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Late-stage capitalism and the fatalistic realities of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Updated: Jan 18

When Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp launched, I jumped at the chance to take part in the Animal Crossing franchise for the first time. I had no gaming system growing up besides a few Harry Potter PC games and Freddie Fish, so I was pretty pumped. I was charmed by the quaint camp sites and delighted at the prospect of sweet animal friends as a distraction from other bleak national events. However, there is a troubling undercurrent that runs beneath this zootopic paradise - and I'm not talking about Lost Lure Creek.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is built on the exchange of goods and services. While you as the player perform the labor of gathering specific resources for your "friends", they sit and discuss how they will be spending their leisure time. When you provide them with the resources they have requested, they gift you with certain items as well, making it appear to be a fair trade. However, since your "friends" are able to summon material goods from the ether while you yourself have been spending moments of your life hunting and gathering, the trade becomes instead that exchange of goods for your labor.

Something about that doesn't feel quite right.

Meanwhile, the line between "friends" and the goods themselves is blurred by the unspoken rules of sentience that run the Pocket camp universe. Any animal that you can strike up a conversation with is capable of remarking on the kind of day they are having or how full they are from their previous meal. This indicates that they are self-aware. However, the animals you do not speak with (fish, butterflies, beetles) have no chance to demonstrate consciousness.

What is it, then, that makes dogs, cats, and alligators sentient while fish and bugs are not? Clearly it is not reproductive-based, since many of the camp visitors are birds, reptiles, and even amphibians (one of the amphibians is a doctor who appears to be a poison dart frog, which opens up an entirely new discussion of the medical industrial complex). Even the line between species appears somewhat random, as evidenced by Goose demanding a turkey dinner to consume.

The conclusion, it seems, is that the respect for life itself in this industrial nightmare depends solely on one's ability to conduct the trade necessary to stimulate Pocket Camp's corrupt economy. Taking into account the economic system adopted by campers and camp visitors alike, along with an uncertain boundaries concerning friends and food, Pocket Camp forces us to reconcile with our own value within the broader capitalistic society. Are we human, dog, or bug? Are we even choosing to play this game, or has the game become all we know? And does the comfort of material wealth pale in comparison to the knowledge that we are a fish hook away from becoming the silent stuff of wealth itself?

I don't have the answers. But do not, dear readers, mistake an eagle for an ally, or a game for a prison.

(Add me at 6351 6882 426, I gotta get into Shovel strike Quarry.)

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