Surprises in Animal Crossing: Wild World


So I’ve been play­ing AC: WW for over a weeks now and I must say it has lived up to my expec­ta­tions. It’s a cute and quirky game that does not fol­low con­ven­tion­al game design rules. There is no way to die, no (real) way to loose or even win. In a sense it’s more like a toy than a game; you can play with it end­less­ly, there is no goal to reach (apart from dis­cov­er­ing all it’s lit­tle secrets).


One of those secrets was par­tic­u­lar­ly fun to dis­cov­er. After a few days of play I con­vinced my girl­friend to give it a try. So she put the car­tridge in her pink DS Lite. While I was cook­ing din­ner, she went through the begin­ning stages (dri­ving to the town in a taxi, get­ting a job with Tom Nook). A bit lat­er, I picked it up again and went about my busi­ness (I think it was fish­ing, I still have a large loan to pay off after the first house expansion). 

After a while I went back into the house and found (shock! hor­ror!) a bunch of cock­roach­es run­ning around my care­ful­ly kempt inte­ri­or. “We have cock­roach­es!” I shout­ed to my girl­friend while run­ning around the house try­ing to squash them. The appar­ent source was some apples lying around. “Didn’t the ani­mals tell you don’t leave stuff lying around the house?” I asked her. They had, but where should she put them (the apples) oth­er­wise? Good point. 

We had a good laugh after that episode. Be care­ful who you play this game with; it might be a chal­lenge liv­ing togeth­er in the real world – Ani­mal Cross­ing is no dif­fer­ent! But the real genius of the game is in these things. It’s a rules based world for sure (leave apples around the house, get cock­roach­es) but the mini-nar­ra­tives that it allows you to build in this way is crazy.


Anoth­er exam­ple is the let­ters I find myself writ­ing to the ani­mals. I’m sure they’d be hap­py with any kind of let­ter, as long as I men­tion some spe­cif­ic words maybe (like ‘hap­py’ and ‘friend’). In stead, I’m writ­ing ful­ly formed sen­tences, and include lit­tle details that would be appre­ci­at­ed by real peo­ple. In that way, it’s allow­ing for sub­tle role-playing.


On the sub­ject of role-play­ing (and there not being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way to play the game); I know I should be hard at work pay­ing off the afore­men­tioned loan (to progress to the next ‘lev­el’). But in stead I find myself spend­ing a lot of time and mon­ey on present for the ani­mals, and dona­tions to the muse­um. That might be role-play­ing (or that might be my real per­son­al­i­ty influ­enc­ing what I find plea­sur­able in the game) but the coolest bit is that it doesn’t mat­ter; any way of play­ing is valid.

Have any oth­er peo­ple had sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences with the game? Are there ways to apply this log­ic (the pat­terns inher­ent in the game) to oth­er domains?

Some closing links:

My Mobile Game Directions Pecha Kucha

Yes­ter­day I pre­sent­ed my talk on mobile gam­ing at the 6th Pecha Kucha Night in Rotterdam’s Off_Corso. I was pro­grammed as the first speak­er, which was excit­ing (and also allowed me to ben­e­fit from the pri­ma­cy effect, as my girl­friend point­ed out). Col­league Iskan­der was kind enough to record the whole thing on his N70 (fit­ting­ly) and I present it here for your enjoy­ment or aggra­va­tion, whichev­er you pre­fer (please take note that the talk is in Dutch). The slides I used are over at SlideShare.

I’m still not sure the sub­ject mat­ter was appro­pri­ate for the event, con­sid­er­ing the major­i­ty of speak­ers were either graph­ic design­ers, autonomous artists or archi­tects. The crowd might’ve been a bit under­whelmed by my com­mer­cial and pop cul­tur­al ref­er­ences. Oh well, I had fun, I guess that’s the most impor­tant thing. 

Many thanks to Nadine and Bart of Hunk Design for let­ting me loose on stage. ‘Nuff respect to all the pre­sen­ters for tak­ing the trou­ble of prepar­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion. There were plen­ty of cool and inspir­ing ideas on show. Final­ly, thanks to the cre­ators of all the images I used, you can find the cred­its in the SlideShare show.

Update: I’ve delet­ed my YouTube account so here’s an embed of the video on Vimeo:

Mobile Game Direc­tions @ Pecha Kucha Night Rot­ter­dam from Kaeru on Vimeo.

