So there was postmortem today at GDC by Aya Kyogoku and Katsuya Eguchi, and it sparked a lot of sudden reminders of the buzz and the praise the game garnered for it's especially well written inclusive NPCs and socially progressive changes on couple of sites in the AC community. A few tweets from a one Leigh Alexander though, reminded me of some of the things we can sometimes do in these games that rails against the spirit of these games at times.
Wether it's making a sim city that's organised rows dedicated to efficiency over fantasy, or worrying over the layout of our town and the perfect plot for our house, sometimes we come to games to build. To create, but within a specific vision. And sometimes we funnel ourselves into chasing after what we want at the expense of settling for anything else. In life, we play the cards we're dealt. But in games like these, we're often given a chance to switch them out or even cut the deck ourselves. And it's players who think like that who can fall into some of the habits I have before.
The game allows you to start out in a number of ways, and being the kind of player I am, I was shuffling the deck the way I wanted it from the start. You probably know how an AC game starts. Some ask you on your travel exactly where you're headed, and your response to them in natural language dictate your look, sex and the name of your town. And when he shows you a few maps to ask which is the town you're headed for, a lot of people assume the 4 you're given are the 4 you can pick from. I restarted the game about half a dozen times over to force those 4 randomly made maps to give me one in my ideal image. No beach that can't be reached on foot, a river that runs as far from the trainline as possible to maximize build-able space on it. And a town hall/Re-tail locations that were easily reachable. Eventually I got one that i liked just right, and I put my house right by the cliff, in front of the waterfall and sat in a corner. I liked it nice and nestled, not too near anything but a clear path to the bridge over the river and re-tail.
I liked my position, but there are two things new villagers could do that would set me against them. A bad one would be to plot their house in the middle of an area I'd made a clear an organised orchard, trees planted in rows with fruit dropping as densely as possible. But to plot your house directly next to mine and obstruct my only exit from my plot would be to be made a corpse! Or a pariah, in this game at least. it sounds petty but it was really the most frustrating thing one could do. I now had to loop around the outside of their house, and the tiles I'd been laying down had been erased when they randomly placed their plot. My purple brick road leading to re-tail had been broken and that mattered more than gaining a new neighbour.
So I got petty. Stealing flowers, planting pitfalls by their door, "accidental" thwacks with bug nets (and once or twice an axe) were the first response. This certainly didn't make my problem animal very happy, but it just wasn't enough to get rid of them.
This was just the usual stuff. Many of us have probably done it before, a petty issue with a person making you dead set against them no matter what. Even if they're nice you can't help but throw it back in their face. It didn't matter that the duck next door decided I was their best bud from the start. The nicer they were, the more I developed a ned flanders like grudge against them. To quote Metal Gear Rising, "Kids are cruel. And I'm very in touch with my inner child." Obviously my first thought was that hopefully I could simply evict any villager whose look or personality I didn't like, but Isabelle of course only corrects problematic behaviour of villagers, not kick them out. So, hoping I could make them unhappy enough to leave, I decided to improve how efficiently I could upset them.I even added a third villager to this later but I basically decided the best way to express my frustration was to figure how I could shove them until they went into the sad or angry state as quickly as possible. Why did I sort them into rows instead of just making a square so I could push them against the riverbank? Partly because I was bitter enough that I wanted them isolated, but mostly because the time it took me to move between them and push the other to upsetness at this range took exactly the time it took for the other to go back to a state where I could upset them again. I'd automated bullying enough that I could do this absent mindedly while browsing the web or something and only even pay attention to the 3DS when I heard the sound cue. I'm not really sure what this says about me.
The more prudent method I'd tried first was that my investment in this childish feud was enough for me to TRAVEL THROUGH TIME SPECIFICALLY TO IGNORE THEM LONGER AND HARDER. And it still ended up with me almost making everyone but them move out becuase they felt ignored as well, and me having to tell them I'd miss them too much. Eventually, I got the message I felt like the game was trying to give me and gave up my little vendetta. I'd been trying to ball up my fustration and throw it in their little polygonal faces, but it never really achieved anything more than when I decided to let it go. And once I stopped bringing all that negativity into the game, there wasn't any negativity left in it. Just making adjustments to the way I built, letting the villagers tell me how to cope with panic attacks and invite me to their brithdays and focus on making everyone happy with the town instead, I even planted more non-fruit trees and rose bushes to make them happier and built the town projects that weren't immediately useful to me, but nice for them. And I stopped getting mad when the villagers I didn't like turned up for their debuts.
It was actually a nice reminder in the end, that sometimes we're not as mature as we think are, and that accepting people can actually be easier and a lot less work than hating them. The game itself is filled with those knowing lines of dialogue that remind you of these things and not getting hung up on not being able to control everything and everyone left me free to just enjoy and relax with my town.