My Kids Are Fucking Up My Animal Crossing Island

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My Kids Are Fucking Up My Animal Crossing Island

You should play Animal Crossing with your kids, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

They were, in many ways, very wrong.

Like most of you I got the game at launch, and like many of you I thought it would be a blast to share the same island with loved ones, who’d be able to hang out and enjoy the same villagers and events.

But man, playing the game with my kids has just been one fuck up after another.

Let me count the ways:

1. My daughter got her hands on the game before I did, and without me realising had been anointed the Queen Of The Island. Having not really paid attention to the specifics of sharing an island, aside from getting excited you could do it at all, I found myself playing day after day wondering…where all the game was. Why couldn’t I build a shovel. Why is this not fun.

Only after almost a whole week wasted did I find out. She was getting all the game, and I was just getting the basics. This required an island restart, burning the whole thing to the ground, because there was no way my either of my two kids (who are usually limited to two hours of video games per day on weekends) were being responsible for resident services, or we’d all still be in tents agonising over our flimsy fishing rods.

2. Once rebooted on a new island, though, the problems were just getting started! Almost immediately I got a letter from my mother with three apples inside, which was an early godsend for my peach-centric island economy. I excitedly planted them, waited a few days for them to grow, booted up the game to go and inspect/expand my plantations only to find they were gone. All three of them.

Turns out my son had played online with a friend, and one of them had dug them up, after which they’d simply vanished, presumably sold for a pittance to a Nook.

3. I told my buddy Kevin this, and thankfully, he’d recently got hold of a handful of oranges, so sent one my way. I repeated the process: planted the tree, waited a few days, then returned to shake it down and go make some more orange trees. And again the process was repeated: I arrived only to find the tree gone. Only this time not only was the tree missing, but half my fence too, which I’d planted the tree behind in a pathetic attempt at horticultural security.

This time the culprit was my son, who to be fair had no idea he’d been stealing! He’s just a little kid, and has no idea about property or ownership in a virtual space like this. To him it’s a video game, and anything he could see could be his, and my fence wasn’t a deterrent, it was a challenge.

Goodbye, apple trees.

4. You know how kids always get stuff out, play with it then never put it back? Yeah, turns out they do that in video games too. Any hopes I had of creating a zen-like garden of reflection, free of weeds and imperfections, perfectly-curated to maximise efficiency and beauty, are long gone. Large parts of our island are still covered in weeds because they won’t help clear them, there are clay and stone deposits everywhere because “they suck and we don’t want them”, and for some reason they are taking random items and just burying them, like dogs, in the dirt.

What’s this, a precious fossil, I am asking myself almost daily? No, it’s some terrible wallpaper.

This made Easter the worst. My kids, like everyone else, worked out quickly that all those eggs were a pain in the arse, but unlike everyone else, they couldn’t just leave them alone to work that out. They kept shaking trees, kept fishing and kept digging up holes, only to then just…leave the eggs there. My whole island was covered in eggs. You know the intro to Terminator 2, where the ground is nothing but human skulls? Imagine that, only it’s even more terrifying, and they’re all eggs. That was my island.

5. And finally, we come to money. We’re a farming family, all about harvesting pears and cherries and peaches for that quick easy cash. I spend nearly every bell I make on infrastructure for the island, to make all our lives better and easier, but whenever I take a break and try to earn a few extra bells by picking the fruit trees that I’ve planted, it’s too late. They’ve harvested everything, pocketed it, run to the Nooks and sold it all off to pad their enormous bank balances.

Every time I calmly point out that they, too, could spend some money on improving the island’s roads and bridges, I’m told “no, sorry, we’ve got no money”, or “that’s boring”, or “that’s your job Daddy”.

I have been trying to play this game as an escape. But these kids have managed to just bring my same ol’ real world problems straight onto the island. Now I get to spend all day picking up after the mess left by kids and stressing about a mortgage, only to kick back by…cleaning up after kids and stressing about a mortgage. Great.

And yet! Even through all that misery, I would do this all again (OK maybe except for the island restart thing, I’d want to get on top of that earlier). If Animal Crossing has given my new kids new ways to fuck up my shit, just like in real life, it has also given them opportunities to surprise and delight, just like real life.

My daughter keeps sending me letters describing her new outifts, or tiny deposits of iron because she remembers me saying how important iron is for building stuff. And she signs every letter—each only on the finest and most exquisite letterhead—with her real name, even though her character’s name is right underneath that. It’s adorable.

I have never taken my son fishing, because I’ll be honest with you, it’s 2020, I live in a city and I hate fishing. In Animal Crossing, though, I’m teaching him the timing needed to reel in a big fish, after which we then discuss and compare our latest catches in the museum. I’ve caught a shark, which is cooler, but he’s caught an ocean sunfish, which is bigger. We’re getting all the benefits of fishing, with none of the sunburn or worms.

Best of all, our in-game relationships are spilling out into the real world. I was making breakfast the other day and my daughter complimented me on my new wallpaper as she walked past, just a casual aside, as if she’d noticed I’d got a new haircut, then just kept on walking. It was lovely.

She’s nine, and at that age we don’t have much we’re bonding over at the moment. Having this game to talk about has been a gift, at a time when gifts are in short supply.

And while most of this post has been about listing my kid’s fuck-ups, I realise that the single biggest one, the most fundamental one that lies at the heart of all my problems, is with me. My previous islands have been my islands and mine alone. For me to expect anything remotely approaching that curated experience while sharing an island with two kids under 10 was delusion.

So yeah, living on an island with my kids has sometimes been a massive pain in the arse. But at many others it’s been surprisingly touching, rewarding and sentimental. Seems kinda fitting that if Animal Crossing is able to recreate the experience of being a mortgage-saddled worker, it’s just as good as recreating the experience of parenthood as well.

Comments

  • Wondering how old your kids are – my boys are 7 and 6 and I know if I said an area was mine, don’t touch they’d leave it alone and do their own thing on other areas…or my eldest would ask if we can work together and then happily go about tasks that needed to be done after I explain the why/how.

    I’ve avoided buying the game because of the 1 island per switch thing. Is it good to play with your kids despite a single island? Would it work if I play more to advance the island and my kids wouldn’t feel limited?

  • I ended up ordering a Switch Lite for much the same reasons, I really want an island, with the kids and all the chaos and colour that brings, which is what I have now, but I also want my own island that is my own private getaway, especially now. It’s no so much that they mess with an area that I have planned for something else (they don’t) but it’s more that a lot of the pleasure in animal crossing (for me anyway) is making a town/island/world that really is your own.
    Playing with the kids is really fun, they do surprising things and make for a much more varied island. My 7 yr old’s house as the beach has the entire beach plastered with her artwork, and is a glorious chaotic riot of colour. My 16yr old Daughter’s house is minimalist as is the area around it. My partner’s house and area is different again, it’s a lot of fun, but a very different playing experience.

    It is a bummer that you can only create one island, I don’t really understand the reasoning behind that.

    Re is it good to play with the kids, in my case, they are the one’s advancing things along as I don’t have as much time to play. It’s a great experience and worth doing, but as mentioned, it’s also a very *different* experience to playing solo, and in my case, I really want both.

    • What I meant to say, is after playing with the whole family on the Switch, I’ve ended up ordering a Switch Lite so I can also play solo 🙂

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