Sunday, June 16
I've never played an Animal Crossing game before, but a series of extremely enthusiastic New Leaf fans on Twitter pushed me over the edge. Last night I started my quest, knowing only that I'd encounter a clutch of achingly cute animals along the way. Join me as I get to know the citizens of Geebung.
June 15th, 7:30pm: I'm met on the train by an adorable cat (?) named Rover. He asks me where I'm going, and because of a very small character limit, my destination will be Geebung (the suburb where I grew up) instead of New Holland. After a few minutes of general chit chat he tells what I assume to be an inside joke (been riding this train since 2002 apparently) and it dawns on me that I haven't been asked to customize an avatar. So, do I get to use my Mii, or is there a standard character that everyone has to play?
June 15th, 7:35pm: Hey, I'm a small, brown haired, white boy. Hooray for diversity, I guess.
June 15th, 7:37pm: I'm introduced to the townsfolk, a charming array of anthropomorphised animals and am proclaimed mayor of Geebung. I challenge this assertion, because as far as I know, I was just visiting. No, it appears that it is I who is mistaken, and I will be the new mayor of Geebung.
June 15th, 7:40pm: I'm informed that I will need a place of residence before I can officially be sworn in as mayor. I am asked to meet with a real estate agent immediately. All the other businesses in Geebung are closed and I notice there's only a handful of houses here, so it stands to reason that if your livelihood is selling property, you'd best be on call.
June 15th, 7:43pm: I settle on a lakeside site next to some trees. There's been no mention of cost at this point. Do they give away waterfront properties in Geebung?
June 15th, 7:44pm: My real estate agent, Tom Nook sets up a tent for me to use while the house is being built. He gives me a lantern and shows me how to set it up and use it. "This is a set up," I think to myself, afflicted with mild paranoia. He tells me to see him tomorrow to get the bill. I knew this was too good to be true!
June 15th, 7:46pm: Isabelle, my colleague in the mayor's office confirms my birthday and gives me a Town Pass Card. She then leads me to my inauguration ceremony in the town square. I plant a tree and bask in the insincerity of my new people. I am now the mayor.
June 15th, 7:50pm: I put the console to sleep so I can watch the Waratahs get thumped by the British and Irish Lions. Throughout the game I think back to the one piece in this puzzle that doesn't fit: Rover. Was he supposed to be Geebung's incoming mayor? What did he have to gain from me being installed as leader? Was I thinking into this a little too much? Only time would tell.
June 15th, 9:45pm: I attend the Bug-Off trophy ceremony. I am the mayor after all and this is a prime chance to be seen with my constituents. The judge appears to have eaten each of the winning entries; looks like a trophy is the most that any contestant can hope to walk away with. With each trophy conferral, we clap -- that is to say that we try to, our hands never quite meet but a thunderous sound is being made anyway. I'm tired and a little drunk. I need to leave before I make a scene.
June 15th, 9:55pm: I stumble from tree to tree, shaking them in the hope of finding treasure or some clue as to why I'm in this post. I acquire fruit and money. I shake one last tree, my view of the ensuing melee is obscured by another tree. I emerge with one eye swollen, stung by a swarm of angry bees!
June 15th, 10:00pm: What a night. I retire for fear of being further brutalised by the wildlife of Geebung.
June 16th: 7:30am: I awaken and exit my tent to find myself greeted by my postman, a pelican. He explains the mail system and warns me to check for incoming letters regularly or else my box will overflow and I'll then miss out on any additional mail. I have one letter from an anonymous sender, he indicates that it was he who was supposed to be thrust into the role or mayor, but insists I'll be fine. I swear at this point that I will hunt this villain down and bring him to justice for the grievous fraud he has committed!
June 16th, 7:31am: ROVER, YOU SON OF A BITCH, I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN!!!
June 16th, 7:38am: Isabelle briefs me on the mechanics of mayorhood and drops the bombshell that my approval rating is a whopping thirteen percent. I've just moved here, been thrust into a leadership role and I'm living in a fucking tent. Give me a break!
June 16th, 7:39am: Pacing with murderous intent following my shocking poll results, I run into a boar who tries to sell me some turnips. She explains that people don't eat them much anymore, but I can buy and sell them to various people to turn a profit. Can these turnips be used to manufacture drugs, I wonder; why else would the market be so volatile? I mean, if you're not going to eat the fucking things, then why are you buying them? I can now see through Geebung's smiling veneer and behold the festering shithole of addiction and greed that lies beneath. I want to die.
June 16th, 8:38am: Riddled with anxiety, I visit the real estate agent to see just how far I've submerged myself in debt. To my surprise, his office is closed and he didn't leave me with any other means to contact him.
June 16th, 8:39am: I visit the post office. Apparently Nintendo had left something for me: a rainbow screen. I wonder if I can sell it off to scrounge for a house payment.
