I will write about Animal Crossing in the same way Deleuze and Guattari write about their philosophical ideas—whatever they are—by assuming you know what I’m talking about, not when it comes to my ideas, but to where the support for my ideas come from. For those unfamiliar, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze and Guattari is a book I consider nonsensical for the simple reason that I don’t have anywhere near the knowledge and understanding necessary to make sense of it. To put it a better way, the book is nonsensical to me, but to those well-versed in post-modern theory, it is—I assume—a useful, if not revolutionary, tome that informs and elucidates the foundational and supportive points that shape the theory.
Unlike, say, a blog post about a roller coaster that for whatever reason decides it is necessary to spend an introductory paragraph describing the cliched nerves and butterflies experienced by the writer, pun intended, Deleuze and Guattari will bring up an author or work, give nothing in terms of background and context, and simply cite to them in a manner that, for those uninformed—like yours truly—seems intentionally obtuse, almost as if to reserve their work for those truly worthy. I admit I am not worthy. I do, however, admire that method of writing because it wastes no time teaching the reader what should be standard or accessible knowledge for those in-the-know and decides, instead, to respect the reader’s intelligence and time with what is only new insights and contributions. If you don’t know what Animal Crossing is, then too bad for you.
It is said that, sometime around middle school but certainly by high school, less time should be spent on the Pythagorean theorem and more, or at least some, on filing your taxes or learning how to budget. If we think about adult finances generally, they fall into the category of “mundane tasks that must be accomplished otherwise you cannot proceed.” The question then is not so much, “Can you file your taxes?” but, “Can you accomplish this mundane task?” The skill needed is not something specific to filing taxes; instead, the skill needed is something that can be generally applied on a universal level. That skill is accepting the mundanities of life and moving on. Animal Crossing conditions the player for this exact reality by forcing you to play by its mundane rules—this, by the way, comes from someone who considers Animal Crossing his favorite game. This is significant because I have a hard time naming a favorite anything. I opt instead for a list of food or music or movies that I really, really like rather than providing one domineering champion.
By forcing you to collect fruit, devote hours of your time to fish and entrap bugs that you then can sell for paltry sums; by limiting the high value items like fossils to coincide with the console’s internal clock so that you’re restricted to excavating three fossils per day, Animal Crossing quickly forces you to come to terms with the bullshit that defines everyday life. The debt you must pay back to increase your living space has no deadline, sure, but you find yourself making arbitrary goals for yourself that accurately reflect responsible budgeting in the real world. Unless you plan on dedicating hours per day fishing and fishing—because, let’s be real, that’s where the money is unless you’re somehow blessed with Golden Stag after Golden Stag—you, as an elementary school student, will organically make goals for yourself, benchmarks, and projections to provide yourself with an estimate for when the initial 19,800 bells are going to be paid off. Animal Crossing imparts upon the youth playing that the game is in it for the long haul. Progress can only be accomplished little by little, day by day. This structure reflects the gradual progression one goes through in life, provided one has a goal that one intends to reach.
And then there’s Mr. Resetti. This mole accosts you as soon as you leave your home and berates you for minutes—literal minutes—for failing to do something so fundamental, so crucial, so inexorably married to your existence that failing to rectify this mistake quickly and in nothing less than absolute terms means you might as well be willingly throwing away all of your time and progress. Imagine if you could materialize your time, walk over to the dumpster, and deposit it there. That, in no uncertain terms, is what Mr. Resetti tries to get you to understand. Failing to save the game and being the object of Mr. Resetti’s speech is not a pleasant experience. Again, for a child playing this game, Mr. Resetti quickly becomes an authority figure you hope to never see again; if you do see him again, you’re overcome with a feeling of deep embarrassment, regret, and shame. Powerful feelings, to be sure. Unconsciously, Mr. Resetti imparts the following real world lesson: keep track of what you’ve done; don’t allow yourself to forget the progress you’ve made; and certainly never, ever, do so willingly, because, it’s not like you can really forget. You will always remember having paid off the mortgage or having caught the coelacanth for the first time, but you’ve got nothing to show for it. That’s not a good feeling. Better to remember the unpleasant lecture or lesson and ensure that it never happens again.