Animal Crossing, My First Family Game

For the last few years, I keep putting aside some money to (maybe) buy a Nintendo Switch, only to talk myself out of it for ‘grown-up’ reasons. You know the kind: do I really need it? I should use the money on something more productive… and so on.

Knowing I would do the same thing this year, my amazing wife stepped in and bought me the Switch for Xmas. Specifically, the Animal Crossing edition. Her intention, of course, was for me to play it. What she didn’t realise was that Animal Crossing: New Horizons would be the first game that our little family would enjoy together – me, her and our little 1 year old. It’s turned out to be our first family video game.

I knew I was going to love ACNH. There are other games that I want to dive into on the Switch, but I’d mentioned to my wife that Animal Crossing would be a great first game. I was not disappointed. After so many story driven, open-world, high-adrenaline adventures on the PS4, this cheerful, charming little game was a welcome change of pace. Everything about Animal Crossing exudes relaxation and joy. Landscaping gardens for my island friends seems to be where I get the most catharsis.

Chi-ching!

In the past, I’ve tried to get my wife into video games, but nothing has really clicked. She’s not a fan of anything first-person perspective – Portal made her nauseous ten minutes in – and platforming games annoy her as much as they irritated me when I started gaming. In recent years, she’s found the joy of mobile games – Wizards Unite in particular – and we enjoy various party games online. Nevertheless, it has been a long while since I’ve tried to twist her arm.

Then Animal Crossing showed up. She watched me play for less than an hour before she was set on giving the game a try herself. The simple charm of catching bugs and fishing, furnishing her house, unlocking new items daily, it all appealed to her immediately. I knew that she was hooked when she asked me if it was okay if she could add a room to her house before I’d expanded mine. As if I would be disappointed that she has surpassed me, and not delighted that we had a game we could play together and talk about.

As for my one year old, she obviously doesn’t play Animal Crossing, but it’s the game she’s been allowed to watch the most.

We’re careful about how much screen time our daughter gets. We tend to watch movies with her in two parts. We always check with each other how long the TV has been on when she is around. So I’ve rarely had a video game playing with her in the room (apart from when she was snoozing on me when she was very little). I’ve shown her games occasionally, when I think she would appreciate it. During lockdown I presented the tropical fish in Subnautica, and the cute blobs in Slime Rancher to see what her reaction would be.

Yet Animal Crossing is the first game we’ve allowed her to watch for more than ten minutes at a time. Not that she sits down and intensely watches; because she hasn’t grown up with too much TV she will watch for a bit and then go play, occasionally looking back at what’s showing. But we are both quite happy to play ACNH with her in the room, especially since she finds it so amusing.

Blathers is the best.

From the very first time I shook a tree for loose branches, or pole vaunted across a river, she’s found the game as joyful as we do. She especially enjoys watching us fish, and is a big fan of Blathers, the anthropomorphic owl and museum curator. She will call “ready, steady go!” when she wants us to sprint around the island, and wishes all the residents a good “mornin'” as we do the rounds.

During lockdown, we needed to dig deep for ways to keep her entertained. In between messy play, drawing and music time, we’ve called on the careful use of the internet and the like for inspiration. Instead of visiting the zoo, we’ve switched onto live feeds and virtual tours of zoos. I’ve played plenty of YouTube clips of musicians, and we’ve seen a few online concerts aimed at little ones. Animal Crossing, in its own little way, also has an educational side.

My daughter has learned the words “fishing, goat and beetle” thanks to this game. That last word, for example, hopped into her vocabulary when I showed her the Critterpedia, the little hub that shows images of all the creatures you have captured so far. For some reason, the Dung Beetle looks really fascinating to her. They do look pretty cool. As I close the app, she will say “beetle, again!”.

But not the wasps. We don’t like those guys.

And so Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become a game for all the family. It’s all the more appreciated given the current isolation. Whilst we try to give our little one a variety of things to do, there is something undeniably delightful about an afternoon spent watching my wife travel around our shared island whilst my daughter cheers every time a fish is hooked or butterfly netted.

The next quest is to find an apple tree. We only have peaches and oranges so far, and apples are my daughter’s favourite. I hope the game has some.

Thank You For Reading.

Do you have a similar relationship with ACNH? Do you live on an island with other friends and family? Or is there another game you share with those close to you?

Written by Rufus Scott

Why on Earth am I Playing Phasmophobia?

It makes no sense. For the last few years I steered away from horror games. Even games with high tension or stress-inducing gameplay have been avoided. I might watch other gamers play spooky, stressful games, but that’s as close as I get.

The reason: I only get the occasional night to game. Between school work, house work, child care and the occasional D&D game, time for video games is precious and usually just before bed time. Games with horror themes or those that require intense concentration leave me more wired than when I started. I realised I needed to switch things up half-way through Dark Souls. I was ending each evening game more stressed, focused and awake than I care to be just before bed time.

So why have I been playing Phasmophobia for the last few weeks? I could definitely be watching streamers play the game – and I was – but instead I decided to spend the odd evening in a scary game when I’d told myself that was a bad idea. Not only that, but I often play the game solo when my friends aren’t free to join me for spooks.

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My 1 Year Old Bought a Video Game

I remember the days when a parent or older sibling could hand a young person an unplugged controller and they would happily ‘play along’ with the older gamer. Now, with wireless controllers, a young child can take charge with a single button press.

I’ve not played too many video games around my 1-year-old. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I actually played more games after she was born, when she was struggling to sleep through the night and so on. Of course, she wasn’t aware of the game being played.  Continue reading “My 1 Year Old Bought a Video Game”

Which Game was Your Greatest Disappointment?

