I’ve written about my appreciation for how Animal Crossing handles gender. I also appreciate how it deals with money, and possession of material goods.
Animal Crossing is a game about collecting things. In fact, if the game can be said to have a goal, its goal is, at its most basic level, to collect. Daily activities include shopping at the store, shaking furniture out of trees (Oh, the feeling of shaking a urinal from the branches of a tree), digging up fossils. You engage with villagers, do favors for them, and are rewarded with stuff.
There’s lots of stuff. I have the Prima guide, and it’s like the LL Bean catalog of Animal Crossing. Over 300 pages of stuff. Pages and pages of stuff. Furniture. Wallpaper. Shirts. Bugs. Fish. Gyroids.
Back in the Gamecube days (circa 2002), Animal Crossing was definitely a game about stuff, at least for me. My main goal was to upgrade my house to get more room to cram more stuff in there. I want the complete Modern Furniture set. Also, more NES games and gyroids to fill my basement please.
My obsession with stuff spilled over into real life. I bought things just to buy things. DVDs. Clothes. And, yes, video games. It accumulates. It takes over.
In Animal Crossing, you can only hold so many items in your house. However, they supply you with a magic closet, a wardrobe with an interior the size of a small country, in which you can store extra items.
Eventually your own private Narnia also reaches its capacity.
That means it’s time to prune. Getting rid of your digital items is hard, especially the rare ones. The ones you can’t purchase from the catalog at the store. I would agonize over ditching these little piles of pixels. Ten years later, I can’t say I miss the Warbloid I left at the recycling center, or the Exotic Bureau I sold to Tom Nook. Why did I even hang onto them in the first place?
As Animal Crossing has grown, so have I.
New Leaf takes a different approach to stuff. Yes, this is part of Animal Crossing’s natural expansion of the game world. (Every day I am surprised by the new things to do. I walked around town carrying a cup of coffee. Why? Because I could! And, you know, coffee.) But it’s more than that.
Re-Tail, run by husband-and-wife alpaca team Reese and Cyrus, is a recycling/second-hand store. It is the only store that is inside your village, not on the Main Street drag north of town. Whereas the museum, the post office, the Able Sisters, and the various incarnations of Timmy and Tommy Nook’s retail paradise are separate from your life, Re-Tail is an integral part of it.
Re-Tail encourages you to – take a deep breath – get rid of stuff.
Hold my hand. We can do this together.
There are two ways to get rid of your stuff. You can sell the items directly to Reese, or you can put them up for display in the shop.
Putting items up for display serves no real practical purpose. Animals won’t pay an extravagant amount for your used crap (even Kitty won’t pay 10,000 bells for a Rococo Sofa), and, when it really comes down to it, you can’t make a significant amount of bells more than you would just selling your secondhand stuff to Reese. So why is the option for flea market space there?
Because it’s not about making money.
Re-Tail is about sharing your possessions – and therefore, your life – with your neighbors. Other animals come into Re-Tail. They browse your stuff. They encourage you to let go. “You can get rid of something, but the memories stay forever,” they say. They get their own personal use from your items. You can go into their houses and see your old things, if you wish. Reminisce. These little pieces of your life become little pieces of theirs.
Eventually they’ll outgrow your things — their things — too. The birdbath Kody bought back in July might show up back in Re-Tail in August. Or you might even realize that Kody gave it to Paula who in turn tries to give it to you. “You can re-gift it if you want,” Paula says. She knows it’s just an object. A symbol of her gratitude. She knows that if you sell it, or give it away, that you don’t appreciate her any less.
It’s just stuff.
Animal Crossing is no longer a game about collecting. It’s a game about sharing. It’s a game about sharing your stuff, your money, your life, yourself, with other people.
Now if only I could stage an intervention with Kitty over her spending problem…