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Monday Mysteries: The Animal Crossing Hoax

To the naked eye, Animal Crossing is the stuff of daydreams. There’s little more in life more fulfilling than running around in shorts playing kids games with talking cats all day, or merely watching the clouds roll on by. Could this place of whimsy, of musical dogs and free fruit, a land where money literally grows on trees, be nothing more than a dream come true? Don’t be fooled by its charming disguise. Animal Crossing is no playful accident. No, Animal Crossing is the stuff of nightmares.

For the uninitiated, Animal Crossing is all about some hapless kid (you) who moves into a quaint little village full of anthropomorphic critters and does chores for them, all because of the series’ realistic detail. There are no missions, no story, no quests. You simply sit around and breathe air in your hometown, playing dress-up with precocious porcupines and running from bees. All the while it’s really about child abduction and cult indoctrination.

Rover the cat, messing with you in his dimly lit basement in the middle of yet another brain-washing session.

No? Let’s sit down to think about this. What is the first thing to meet your gaze in the series? The haunting image of some deliriously happy animal in a darkly lit room in the game’s main menu. A single light bulb hangs over this peculiar arrangement as if it’s some sort of interrogation room–no, a mind-wiping room. Select your date, time, WiFi preferences. “You’re getting sleepy, veeeery sleepy. . .” Then? Poof! The screen goes blank.

Kapp’n: taxi and bus driver, now part-time sailor far from his sailor waters. Has an unnerving affection for “little children.”

Let’s look at the next point of interest: your means of travel to said village. The games so famously begin with your character being (voluntarily?) driven to a “village” by a curious duck-turtle creature named Kapp’n, or a kappa, a mythological Japanese creature with a repertoire for kidnapping children among other sordid things. Each series iteration, you simply wake up in the backseat of the twisted little turtle man’s car on you way to the village, as if he drugged your juice box or smacked you over the head with some cartoonish yet blunt object. Animal Crossing: City Folk is so bold as to have you seated on a bus. A prison bus. He then proceeds to rant “life advice” to you, his poor passenger, in the creepiest bit of pirate dialogue you ever did hear. May we please ask why Kapp’n brings up ladies so candidly?

You, a poor, deluded soul on top of the world as you are at the bottom of it. A pauper in rich man’s clothes. Living the dream.

Reaching your destination, there’s already a house or makeshift tent set up and waiting for you, as if authorities knew of your arrival. It’s a crappy place, with nothing more than a stone floor and a few crates if you’re lucky. You still smile nevertheless as if high on some sort of medication, barely blinking, or thinking in your right mind. Your cruel animal neighbors immediately put you to work to pay it off, despite the inviting thought of sleeping on the godforsaken ground for free with a similar level of comfort. Yet you’re always eerily cheerful with that perma-smile plastered on your face like an E-rated Joker dipped in a vat of Nintendo-made chemicals.

The facade finally starts to show. You’re stuck in a village under a mountain of debt you didn’t have any say in obtaining. You can neither stay in peace or leave in haste. If you try, you’re turned away at the gates by some brutish guard-dog dressed up as if in her majesty’s royal guard. You’re now reliant on your captors for everything, and they as its mayor so says, they’ll be “keeping an eye on you.” A trip to the city isn’t unheard of, but its blocked off roads and side-streets almost suggest you being on a nice little parole rather than full-blown freedom. They always throw you back on that bus, sending you back to your village.

Porcupine Labelle, member of the “Able sisters” family, a likely crime cartel responsible for the game’s citywide sweat shop operations.

What’s that you say? Animal Crossing: New Leaf sets you up as mayor? Right you are. Nevertheless, the same applies. You’re in charge of the animals in your keep, yet all the while you’re not. You still may not leave your town and that plucky yellow dog at your side seemingly refuses every logical request, a.k.a. “Can I go home now?” You’re but a bureaucratic puppet in Isabelle’s hands. And what’s become of the animals’ dear leader, the glorious Tortimer? Overthrown in a prison riot, tossed out by a gangland war of which you, that smirking, human wise-ass became king? There are fewer answers and fewer solutions to your plight.

Speaking of which, where is the way out of this place? There’s no way out, there’s no escape. Your parents bequeath you nothing but a plain letter from week to week, perhaps on holidays or the forlorn passing of the seasons. They never come, they never visit. They may be so kind as to send the occasional Christmas cash or a simple birthday cake, but a flair gun or compass never arrives with either. They simply don’t exist, and neither do you in this soulless hell hole.

An un-photoshoped snapshot of resident real-estate pimp, Tom Nook, dolling his wares in typical Animal Crossing fashion.

So you slave away day after day, chasing after bugs and drowning your sorrows in coffee every day, that creepy smile still plastered to your face. You’re not happy. You’re indebted to a devilish raccoon intent on buying up every pear and apple as if they were gold. It’s as if they didn’t grew off trees. No matter how much you may earn, the animals just upgrade it for you and bill you the difference, keeping you in constant debt (you have the option to say no, but they just ignore you and fix up the house anyway). Millions of bells may line your pockets, yet they’re never enough to buy more than a couple of those goofy gyroids rather than a plane ticket home.

Meanwhile, the townsfolk grind you into submission, having you repeat the same tasks again, and again, and again, happily blocking your escape like it’s the most ordinary thing in the world. They’re like a band of Stepford Wives in a Pixar film, and you’re left with little choice but to join them, smiling all the way. You’ll escape. . . one day.

Help! I need somebody! Help, come on anybody! Heeeellp!

Then again, that’s just a mystery forever waiting to be solved. What say you, dear reader? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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