Do you see that glorious sight above? That’s my long-earned home (and surrounding grounds) in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. In the first 365 days I owned the game, I only ever missed one, and that was because I was terribly ill. In that calendar year, I clocked in over 700 hours.
Suffice to say, I’ve played a lot of Animal Crossing: New Leaf (ACNL).
ACNL is the first Animal Crossing I had ever played, and I immediately took to the organizational aspect of the game. I liked that I could basically plot out my public works projects and create subsequent “walkways” to create a lovely and orderly town. I even went so far as to plot out much of Xanadu (my town) on graph paper, just so I wouldn’t make any errors in planning.
Nowhere was this more of a concern than my home and surrounding area. I had a meticulous graph showing where I would need to put public works projects to ensure both symmetry as well as the requisite distances to keep other townsanimals from descending on my “property.”
In my haste to do this, I hadn’t properly created safeguards to keep townsanimals from moving in to other important areas, and that’s when the discomfort began.
I had three carefully placed bridges, with three carefully placed walkways, one of which ran from the north part of town, all the way through the south part of town and subsequently down to the beach.
That super jerk Eugene.
He moved in the middle of my walkway. I was appalled. This was the game I went to as my “comfort.” It was a safe place where I could put everything in its place and know things were in order.
And Eugene plopped his koala self down in the middle of my main thoroughfare.
I tried so many things to get rid of him. I used my toy mallet (I felt bad about it, but I still did it) on him in hopes he would get upset and move away. He didn’t.
I used my bug net on him (apparently this is the way to most irritate your animals), and that didn’t do anything.
If your town is full, once a week one of the animals will approach you about moving away. Every single animal other than Eugene came to me before he did. When he finally did come, I told him basically, yes! Move! Please! And he responded with some horrible thing like, nah! We are such good friends, I will stay!
I was mortified.
When he finally managed to haul himself out of my town, many months had passed. Every single time I logged in, I was annoyed at his stupid house in the middle of my otherwise very carefully planned town. And as soon as he moved, I planned everything so no other animal could do that again.
(As a side note, I hope in future installments of Animal Crossing that you are able to approve where animals choose to live. I’d like to keep some sort of order to things in such a way.)
After I had safeguarded my main path, I felt burnt out on the game. I started tapering off playing. First a day at a time, then two or three, then a week, and so on. I thought I would keep up that schedule until something awful happened: Rod moved away in one of the time spans where I hadn’t logged in.
I happened to log in on the day of his move and I was devastated (you know, in the video game way). I wished him well but inside, I knew my town wouldn’t be the same. He’d been there since day one, and he and Maple were my favorites.
And even though I tried to be positive for him…
…I pretty much felt like this.
I think if my adorable Maple had moved, I would have left the game all together. I just love her. She is the sweetest. Thank goodness she is still there.
After Rod’s departure, I started going a month or so without playing at a time. The whole situation touched on something I don’t typically deal well with: change. I struggle with even small amounts of change (not of the monetary variety). Sure I always get through it, but I get so uncomfortable it’s borderline hilarious.
But something had been happening – with each of these changes in ACNL, I was learning to adapt a bit. This may sound odd, but I think it fundamentally continues to help me in my real non-digital life.
I probably would have kept to that new very spare schedule of checking in on Xanadu, were it not for my friend Colton (hi, Colton!) getting the game and our talking about visiting each other’s towns. Because of this, I thought I should get back in there and do some spiffing up.
As I showed at the beginning, this is my house. I planned exactly where each flower went, each bamboo plant, each public works project. It was all highly designed.
Then this happened:
A rude and presumptive squirrel moved to the edge of my property, ruining several bamboo plants, hybrid flowers, and the overall flow of the place.
It may sound funny, but I was made severely uncomfortable by this.
And this happened:
A bunny moved into a different walkway close to the previous house. I had to reroute a large portion of the walkway to my house.
Then this happened:
A sheep moved to a very ill-placed spot that not only destroyed a large amount of hybrid flowers, but also caused me to reroute the walkway, as well as tear down a public works project and replace it a few grid squares away.
This one I was happy to do, as I’d been wanting a sheep to move to town for ages and this was like a dream come true. I made it work. (Eunice, you are welcome to be wherever you like!)
But that was the thing: in all these cases, I adapted. I didn’t like my plans going awry, but I dealt with it.
Change isn’t always bad. And apparently, it helps us grow as people and stuff.
A very long time ago, this white flower appeared here at the cliff’s edge near the beach. I’ve never seen another of these flowers that can be planted such as this. I have no idea how it came to be, but there it is, and I love it.
And I decided to make a room of my house into a “remembrance room” where I keep the photos of my current townsanimals who I am on “best friend” status with, as well as the photos of the townsanimals who have moved away (I miss you, Goldie!). This helped me deal with the “loss” of Rod and the others.
And I look forward to when he shows up on Main Street someday in the future. Some of my other since-moved-away townsanimals have been making appearances, and it’s a lovely feature.
Did I ever think a video game about doing inane errands for animals would effect me this way? Absolutely not.
Am I grateful for the ways in which video games can help me grow as a person? Heck yes.
So thank you, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, for helping me learn to adapt. I never would have expected real life growth to come in such a way.
Color me pleasantly surprised.