There is no more addictive game than one that makes you feel emotionally involved. Animal Crossing has been around since 2004 where it was first introduced on the GameCube console. Nintendo considers it a social simulator and communication game. The game immediately throws the player into the world. It starts with a train moving you to a new town with no money and no friends. There are no other humans besides yourself. Every other character is a type of animal. Their voices are garbled and high pitched leaving the only form of communication to be subtitles.
Once you reach the town, Tom Nook (the store owner) employs you in order for you to pay off your house. From there you are on your own to work odd jobs. As you play, you realize paying off your home debt is much harder than initially expected. There is no greater irony than struggling to pay your rent and then diving into a game which forces you to do the same while still giving you satisfaction and enjoyment.
There is no actual way to beat Animal Crossing. It is a real time game with an endless story that requires maintaining friendships and making money. If you look at the aspects of the game you come to realize that it mimics real life. What is enticing about working all day, interacting socially, but then having a desire to come home and play a game that virtually has you taking all the same steps?
The answer is control. Animal Crossing allows you to manage the aspects of life without having it as a stressor. It allows you to breakout of the daily grind and enjoy the things that would normally seem un-enjoyable. It creates similar satisfaction when tasks are completed in-game as they would be in real life. The game is cartoony, bright, and just surreal enough to be able to escape into. However, another strength of the game is narrative. When comparing Animal Crossing to other social simulators such as The Sims, the unique factor is the presence of the narrative. Even though you’re given free choice with many decisions the story still guides you in ways of conversations and goals. The strength of the narrative being present gets the player much more personally invested with their character and every other character existing in the game’s world, adding to the game’s addictive nature and immersiveness. However, the most important fact above all is that there is never any doubt that you will succeed. I think that this is what completely eliminates all stress and allows the player to throw themselves into the world; there is no doubt that you will lose or fail in this game as long as you put in enough work and time. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for real life. But this is where the appeal of Animal Crossing lies: it’s real life, but better.
Huffington Post article on the addictiveness of Animal Crossing