Can vegans play Animal Crossing?

Just like the majority of the country right now, my lockdown has been spent playing the new Animal Crossing game on the Nintendo Switch. I grew up playing the Animal Crossing games and it is, to this day, one of my favourite games in the entire world. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never been the best designer but the game for me was always an escape. And now that the majority of the world is in lockdown, having my own virtual island to run around on and relax on has actually worked wonders for my overall mental health and helped me deal with the lack of control and cabin fever I have sometimes felt during this time.

Then along comes PETA. Just after the release of ACNH (Animal Crossing New Horizons) they released this article, advising people on how to play the game in a ‘vegan friendly’ manner. And I have some issues with this.

Angry Animal GIFs | Tenor

I am usually a big supporter of PETA: Yes they are not perfect, but the information they do put out (for the most part) can be helpful in educating yourselves and others on the vegan movement. I won’t get too into PETA as a whole organisation (I feel that is a matter for another post all together!) but as this isn’t the first childhood game of mine that they have tried to deter me from, I am not a happy villager: They have previously stated that the Pokemon franchise encourages children to capture animals and then fight them against each other. They even released a mock Pokemon game highlighting how dangerous and abusive the overall Pokemon game format was. If you want to have a look at it, see here.

Now I have an issue with this because PETA imply that we, as gamers, cannot be vegan. If you want to go virtual fishing, then you are not really vegan. If you enjoy fluffy cute Pokemon, you are not vegan. Which just seriously pisses me off. For starters, there is no such thing as a perfect vegan: No matter how hard you try there will be a time where you slip up or make a mistake and accidentally eat or buy animal products. I, for example, have the most horrific hay-fever known to man come summer and despite the multitude of different medications and alternatives that I have used, the only thing that works for me is bee pollen. Yes I am slightly disappointed about this and do always feel guilty, but then I realise that without taking this bee pollen I literally cannot breathe outside during hay-fever season – I once forgot to take it and it ended with me having seven nosebleeds in one day. Not fun.

But PETA are also suggesting that we are too stupid to differentiate between real animals and virtual animals. Yes, Pikachu is adorable, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pick up my gerbil and keep him inside a ball for the majority of the day. Yes I enjoy fishing on my little island, but there is no way I would ever go fishing in real life. I can differentiate between the real world and the real implications of my actions on the very real animals of this world, and the virtual ones in video games. Yes I fish and catch bugs to pay off my mortgage debts to a raccoon and his two children, but if I was to try and do this in real life my mortgage lender would probably have me committed….or I’d get bitten by a wild animal and need a tetanus shot.

Now do not get me wrong, I know that there may be some people out there who can’t differentiate for whatever reason but if so I would rather they took out any aggression towards animals and people through a video game rather than in real life. I would very much rather someone spends hours a day fighting Pokemon against each other than buying dogs to fight one another in their gardens. I would rather people spent their evenings fishing for sharks in Animal Crossing or other virtual fishing games, instead of fishing and catching real fish down their local river.

My other gripe is that it suggests that what you do in video games is a direct reflection of who you are as a person: If you want to spend your day fishing and catching bugs on a deserted island with a bunch of animal neighbours, then you must want to do that outside in the real world too. But the whole point of video games is that they are meant to be a form of escapism, they are meant to tell us stories and show us a life that we would normally never be able to do. Just because I play Dead Space does not mean that I want to be an astronaut, just because I play GTA doesn’t mean that I want to become a mafia crime lord, and just because I like playing Harvest Moon doesn’t mean I want to open up my own animal farm. It’s make believe. It’s a game. It’s not real.

Now obviously there are exceptions, as there always are, but for the most part society is not all doom and gloom. Video gamers are not animal hating psychopaths, and vegans are not any less vegan because they enjoy alternative realities. Your actions in the real world are what matter, and it is in your day to day life where your conscious decisions make the biggest difference to the lives of animals and to the entire environment around us. Video games are not to be taken seriously, just as art and books and TV shows and science fiction films are not meant to be taken as literal forms of expression. Yes, these things can influence you, but that isn’t always a bad thing. The Pokemon franchise, from the games to the anime series and the films, are probably one of the biggest reasons why I am vegan to begin with: Seeing these little characters having their own experiences of the world made me stop as a child and think about how my pets may experience the world and then how other animals may see the world around them. Do I love the Pokemon games and go back to them on a regular basis? Of course. But am I going to feed my cat fire so it can use flamethrower? No, because I’m not an idiot, I know not to hurt animals and I know that Pokemon is MADE UP. As much as it pains me to say, Pikachu is not real, and I will never get to own a real life Vulpix.