See me Pecha Kucha on mobile gaming

Mobile Vader

Next Wednes­day, see me do a pre­sen­ta­tion on mobile game design at the 6th Pecha Kucha Night in Off_Corso, Rot­ter­dam. Pecha Kucha are super short pre­sen­ta­tions con­sist­ing of 20 slides. Speak­ers have exact­ly 20 sec­onds per slide to do their thing. Quite a chal­lenge! I’ve fin­ished my slides and a first draft of the talk, now to prac­tice the hell out of my lines… Here’s an entry I made for the event, here’s the Dutch and inter­na­tion­al site and final­ly, here’s some cool Pecha Kucha tips by Yongfook.

Mobile gaming directions

Yes­ter­day we had anoth­er fun and inter­est­ing IA Cock­tail Hour. Thanks to the kind folk at Media Cat­a­lyst for the hos­pi­tal­i­ty and Olly and Boyd for their pre­sen­ta­tions. I thought I’d put up the slides of my short talk on where I think (non-con­sole) mobile gam­ing is or should be head­ed. I’ve added some notes, so there’s more than just pret­ty pic­tures to look at. If you have any thoughts to share, don’t hes­i­tate to do so!

Shadow of the Colossus mini-review

A screenshot of Shadow of the Colossus, courtesy of

One of the most reward­ing gam­ing expe­ri­ence I’ve had in quite some time, Shad­ow of the Colos­sus is an exer­cise in restraint (some­thing rarely found with game design­ers). Large parts of the game are spent rid­ing a horse through a lav­ish­ly rich land­scape, look­ing for a giant mon­ster to bat­tle. Felling one of the title colos­si always involves solv­ing a log­i­cal puz­zle (real-world log­ic, as opposed to the so often found in-game log­ic) and is very sat­is­fy­ing. One of the best look­ing games I’ve ever seen on the PS2, rid­ing, fight­ing and climb­ing cliff-faces are always esthet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing and quite cin­e­mat­ic. High­ly recommended! 

Rough notes for T.L. Taylor — Play

MMOGs have roots in RPGs and MUDs.

Soft­ware and service.

Ulti­ma, EverQuest, Wow…

Social con­texts

MMOGs isn’t anti-social. Social isn’t icing on the cake. Social is the sub­stance of the game. It’s key.

On- and offline con­nec­tions mix.

Emer­gent social activ­i­ty. E.g.: “guilds”; trust, respon­si­bil­i­ty, reputation.

Game devs aren’t giv­ing play­ers the tools to be social. Focus is on arte­fact first.

Rough map of guild — con­nec­tions between play­ers are offline

Tran­script of in game chat. Lots of offline connections.

Friends are the Ulti­mate Exploit”

EULA: shar­ing accounts is not allowed (in EQ).

Col­lab­o­ra­tion and teams:

Com­plex coor­di­nat­ed actions. 

Co-cre­ative culture

Play­ers also pro­duce and design. Emer­gent cul­ture and tech­nolo­gies that change the game…

Play­ers change the prod­uct in deep ways.

Game in box is just part of larg­er game space.

WoW opens up UI for play­ers to change. Big dif­fer­ences between players.

Cheat­ing — mod­i­fi­ca­tion of game is debated.

IP — who should be the design­er, what’s play?

Sell­ing avatars on eBay. Game com­pa­nies own the avatar so it’s not allowed. Embod­i­ment — you don’t own your body!

In EQ there was a lot to do about fanfic. 

WoW in game protests. “Protest­ing in game is not a valid way to give us feedback.”

Are game worlds pub­lic space? Or not because they’re corp. owned?

Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of cul­ture. Design­ers want con­trol over play­ers / users. Let go!

Things that are hap­pen­ing in game are exam­ples of big­ger issues such as: UX, IP, mash-ups, P2P, etc.

Book: Play Between Worlds, T.L. Taylor.


What about scale? Do these thoughts apply to small­er games? We need small­er games to exper­i­ment with gov­er­nance and such.

Is there an end to the game? “End” is play­er-defined… Games should be bet­ter at help­ing peo­ple leave.

Can these games become the new plat­forms for pro­duc­tiv­i­ty? There’s a lot of mum­bling, but no-one knows. You pick up valu­able skills while playing.

Does this apply to alter­nate real­i­ty games? E.g. ILove­Bees… She did a piece on Majes­tic. Beta dur­ing 9/11. It was mixed with reality. 

How can we use tra­di­tion­al ethno­graph­ic think­ing? The work isn’t com­par­a­tive enough to make any strong statements.

Xbox 360

Xbox 360 Orig­i­nal­ly uploaded by Kaeru.

Last thurs­day I got to try out the new Xbox 360 before it launched in the Nether­lands. The wire­less con­troller was nice, the graph­ics of both games I tried were as good as was to be expect­ed. But sad­ly — no inno­va­tions in game­play. I would’ve loved to see some mas­sive online games in action. That had to wait to after the launch of course. Some more shots over at Flickr.