Hours of Addictive Play

11 11 2007

So what is it about games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing that make them so addicting. When I looked up info on both games, every site I visited included the description of “addictive”. But let me take a closer look at these titles.

I remember being at my local “Babbages” (now technically a GameStop, but it still keeps the Babbages name) with a boyfriend of that time. I picked up a copy of the newest edition in the Harvest Moon series for the Gamecube. I was so giddy about it and when he asked me what it was about, I suddenly became almost embarassed about my excitement as the words, “You have this farm and you like grow stuff and you can ride a horse and have like the best farm around…” rolled out of my mouth. Needless to say, he just kind of stared at me with a raised eyebrow. And so because of this, I broke up with him…just kidding!

Harvest Moon is a game where the player is a farmer who…farms. Seriously, you get a shovel, a watering can, some seeds, a plot of land and you farm. You grow crops, raise hens, sheep, cows, etc. Sure there is also a town where you can become friends with the npcs and even date and marry someone, but essentially, the game is about making a successful farm. So yeah, my ex’s reaction at the time was totally understandable! Who would want to play a game where you work?

Even when I went to my grandmother’s and played the game and explained it to her (she enjoyed the cute little things the main character would do), she would comment on the idea of how I’d rather pull weeds in a game than do it outside in the real world. I mean, yeah there’s less actual physical effort involved in the game, but the idea is the same. I’m pulling weeds in….a game….and loving it….WHY?!

This is also true with the game “Animal Crossing”, which I recently started to play again on the DS. This was because after seeing two friends of mine playing it before one of my classes, I became like a recovering crack addict going through a bad relapse and so all I could think about was going back to my dorm so I could whip out the game card (DS games are more like cards than they are cartridges), with a shaking hand place in into the DS, and smile as the title screen gives me almost a warm and fuzzy feeling. (Wow, Elle, that is one scary image there.)

Anyway, with games like BioShock and Halo 3 sitting in my living room, I found myself consumed every day for at least an hour with “Animal Crossing”. And like, “Harvest Moon” this game involves pulling weeds and making friends. Except this game is even worse (in the “why-would-I-want-to-play-this” sort of way), because you start off getting a house that you can’t afford and owe this raccoon thousands and thousands of dollars! When I got this game about 2 years ago, I played everyday for about a year and I just picked it up again…I STILL owe that raccoon about $25,000! Why would I put that kind of pressure on myself to pay off the bills of this game character when I could be worrying about the bills in the real world?!

So why do I play these games? Why are so many people easily addicted to these games? Why?…..I have no idea. Maybe it’s because they are real-life hardships that can be expressed in a metaphysical world and allowing people to escape the real-world issues by dealing with them in this pretend place full of rewards. Could it be that the satisfaction of paying off all our debts in a game is more of a motivation than what happens when we pay them off in real life? Yeah, that means we’re even and don’t have to worry about those debts, but in a game you are rewarded with more items and more friends. I don’t know…but here I am…doing this blog, working on my homework, eating a late lunch, and looking forward to some more “Animal Crossing” later tonight.

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