I recently hopped into No Man’s Sky. I’m usually late to a game, but in this case the wait was very intentional. You might remember that when the game came out it was met with bile and vitriol. To listen to early reviews and discussion, this game apparently lacked in quality in every way. On the dart board of wild, speculative expectation, the game hit the wall and bounced off.

I’m having a great time with the game, but I’ve jumped in four years late. A mountain of content, patching and tweaks have been made to the game in that time. “No Man’s Sky is good now” is a reoccurring suggestion online, a point which most people agree with. I am very happy I waited, and I was very confident I was going to have a good time.

The real reason I waited, however, was not just because of the early criticism. I’m pretty certain I could have enjoyed the original version. It’s definitely the sort of game I enjoy. No, the reason why I waited was because that original divide between ‘promise’ and ‘expectation’ was something I had seen before. As the game was released, I had a grim sense of déjà vu…

I was so disappointed by a game in my youth, that it makes me doubt that quality of games 12 years later.

Continue reading “Which Game was Your Greatest Disappointment?”

When Do Young Geeks Make You Feel Old?

I am still a decent distance away from considering myself ‘old’. I turned 32 last week, I don’t get confused by modern technology, I get very few eye-rolls when I reference popular culture around my students. My five month old daughter definitely makes me feel youthful, if a little tired sometimes.

Nevertheless, from time to time, I experience events that give me the sense that I am old, or at the very least getting noticeably older. This happens to us all in various ways. You might hear yourself saying things your parents exclaimed when you were little, or react to what you see on the TV with the disgruntled attitude of a person past their youth.

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Haha, you don’t know _____!

I don’t take issue with a great deal while I’m teaching. I’m accepting of the broad span of opinions and preconceptions. I rarely feel the need to lecture people in or out of lessons, and I would never tell you your opinion is flat-out wrong. But when someone laughs at someone for not knowing something, that’s when I dust off the soapbox.

Continue reading “Haha, you don’t know _____!”

The Geek is a Dad: Baby VS D&D

I seemed to start playing Dungeons & Dragons as it began its surge in popularity. I can hardly say that I was “playing D&D before it was cool”; the game has been around for longer than I have. Nevertheless, when I was first introduced by a fellow teacher in 2015, the current edition of the game was only a year old, the massively popular Critical Role was just rolling out episode number 6 of campaign 1, and the vast majority of people I spoke to had barely even heard of D&D.

Four years later, D&D has evolved from a minor interest to a major hobby. Up until a few months ago, I was playing several times a month, most of which I was hosting. As the Dungeon Master of these games, I was either pouring over official campaign books or tinkering with my own, far-too-detailed homemade story. I enjoyed creating and playing D&D so much that it even took over the time that I usually reserved for playing video games or watching a good movie. I play other ‘Table Top Role Playing Games’ from time to time, but Dungeons & Dragons has its claws in me.

That was until six months ago, when I began to close the book on all my adventures in preparation for the arrival of my baby daughter. By Christmas, all of my groups knew that once we got to a satisfying place in the story I would bow out. My little lady was on her way and rather than string each game along until we ran out of time, I wanted to choose where the line in the sand was drawn. It was tough, because we all really wanted to play, but there’s nothing worse than a campaign that just fizzles out.

The games I was a player/character in would continue without me, but the games I ‘DMed’ would be gone for a long, long time… or so I thought.

Continue reading “The Geek is a Dad: Baby VS D&D”

That One Workbook

There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs when I mark books: there is always one that goes unmarked. I’ve been teaching for 9 years, and each year I have at least half a dozen different sets of workbooks that I mark regularly throughout the year. Every single time, without fail, I hand the books out and one student raises there hand:

“Err, sir? You’ve not marked mine.”

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The Geek is a Dad: Baby VS Video Games

“Can you remember what life was like before?” That’s the curious question I have heard so many times since becoming a dad four months ago. The notion that life would become so unrecognisable because of a baby is not without its merits. I’ve certainly never in my life had this many conversations about sleep patterns or bowel movements. I do however find some fault in the query. Life has changed and is changing, but I don’t believe it will change so much that I cannot enjoy the things I did before, or that I can’t be the same gamer-teacher-geek I’ve always been.

Admittedly, it’s early days. I think part of the reason I’m writing this is so that I can look back at the ‘father of four months’ version of me further down the line. He’s probably going to seem so naïve (and less grey haired). For now, I am that hopeful sole that sees his fatherhood as a life equally nerdy as what came before. How, when and why I enjoy my geekiness – my video games, Dungeons & Dragons, history and teaching – will change, but the last few weeks have taught me that the Geek is a Dad, and the Dad is always going to be a Geek.

Continue reading “The Geek is a Dad: Baby VS Video Games”

Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Six

At last, the table is set. The drinks cabinet is stocked, and the starter is ready to go. The first of my five fictional characters are on their way to my home. There is just one final video game guest to invite to the dinner party.

If you want to see who else I picked, look right here:

It would be presumptuous for me to state that I have ‘saved the best for last’. This sixth and last dinner guest is, however, my first and favourite choice for a video game guest.

I’m not inviting this character because of their personality; compared to the other five guests I know very little about them as a person. I’m also not asking them to join the party because of their legacy. Whilst the other five characters reside in iconic gaming franchises, I’ve only ever played one game which featured this last guest. I only have one, very significant reason to invite this individual: she is from the most integral game of my video gaming life.

Continue reading “Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Six”