I started gaming with the NES. I had quite a few games back then which are now mostly forgotten. I remember I had a game called Totally Rad. I never finished it but I always liked it because the bosses filled the screen and you could use magic to turn into animals. Also the game is called Totally Rad.
Back then there was no internet and I never bought magazines so I chose every game based on the box art. Which is how I ended up with Super Turrican. Turrican was my Mega Man, I never finished it.
One of the first things I did was design a town flag with the master sword on it. “This is cool.” I thought. “Cool enough to be a t-shirt.” So I’m strutting around Arlia. That’s what I called my town. It’s named after the starting town in Star Ocean the Second Story. Have you ever asked yourself the question, if I could live inside any video game, which would it be? I wouldn’t pick Star Ocean 2 but Arlia is a really nice place.
So I’m strutting around Arlia in my master sword t-shirt. I see Tia, she is an elephant with a head that looks like a tea pot. I see Freya the Wolf, Victoria the Horse. I think. “More people should be wearing this t-shirt.” So I head over to the Abel sisters and put my master sword t-shirt on display.
That done, I go check out the museum. Blathers is asleep. Of course he is, it’s the middle of the day. I don’t like taking things to the museum in the day time because I have to sit through Blathers waking up, then apologising, then saying hello. It doesn’t take too long but he says exactly the same thing every day. The reason I’m at the museum in the first place is to donate a fossil, which is a three or four step process depending on how many fossils you have. Turns out the fossil I have is the final piece of our Stegosaurus. Blathers is over the moon. He starts telling me some facts about the Stegosaurus but he stops himself when he realises that he is rambling. He does this every time you complete a skeleton and I’ve noticed something. He always stops himself before he gets to saying any actual facts about the dinosaur, all he knows is the name. I think Blathers lied in his interview.
Interviewer: “You’ll be working in the day time is that a problem for an owl?”
Blathers: “Er that’s a harmful stereotype. Owls are fully awake during the day.”
Interviewer: “Fair enough. Do you know anything about Dinosaurs?”
Blathers: “Ask me anything!”
Interviewer: “You will be required to handle bugs and insects. Some people are put off by the idea.”
Blathers: “Not me! I love ‘em! Flippin’ love ‘em!”
Interviewer: “Welcome aboard Mr Bean Bag Smiley Panda Pops”
Blathers: “Sorry I’m a compulsive liar. My actual name is Blathers.”
Interviewer: “That’s quite alright. Say! You don’t know anything about fax machines do you? Ours has just broken.”
Blathers: “Stand aside I practically invented fax machines.”
And on it goes. Actually there is one area where Blathers is quite astute. I brought him a painting I wanted to donate but Blathers turned it away because it was a fake. I had no idea of course but Blathers spotted it straight off. “Get that fake shit out of my face!” He said. (I’m paraphrasing.) Last time I buy artworks from a tent. I felt like Fraiser in that episode of Frasier where he buys a fake painting. Except I couldn’t even go back and confront the guy who sold it to me because he’d packed up his tent and buggered off.
I felt bad after that for a bit. Until I saw Chadder, the mouse, running around with a watering can and wearing my master sword t-shirt! I wish the game had a high five button. It was amazing!
On my way home I bumped into Moe. He is a cat. Moe invited me over to his house. When I got there I found that Moe liked to collect medical equipment. His house looked like a dentist’s waiting room. After a fashion Moe asked me if I would like to buy a piece of his furniture. I took his model skeleton, because I thought it would look good around Halloween, and promptly left. At the time I thought that what had just happened was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen in a game. Upon further reflection I decided that stranger things happen all the time but I don’t usually stop to think about them. (I made a video about that where I used Project cross zone as an example. I’ll link it at the bottom of the blog.)
A few days later I’m heading to the shops to try my luck with another fortune cookie. On my way I run into Victoria and I can’t help saying hello. She asks me about her catchphrase, ‘sugar cube’. She wants to know if I can come up with something better. I recommend ‘sugar pube’. She repeats ‘sugar pube’ a few times then says she loves it. Of course I’m finding this hilarious. It seems that as soon as I’m given any power to control something, my first instinct is to cause mischief.
I get to the shops and force my way through all the dialogue and prompts required to buy a cookie, eat it and use the ticket to reclaim the prize. Ever since the shop expanded, I’ve been doing this twice a day. It bothers me that little Nook never remembers who I am. I’m in the shop literally every single day. Yet every day he tells me that the shop doesn’t offer a points system. I know! You told me yesterday! You told me 30 seconds ago when I bought the first cookie! He reminds me of the senile old shopkeeper from Shenmue. The one who would say “you should have been here yesterday” whenever you pulled a loser at the little lottery thing. Guess what lady? I was here yesterday!
I leave the shop feeling like my time has been wasted a little bit. Whatever, I am playing Animal Crossing. Oddly I’m annoyed, not at the game, but at tiny Timmy Nook for being such a block headed little timewaster. I bet it’s not his fault. I work in a shop and I get told what to say. I bet Tom Nook drilled it into his little head. No points system! No toilets! New stock every day! Say it again!
That night I’m at the beach doing some fishing. There are some big shadows in the water and I’m having difficulty catching anything. Perhaps I’m preoccupied. I did just see Tia strolling around town on her own, casual as you like, 23:30, carrying a shovel. It’s probably nothing but a day or two earlier I had watched Goodfellas while doing a jigsaw (that’s unrelated) and it put ideas in my head. I finally catch something and, imagine my astonishment, it’s a flipping hammerhead shark.
So what do I do? I put it in my pocket. I can’t wait to see what old Blathers makes of this! This’ll wake him up! Of course when I get to the museum Blathers is already awake because it is night time. I pull the live shark out of my pocket and hand it to Blathers, the owl who runs the museum. There’s a sentence. The result is surprisingly normal. Blathers takes it away then asks if I would like to donate anything else. At this point I’m shouting at the 3DS. “That was a shark! You mental! That was a live shark!” It wasn’t even a normal looking shark, it was a hammerhead. The game does not respond. Now I’m the crazy one. I leave the museum and go to bed.
The point of this story is that when I’m playing Animal Crossing there is a lot more going on than what is actually happening in the game. My personality is part of the equation. The most fun part of Animal Crossing was happening not on the screen but in my head. Have you ever tried to explain the appeal of Animal Crossing to someone who just doesn’t get it? It’s hard. I think this might be why.
I've since replaced my Master Sword town flag with an all new Three Wolf Moon town flag. It is surprisingly unpopular as a t-shirt.
For those who are interested, here is the video I mentioned. In it I play Project Cross Zone and attempt to explain what is happening without showing it to the camera. I’m trying to show that there is a layer of madness about videogames that can often go unnoticed until it is examined.
edit: I've tried my best to get rid of some odd unwanted bits of text appearing in this blog post. I got rid of most of it. Whatever, hopefully it is not too distracting.