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Content, playtime and Animal Crossing

I wanted to post this on the Switch sub but I don't think many people would read it and react positively. There has been a series of posts that debating how if Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a lot of playtime that necessarily equals it having a lot of content. If you're on the sub you know what I mean, and I don't want to post links as that's usually not cool on subreddits.


It has been extremely frustrating seeing people not take valid arguments against each other regarding Animal Crossing.

Content VS Play Time

Games can have high playtime and low content. Examples:

Tetris, osu!, flappy bird, etc

It is rare but games can have low playtime and high content. Many AAA games that are under 20 hours would fall into this category. the new Dooms and Titanfall 2 are all good examples of this. The game can throw guns and abilities at you faster than you can really get to use them.

Now I am not saying the two do not correlate, in fact, they USUALLY do! What I am arguing against is the idea that you cannot critique a game's content because you have played it a lot. It is completely nonsensical, and I would argue the opposite. Playing it more gives you better insight into what the game is lacking. Have you ever played an MMO for hundreds of hours? Over time you start to really see the cracks of the game and what can make it better. The same thing applies here. Lastly, the original post about AC makes no claims about whether the game is a ripoff or whether it is not a good value. He clearly got value out of it but dismissing the critique because of that is just convenient.

Hopefully, you are on board that at the very least we should entertain AN:NH lack of content outside of how much playtime you get out of it. Even if you still disagree with the idea that the two concepts are married, our argument would be better if we tried to avoid that part of and look at what the game presents to us.

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The Criticisms

On this subreddit alone there have been posts complaining about AN and many praising it. Here are the main pain points for people.

1) The game seems slow

2) Repetitive gameplay from day-to-day

3) User interface

These three points are hard to argue. I know it is the internet and we love to argue, but when someone feels a certain way you rarely will change their heart about it. If you are trying to argue in good faith you should also assume people are being genuine. It can also be hard to understand why they feel that way, I will try to explain each point to my understanding.

1) The game seems slow

a. Unfortunately, you spend too much time watching your character do something. Whether it is redeeming Nook Miles, getting stung by a wasp, crafting there is time that is fluff. I cannot think of many games without such deliberately slow crafting. And I do understand its deliberate, people seem to use that as a silver bullet against criticism of AN, it is not, and I will get on that later. Games with slow crafting tend to at least let you walk away from it and come back later. Furthermore, I understand crafting alone isn’t an enormous drain, but it serves as an example of the game’s slowness.

2) Repetitive gameplay from day-to-day

a. During your first month or so of gameplay, you will reach points where you cannot do anything else. Even if you understand that “this is just what AN is like” that is atypical for most games and it is not unreasonable to wish that Nintendo had provided something else to do to further your game in the future. Even once you have n number of things you can do on the daily, they are done and over with quickly. Not to mention they are not particularly engaging fish – > pick fruit – >dig fossils- > mine. Maybe one of your tools breaks and you need to spend three minutes fixing it. Compare that to Minecraft or Terraria, you can be way more aggressive with the building. And ultimately what you accomplish is the same, designing your own space how you want. The difference is that AN stretches that out by a factor of 20. For previous installments, there was not as much to compare to. I know that sounded brutal and I know “that’s how AC is” but again I am just explaining why people feel this way. It’s hard to tell someone that they have to play 30 minutes a day for a week before you can do one significant change to your island and that’s supposed to be you having a blast.

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b. I understand Nintendo is adding DLC to make the game have more content. I think that is a positive thing, and I would love to play the game again after it is all comes out. Still, there are two issues I see with this. 1) With all the DLC they had planned, it makes me think they released a game that had not reached its full potential. 2) Nintendo is not going to change the core game they shipped. So, if you are holding out hope for everything to get easier to manage, I doubt that will happen as much as I would enjoy that.

3) User interface

a. This is very related to the idea of the game being slow, but specifically, the interface and how you interact with it are made to match the tone of the game. Which is to say a lot of it takes a long time and is made to feel like you are there with the world. That can be a positive thing for sure. That is part of why AN got popular to being with. But when you’re waiting in line at the airport, crafting items one at a time, can’t delete items, and items stack at random rates…that makes more friction and people end up feeling more frustrated than delighted.

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A last note on deliberation.

This is why I started writing. The silver bullet. Just because something is intentional does not mean it is the right choice or that it is beyond reproach. I do not feel I should have to explain this, but I’ll give one example. If we treated all games by this logic, most would be perfect. Even controversial games like Alien Marines, No Man’s Sky, and even Pokemon Unite would be A+ video games. That’s certainly not the case, so that’s why we are critical about movies, music, and video games.

There is a certain Animal Cross spirit that people love. You are in this delightful world with charming characters and you can get away from the hustle and bustle of real life. Unfortunately, those three main criticisms of the game keep you from enjoying that, the game should push you toward the fun parts, and the game should at least make an effort to recognize that people might want to stay in your world for more than 30 minutes. That’s a huge compliment.


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