June 16th, 8:40am: I visit Nookling Junction and find myself greeted by Tommy, who appears to be a cute, brown raccoon thing. He likes to give some subtext to everything he says, whispering sweet nothings after each of his utterances. Bells, the town's currency are "So shiny," and he wants me to come back because he'd "Love to see me." I sell some cherries for roughly one thousand bells. I wonder whether feeding myself will become problematic if I can score a grand for some common fruit. It comes to mind that I've played this game for roughly ninety minutes and still haven't murdered anything. I buy a shovel: not only because it should be a deadly weapon, but it should help me to dispose of any evidence that could incriminate while I sit in Geebung's throne. I also buy a bug net, because I'll show those shitheads how to win a Bug Off.
June 16th, 8:47am: To my horror, it doesn't look as though I can do much damage with this shovel. I do, however, unearth three fossils while digging around the town. I wonder how much money I can get for these things? What ancient creatures lived beneath this city's tiny houses?
June 16th, 11:55am: I visit Tom Nook's office again. Ten thousand dollars, for a lakeside property in this economy. Things could be worse. Tom tells me to go fishing and catch bugs to make the down payment. My first instinct is to tell him to go to hell. As if you could afford a house by pawning sea shells, but then I remembered that puzzling formula from this morning: 8 bunches of cherries = approximately $1000.
June 16th, 12:07pm: I speak with Blathers, the owl curator of Geebung's museum. At first he seems shitty at me for waking him up, but he's cooled off. He assesses the fossils I've found to reveal that I've been lugging dinosaur skulls across my city. What the fuck, these bones are probably worth millions and he wants me to donate them FOR SCIENCE? Knowing my luck, I've probably got kids to feed somewhere in this dungeon of a town.
June 16th, 12:18pm: I need ten large. If I want a solid roof over my head, I'm going to have to meet that end. I started shaking cherry trees, but they weren't fetching as much at Re-Tail. I collected shells and bells. I hunted butterflies and for as long as I'd been in Geebung, I found the closest thing to pure joy.
June 16th, 12:30pm: Nook has his fucking money now and tomorrow I'll have a house. What will I need to endure to survive my tenure as mayor of Geebung? Will I exact sweet revenge on Rover? Tune in next week to find out!
I can't do scary movies. When my brothers and friends used to insist on viewing films such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, I would accompany them, but I'd also spend between ninety and one hundred and twenty minutes with my eyes fixed squarely on my crotch. Even when watching the relatively lighthearted murder sprees found in the Friday the 13th series, I would stick my fingers in my ears to block out the sounds associated with men being torn limb from limb. I'm certain that my entourage would tell you that I whimpered on occasion - I'm not saying I did, but I wouldn't put it past them all the same.
I was able to play the odd survival horror title without crawling into the fetal position, however. Something about having agency in a raft of terrifying situations allowed me to deal with the sort of gratuitous violence that normally have my glance heading south. Resident Evil 1 through 4, the first Silent Hill, Dead Rising, and titles like Dino Crisis and F.E.A.R -- that weren't necessarily scary, but would try and get you to jump with surprise attacks and limited resources -- were able to be bested despite my inability to compute cinematic horror.
As time's gone by and I've branched out from friends and family, our expeditions to view abhorrent content have become less and less frequent, and I've strayed away from the offensive content almost entirely as a result. It's to the point where I'm even shying away from violent games: Resident Evil 5,6 and Dead Space 3 have been lying around the house unplayed for months, Dead Space 2 has been in the backlog for years now. I thought I could go the rest of my life without my heart rate rising on account of copious amounts of blood, guts and screams of terror.
Then I found myself in the Metro. Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling spider webs, haunted, eviscerated rail cars, and amorphous pods of skin that spew slime and more spiders, I found that the best way to deal with my fear was to let it out. I mean really let it out: squealing and swearing as I trudged my way through the depths of post-apocalyptic Russia. I'm like a surly, cowardly sailor shooting barbs and buckshot towards creatures that make my nightmares look like scenes from an episode of Care Bears.
It's not just the grotesqueries that have me perpetually wailing "That's fucked up!" either, it's the sounds that accompany them. The taut strings that score the stealth sequences, the skittering of six (maybe eight?) very large legs, the blood-curdling screams and cries for mercy from innocent survivors: if my fingers weren't wrapped tightly around the controller, they'd be in my ears.
I actually relish the chance to face human opponents. They're predictable, they're preoccupied and they only see me coming when I want them to. It's not so much that the AI-controlled opponents aren't cunning strategists as much as they are blind. Unless a strong light source is present, consider the greenlight for shenanigans flashed.
In any case, I'm glad that Metro: Last Light has provided some fuel for that final, flickering spark of courage hidden at the back of my brain. If you have any love of bleak, post-apocalyptic scenarios or thick Russian accents, I strongly suggest you give it a try.