So with that in mind, enjoy your games. Enjoy your escapism. Especially in a time like this, where so many people are in such desperate need for this type of escapism. Now if you will excuse me, I have to attend a birthday party with an eagle wearing glasses, a cat in a top hat and a pig in pearls. I cannot be late. They get very grumpy when you are late.

Check Out Some Birthday Party Gameplay From Animal Crossing: New ...

T xxx

Kingdom Hearts 3: Worth the wait?

I know this may be a bit late to the game (no pun intended) as it did release in January this year. However, I am only now getting to the end of the game and thought now is as good a time as ever to discuss my thoughts on this game.

Slight disclaimer: I have only ever played Kingdom Heart 1 and 2, so chances are the majority of the characters in Kingdom Hearts 3 and the majority of the story is also very much lost on me. So if I sound like I don’t know everything about the franchise, that is because I don’t.

The good

Do not get me wrong, I LOVE Kingdom Hearts. I love Disney, so the chance to play an action packed RPG game that explores the various Disney worlds is my kind of game.

The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 are actually really well done and really immersive. The previous games made the worlds small, usually based around one route that you could take so that no matter what you were always heading in the right direction. The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 however are large and interactive: You can actually explore your surroundings and can actually spend quite a bit of time just wandering around the various worlds. It is the stuff dreams are made of!

Image result for kingdom hearts 3You can even take selfies! Which can lead to some pretty pictures and funny interactions with the various characters

The combat is also super fun. Granted it is quite a bit of button smashing, but as a player who cannot aim a weapon to save her life, the fact that I can just dance around the arena and spam the buttons makes the game so much more enjoyable. Kingdom Hearts 3 also adds to this by adding new combined moves that allow you to bring classic Disneyland rides into combat: thunder Mountain, the Carousel, Buzz Lightyear’s Blazer Blast, the Mad Tea Cups and more. They may be super overpowered in combat, but they’re so bright and fun it doesn’t really matter. It’s also nice to have a little bit of a change after the usual button smashing we are used to.

You can also go to new worlds that haven’t been featured before, and a lot more focused on Pixar films. You also have new summons, including Ariel, Simba, Wreck it Ralph and Stitch to name a few. The summons also make game play and combat that bit more exciting, and while none of it is overly difficult anyway, it’s just…fun. It’s such a fun game that you almost don’t care about the bad….almost.

The bad

The issue I have always had with Kingdom Hearts is the incredibly complicated story. I was with it at first: Bad forces are stealing hearts to bring sadness and anger to the Disney worlds. You – or namely, Sora – is tasked with the job of travelling through the various Disney worlds to banish the evil in them, return everyone’s hearts to them and save the Disney Princess who is currently being held captive by the bad guys so that they can be the vessels of darkness (I have paraphrased slightly, but that is my understanding of the game). Sounds great! Travelling around all the Disney worlds, meeting all of my childhood characters and exploring their worlds to save the day!

But no.

The story gets so confusing that I cannot even begin to explain it. I understand that once a person loses their heart, they become a heartless. But their heartless body becomes a nobody. Right, I’m with you there. BUT OH NO. Nobodies can then become somebodies (who tend to become playable other characters as the stories go on), such as Roxas or Namine in KH2. But these nobodies can have their own hearts which…means they aren’t nobodies? But they are someone else’s nobody? That’s as far as I get before I get lost and sadly that is only the beginning.

The Heartless

So. Many. CUT SCENES. Game play seems to last about 30 seconds and then I have to sit through 30 minutes of cut scenes, which only add more and more depth to an already complicated story so much so that I am completed disconnected from it all. Which is also why it has made it so difficult to get through the game: I have watched at least 5 hours of cut scenes, none of which I fully understood due to the story line. Don’t get me wrong, it is very pretty to watch and the cut scenes are clearly well made, but GOOD LORD, GET ON WITH IT. I do not care enough about this story to sit and watch a feature length movie about it all, that usually just makes me even more confused than before. It is really hard to get through the game, when all you want to do is progress and discover new worlds, but for every hour spent on the game you spend 45 minutes of that hour just watching cut scenes.

Image result for kingdom hearts 3

Final thoughts?

