the sense that there are consequence or because the designers of the environment (including the I programmers) have done such a good job that you feel you can really suspend your disbelief?

I like your points you raised in your Guardian post:

Home versus House
"At home"-ness
Social Immersion
Sense of Consequence
Place Identity

I'm inclined to believe that the ingredients underlying "a sense of place" varies, even by the same person, from world and context. Your description of *Sense of Consequence* might be a good starting point to describe *my* empathy with the world of Animal Crossing (AC) - though i might, in my case, deemphasize "consequence" in favor of a more passive "connectedness," say. Part of the charm of AC for me lay with its non-threatening serendipity. Sure there are consequences but in fact they feel more like choices in the connections you choose to build or follow.

Personally, I'm a bit sceptical of "suspended disbelief" as an explanation of place - after all the warm empathy is something you may carry around, fondly, even if far and past, way beyond any transient illusion. I love A. Jacobson's comments above how even carrying the memory today still has some empathy.

Just for illustration of contrasts, a couple of other times when developed strong ideas of place in v worlds.

-) When I played EQI - I used to have a strong empathy with the zone ButcherBlock. That appeal to place mostly was - as you put it - an outcome of social immersion. Lot of dwarves bonding socially. "Cheers" (as in the TV sitcom) effect.

-) I once played in a MMOG called "Terra - battle of the outland" - it was characterized, in part, by folks building forts and stuff in a vast very empty howling red landscape. After a while after investing in so much effort and after getting to really know every nook and ravine in your "homestead" you bond with it. So much so that when other clans might overrun your territories... you may months later retake the same territories after all the forts and other assets have been destroyed and rebuilt several times since... and still feel a twinge of a homecoming, of sorts.

I think "a sense of place" is a complicated affair - but a powerful one.


11.

"Sense of place" is emotional. When a game triggers these positive emotions, the game is golden :)

We need more games to that can tigger more of these wholesome emotions.

The comments to this entry are closed.