Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Repetition of Life

If I were to tell you what I did on a daily basis - oh, yeah, I have several times throughout the course of this blog - many of you would find it boring, mundane. Many times, the job is not that exciting. What you think about the job, though, doesn't matter to me. To me, it is satisfying and financially accommodating for my family. It enables me to pay the mortgage, pay bills, put food on the table, and still have time to engage in community and recreation activities as I choose. You would never see my profession made the key character in a b-grade movie, let alone a marquee production.

With those thoughts in mind, I introduce you to Animal Crossing: City Folk, available on Nintendo DS and Wii.

My brother and sister-in-law bought Animal Crossing for our kids for Christmas. It does not disappoint. If you are looking for high-energy, action-packed activities, this game is not for you. But, if you want your children to learn about our common, everyday existence - you know, the one TV doesn't show any more - this game is great.

You start by moving to a new town. In that town, you first meet the proprietor of the community store - Tom Nook. He gives you directions to follow before you can officially settle in with the game. You need to meet everyone in the town, work for him, and select the house you are going to purchase. After you work for Nook, then you are on your own. Yep, you are an employee for your first hour or so in the city, then you are a sole proprietor. Good luck!

How do you win in this game? You don't. It is not a "game". It is a simplified version of life. You earn "bells" by fishing, harvesting fruit, digging for gold, and other various ways. You have a mortgage, and can start a savings account which eventually earns you interest. And after you've paid off your first mortgage, you automatically get upgrades requiring a second mortgage. There is even the equivalent of a stock market - they call it the "Stalk" market, and you buy and sell turnips that have a fluctuating market value - but we haven't figured out how to use it yet.

You also continually run into the characters you met originally before you settled in. They often ask you to deliver packages for them, or they want to buy something you have. They have events you can attend - I attended the flea market and the fishing tournament - and you can visit the city for shopping and entertainment. You can also donate items to the city museum and recycle tin cans, boots and tires that you catch while fishing; the recycle bin is located conveniently in the Town Hall, which is also where you pay your mortgage and conduct other banking activities.

Whenever you decide to stop playing Animal Crossing, you retire to your bedroom. And the weather approximates our seasons because the game tracks current date and time. For example, there is finally no snow on the ground! Spring is here! (Okay, not really.)

You can send letters and gifts to other characters. If your Wii is internet-connected, you can even invite other friends to your town.

Marie and the kids have been playing since Christmas. I just started a couple weeks ago. Marie is on her fourth home improvement, and now has a basement. She has also planted several peach trees and is harvesting her bounty. The Artist is on her third home improvement, and the Engineer on his first, just like me.

I kept waiting for the game to get fun and exciting. You know, to have something really thrilling happen. Then I realized that the game is like life, especially for us who believe in the Lutheran definition of vocation. All four of us in the Quipper household have our preferences in home decor, how to earn bells, how much to spend and save, and how to contribute to the community itself. All along the way, you inherit the responsibility for paying down a mortgage and earning your keep. Mundane? Yes. Pertinent to your existence? Of course!

If you get annoyed with the entertainment industry constantly bombarding you with rock star type lifestyles, where you've failed if you only live a clean, safe, orderly, respectful life, and raise responsible children, then I strongly recommend Animal Crossing. It will give your children a good view of the day to day activities that we all conduct regardless of our vocation and talents.