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My Expertise: Turnips

5:30 PM on 02.25.2010 // Beyamor

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What's got two thumbs, a taste for honey nut shredded wheat, a perfectly reasonable obsession with Nathon Fillion and knows how to sell a turnip? This guy.

I'm, uh, pointing at myself.

Yeah. Anyway, I have thought long and hard about this and I've realized that there a few areas in which I do not excel. Strategy games, for example. Or racing games. Sports. Dancing, singing or anything involving rhythm. Juggling pandas. Sh*t talking and playing obscure games. Ending lists succinctly. But there is a game I can mention that made me feel like I was doing well no matter what I was doing. Better than well. Amazing even. Good people, I'm talking about the game of consumerism and indenture: Animal Crossing

I wish I was a pink squirrel.

I can say that I am, hands down, the best AC player around. I'll boast that I can fish circles around you and still find time to plant trees with your mom. If there were a trophy for the game's best player, I'm sure it would have my face on it. And it would be made of a solid tungsten/indium alloy. I can claim that it is I who taught K.K. Slider his cool.

I can say all of that. Probably none of it's true, but that doesn't matter. Animal Crossing's great strength is that never discourages any player. No matter what you do, even if it's as seemingly trivial as picking shells off the beach or designing a new umbrella, you're doing something and you're doing it well. No matter how objectively good you are, no matter how many bells you have or how large your house is, you are an expert.

And that straight up rocks so hard it forces me to use "straight up". I've spent a lot of time in Animal Crossing, a statement anyone who's gotten into the game to any degree can probably relate to, and I never felt like I made a mistake - at least within the context of the game. Ditching friends to catch butterflies may have been in poor judgment.

There isn't a "wrong" way to play and it's not possible to fail outright. Sure, there were things that I regret (the bees), but nothing I couldn't shrug off, nothing that made me feel like I was bad at the game.

Part of what works so well is that there isn't any measure for how well you're doing. There aren't leaderboards and with no analogue to death, the developers refrain from telling you should have done better. Maybe I'm only an expert because the bar is so low I'd have to dig to hit it, but I'm content nonetheless. Despite the lack of a critical challenge, catching a fish bigger than you arguably notwithstanding, I'm happy because I'm accomplishing something.

Mind you, Resetti will tell you you should have done better.

From the "hardcore gamer" stance, it's easy to frown on the casual style of game, but its value is incontestable. A game whose appeal lies in the tension created by opposition stumbles if the challenge doesn't hold up - for example, a too-easy shooter ends up being little more than a stroll around town - but if the mechanics are designed solely to be enjoyed, it's hard to take exception to them.

In almost any game, there is something for you to struggle against. There is an enemy, be it an alien, an opposing football team, a clock or any frightening combination thereof. I have no qualms with this, but I also relish being allowed to have fun without worrying about failing. In Animal Crossing and a few other games, I am an expert because I enjoy myself, not because I beat some antagonist, whether that is an element of the game or another player on another couch.

So, take what you will from this. Is it simply that it's easier to aim low or that being great is all about establishing your success only by what you wanted to accomplish? Doesn't matter really. All I know is I rock at catching fish, writing letters and selling turnips.

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