Sometimes less really is more. Get rid of the majority of the cut scenes, simplify the story that little bit and you would have a winner. Yes there are some die hard fans who lose their mind delving into the intricate details of the story, but for most of us we are here for the fun Disney aspect of it all: The characters are adorable, the game play is great fun and the story (at least at first) is enough to keep you guessing and tells a pretty concrete story. But when your ‘game’ is 90% cut scene, it might be time to rethink whether you are making a game or a movie.

What do you guys think about the new Kingdom Hearts game? Let me know your thoughts below!

T xx

Video Game of the week…

This week has been a tough one! From super busy schedules to super stressful work days, this week has felt like a crazy whirlwind of activities but also the longest week of the year. And sometimes no matter how hard you try, there are some things that not even a good work out can fix and you just need a complete dose of escapism from real life….and what better way to achieve this than with video games!

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Animal Crossing has existed in the world of gaming since 2001, first appearing on the Nintendo 64. It has since then had 7 games released across the multiple gaming devices. Pocket Camp is the latest instalment of the Animal Crossing world and is also the first to be used on a mobile device.

The transition

Adorable. There are no other words for this game except that: ADORABLE.

It follows the general aspect of Animal Crossing in that you play as a little digital person who spends their time building the perfect community. It is an RPG world building type game, where you can create and build whatever type of society that you please: For example in New Leaf, you are the new Mayor of a small town. In Pocket Camp, you run a campsite. Throughout the game, your fellow inhabitants are anthropomorphic animals, from elephants to hamsters and all other manner of animals in between. You carry out activities for the animals from planting certain plants to building certain features and adding to the overall success of your chosen area.

In Pocket Camp you travel about the different areas and fulfil tasks for the visiting animals. In return, they give you certain supplies that can then be used to craft features and furniture for your camp site. Each time you complete a task for an animal you develop a better relationship with them which in turn helps level you up, and as you level up you can craft and build a bigger variety of items.

Interior design

On of the best things about Animal Crossing is the ability to create whatever environment you wish: In each game you are given you’re own little house which you can decorate however you like, and even the town itself can be moulded to look however you wish. In Pocket Camp, you are almost spoilt for decorating room as you have the main area of your campsite, where visiting animals can request certain items or pieces of furniture, as well as having your own personal camper-van which you can decorate as you own private residence. The game allows you to constantly change the campsite having different themes: You can build a tree house for the animals that love all thing ‘cute’ or a skating half pipe for those who love ‘cool’ things.

Challenges

Animal Crossing is a game that also uses real time in it’s game play: 24 hours in game is 24 hours out of it. The game also changes with the seasons allowing you to build little snowmen in the winter or celebrate Halloween in the fall. In the main games the seasons also change which animals or fruit you can collect throughout the year meaning that you have to play for at least a solid year in order to catch the hundreds of different creatures that the game has on offer.

Pocket Camp also uses this to release timed events during the seasons. Over the Christmas period you could collect candy canes to craft cosy festive items and in the New Year you could watch a firework display. The summer months brought summer festivals with fishing tourneys and flower challenges to create brightly coloured beautiful digital gardens and a little summer paradise. The upside to this is that you stay engaged with the game but the downside is that every item that is available for the limited event is also so darn cute that you become glued to your phone in order to get them all before the time runs out which is a whole new level of stress that only those who love collecting can really understand.

The Calm of Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing has always been a very calming game to play. Since there are no specific ‘quests’ that need to be completed, you can simply play the game at whatever pace suits you. The music is also calming as there is no real urgency for the game: It doesn’t matter if you want to play for 5 minutes or 5 years, the game ticks along as it needs to and you can spend your time with whatever activity you want to.

Pocket Camp is no different. As there are only 4 visiting areas, there are only 4 animals that have requests for you at any one time. Each animal has 3 requests to complete before they are satisfied, and depending on how much farming you’ve done before hand (catching fish or bugs or collecting fruit from trees and seashells off the beach) it will depend on how long it takes you to complete each task. At most, it can take about a half hour to finish all of the tasks (if that!) and I find this to be just the right amount of time to unwind: I can play it on my lunch break while I enjoy some food or even before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media and making myself sad.

Outcome

This game is just as adorable as the others. The game is utterly charming, with each animal having their own style and wit. It is varied enough that you don’t get bored but also slow enough that you don’t feel any need to rush through the game. As there are no levels to complete you also don’t have to hit certain save points or checkpoints as the game just saves as you go on and each time you complete a task or change location. It is fun and calming and just utterly serene in every way.

Have any of you guys played this game? Let me know your thoughts below!

T xx