Animal Crossing No Life: Obligation as an Experience


Yesterday I did something that I haven’t done since June 9 — I played Animal Crossing: New Leaf for only seven minutes.

Since its release, I’ve played 178 hours of the adorable little simulation game. My average play time is 41 minutes. By comparison, my second-most played game on my 3DS — Mario Kart 7 — comes in at a modest 36 hours total play time.

But yesterday, I just didn’t feel like making time for the hamlet of Midori. And, for the first time, I didn’t feel obligated to.

The thing about Animal Crossing is that I’ve played it before; before the 178 hours I’ve spent with New Leaf, I spent tons of time with Wild World, the DS version. New Leaf is a fantastic upgrade, but the core gameplay is essentially the same. The pacing is slow and peaceful. As Cliff Bleszinski put it, “Everything in Animal Crossing happens…tomorrow.”


Is Animal Crossing just insanely replayable, or is it something else? I’ve replayed plenty of games before — I’ve probably spent more than 178 hours between different versions of Pokemon — but this is different. I revisit other games because I want to, because I love them dearly; with Animal Crossing, it’s because I… have to. I feel like I should say hi to Brewster and Sable every day for fear of making their cute little animal faces sad. I’m compelled to hunt beetles obsessively until I have too many Bells to know what to do with. I’m terrified of my pink roses wilting. I come back every day because I have to, not because I can’t put it down.

That’s not to say I don’t like the game or think it’s boring; it’s a charming, sweet game that makes me smile every time I play it. I love Animal Crossing. But after a while, it starts to feel like my mayoral duties in-game are a full-time job. It starts to feel like a chore.

It seems weird; gaming is my hobby, and hobbies aren’t an obligation. Games are supposed to be fun, right? WRONG. (Just kidding.) Games are fun, but they’re also challenging, frustrating, time-consuming and emotional. Games provide a wide variety of experiences, and Animal Crossing is just a different kind of experience. It’s a comfy, relaxing space to retreat to when Hotline Miami starts to frustrate me. It’ll make me happy when The Last of Us makes me cry. It’s something I can always return to, but in order to have fun with it, I need to invest some time in it. Just maybe not as much as I have been.

  • It’s like this really manipulative mix of obligation and color. It shoves the cake down your mouth but it tastes really really good.

  • Now I want cake…

  • Lmao I loved every moment of this article. You definitely painted a picture and I all of a sudden fear Animal Crossing lol.

  • Aww, see…this is why I never played it. It never stops, even if you want to. I can’t tolerate a game that punishes me for not playing. I often go for days without gaming, sometimes up to months. I can’t have games that demand time in my schedule. It would just stress me out when I’m not playing. Vacation? No such thing! You must play! PLAY! I can’t. I want my games to be there when I decide to get back to them, whether it’s tomorrow or in two weeks.

    You paint an exquisite picture, my darling. <3 But it is terrifying.

  • And that precisely is the allure of Animal Crossing.

  • Same. I’ve seen what has happened to others playing it, so I’ve been avoiding it so I don’t have to have the same thing happen.

  • I’ve played a little bit of it as a resident in my boyfriend’s town where he is the mayor and its an enjoyable game but yeah, it can get annoying especially when you leave it for a week or so and go back to it. It feels like even more of a chore to pick all the weeds, water all the dead plants, re-plant, talk to people to see what is happening and whats new. It’s a feature of the game that i kind of wish it didnt have (that passing of time while you are away from the game) just to preserve your sanity. I also generally dont like games that don’t have a definitive ending to it, although that might just be my RPG experience talking.
    Nice blog 🙂

  • Oh my gosh, I can’t agree with this more. I love Animal Crossing so much, but now that I’m at a point where all that I care about is how my town looks, there isn’t much left for me to do other than hope a new public works project arises. That being said, I can’t possibly just wait til I feel like checking again. I have to play every day to make sure my town doesn’t start dying. I feel an obligation to my town folks as mayor. It’s a very very interesting dilemma to encounter in a game and you expressed it perfectly, Kallie… not that that surprises me one bit. 🙂

  • Ditto lol. I simply can’t give that kind of a time commitment at the moment.

  • I struggle trying to justify dedicating all that time. I’m beginning to get to the point where I want something concise and thoughtful. I would never want to watch a never-ending movie either.

  • Hah, I gave up on New Leaf after a week actually. For some reason I just couldn’t get into this AC game this time. People think I’m crazy actually. xD I’m glad though, this game can really do things to you!

  • Yeah I feel the exact same way. I hadn’t noticed it in previous versions but I definitely do now. I think it’s because my time is much more precious and doing the same thing every day in my AC town starts to get tedious and like a waste of time. It’s a great game but I still fear that next time I log in maybe Sly will have moved out and then I’ll just rage quit AC forever!