I’m not entirely sure as to the cause, but lately (being the past few months) I have not been keeping any sort of regular hours. It’s mostly made me irritable and forgetful, and prone to disorientation if I sit still for too long. Since I am a visual person, I like to imagine my brain is atrophying in the worst way — though there probably isn’t such a thing as good brain atrophy — and soon a puddle of useless grey sludge will be sloshing about in my skull. If I’m really lucky it’ll ooze out of my ears and then I can keep it in a jar on my bookshelf or something; it might even make an unusual paperweight. Things like that are tremendous icebreakers.
But to return to the matter of my insomnia, I think I’m finally coming around to welcoming sleep before the sun rises thanks to one of my perennial favorites in gaming: Animal Crossing. For the uninitiated, this video game is more or less a simulation of life — a little bit like the Sims except your party animal neighbors are, in fact, anthropomorphic beasts of the wild. As one would expect, different species of animal demonstrate unique character traits: Eagles are proud, pigs are hungry, penguins like to exercise, and bears are always up on the latest fashion trend, just like their real-life counterparts. (Don’t try to argue you’ve never seen a bear whose appearance could not best be described as fancy.) All these creatures live in houses in your town and talk to you, occasionally asking you for small favors, but mostly insult your sense of style and criticize your sense of worth as a human being. Oh, right, your character is a human, because it follows that a town run by animals is the ideal place for some penniless young person striking out on his own for the first time.
Half-baked reasoning aside, what I truly love about this game is that underneath its cute exterior is a pretty bleak exposition of real life. You move to a town with no money to your name and manage to scrounge up a parttime job at the only store in town whose owner Tom Nook (a raccoon, naturally) has cornered the local real estate market and will give you a house with loan attached that you must pay off. Or not, but then you have a loan hanging over your head, which gets pretty stuffy when your house is approximately 16 square feet. After Nook releases you as a parttime employee, you’re on your own to figure out how to create a source of income. I personally enjoy fishing and harvesting fruit, but digging up fossils brings in a pretty penny. So, you get some Bells (legal tender in the world of Animal Crossing), pay off your loan, and Wow! you think, I’m moving up in the world. To celebrate, you go to Nook and he’ll offer to expand your house, even throwing in a paint job for your roof at no extra charge. It’s too good to be true. And it is. Once he completes his work he burdens you with an even more exorbitant loan that will take several years (and liters of salty tears) to pay back. It’s an early lesson in contrition.
Better to learn it in a video game, before you find yourself on the street at the end of a money demanding raccoon’s angry muzzle.