Owning a few casual video games, the kind you can go back to when the mood strikes you, are great for those days when you feel like playing a game that doesn’t require more than an hour of your time. It doesn’t involve full concentration and there aren’t any levels or boss fights you need to complete. Games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Nintendogs are the type of games where the only tasks you have to do is either keep your town in order or your pet well-groomed and fed. These games are seemingly easy to play, but it does come with its own set of problems.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf has you taking control of a human avatar that accidentally becomes mayor of a town filled with talking animals. Being the big boss in town, you get to name the town whatever you want, you buy a house which can be expanded and customized overtime, and your main goal is to simply make sure the town thrives and your citizens are happy living in it. Pretty easy, right?
You can spend an hour doing a number of things, like talking to your citizens, go fishing, catch bugs, pick fruit to be sold at your local store, or gradually raise money for public works projects to improve the quality of life in your town. That’s all well and good, except spending even a week away from your town has your townspeople freaking out when you come back later and they’re wondering where you’ve been. Spend a month away, like I have, and they think you abandoned them. It also doesn’t do wonders for your character’s appearance either. My character currently looks like she went off to live in the wilds and came back looking like an uncivilized cave woman. Not pretty at all.
Nintendogs is like the modern day version of the ’90s toy Tamagotchi or other similarly branded digital pocket pets of that time, minus the horrific realization that your pet can die if they aren’t fed enough or are overfed. Nintendogs has the player pick a puppy, take him or her home, name them, and then simply keep their pet clean, well-trained, fed, and happy. Some versions of the game also let you adopt a kitten much later.
The game is the perfect fantasy where puppies and kittens stay small and adorable forever and they never die on you even if you haven’t played the game in a week. The only thing that will be greeting you when you do load the game again are pets who clearly missed you and are in desperate need of a bath and grooming.
Maybe it’s just me, but not logging into games like Animal Crossing or Nintendogs for weeks or months at a time makes me feel incredibly guilty. Why guilty? These are the only games where they somehow make you feel bad for not checking in with your citizens or your pet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a Nintendogs game untouched for a mere week and my puppy already runs up to me with the saddest eyes in the world that say, “Why have you abandoned me? Don’t you love me anymore?” Yeah, those eyes get me all the time. I haven’t touched Nintendogs for almost a year now and I can’t even begin to imagine how filthy my pets are and how resentful they must feel towards not seeing their owner in such a long time. Probably better I stay away from the game for now.
Look, I’m a busy girl with a busy life. I don’t always have time to keep up with my citizens or feed the puppy. Okay, feeding any pet is important when you have one but this is a video game puppy. If we’re living in a fantasy where puppies and kittens never grow up or die, they should not make you feel guilty when you come back to spend an hour or less with them. They’re breaking the illusion, damn it! It’s even worse with the townspeople in Animal Crossing. You’re telling me that if the mayor is away from town for long periods of time, you can’t hold the town together on your own? Honestly, their reactions to seeing you again is as if the sky has been falling while you’ve been away. Some take slight offense for not being able to speak to you for two weeks. The worse.
Casual video games are wonderful for less time investment type of gaming, but it isn’t so great when these games remind you that you haven’t played in a really long time. I already know how long it has been since I’ve played. No need to pull out the guilt card, Animal Crossing and Nintendogs. You don’t see other video games pulling out the guilt card when I decide to resume a level or tackle that boss fight, do you? Didn’t think so.
Have you ever come across a video game that makes you feel guilty after not playing it in forever?