Video games can be a parent's best friend or the bane of their existence. And with so many options on the market right now, choosing which games you'll your allow children to play is key to ensuring their time is being used effectively and safely. For example, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Nintendo's new virtual summer camp game, which has a friendly and simple premise. But not everyone is a fan and critics have pointed out that the game pressures players into spending real money to advance and teaches them to be demand something in exchange for friendship.
The OG Animal Crossing is a Nintendo video game that first came out in 2001 for Nintendo 64. Just last week, the game was adapted for smartphones, with a few changes. In the new camp-themed version, players build and run campsites and meet new animal "friends" along the way. Players can also add real world friends through personal codes.
The friend-building aspect of the game is where some are seeing red flags. In order to actually spend time with the virtual animals, players must complete a handful of very specific tasks such as finding fruits or building furniture, according to Mashable. Chrissy Teigen, for example, recently started a viral tweeting storm of complaints about the game, mainly that the "animal people things" that force players to do favors for them. As Teigen and others have pointed out, the animals don't behave like friends; they make demands and provide little in return.
Romper has reached out to Nintendo for comment regarding the criticism surrounding the game and is awaiting a response.
Aside from demanding beastly fake friends, another complaint about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is the pressure to spend IRL money to speed the process along. Ars Technica reported that the game allows players to opt out of the period of waiting that comes with past Animal Crossing games. By spending $60 or more on Leaf Tickets — the in-game currency — players have access to every item and the answer to every favor request after tapping through menus, currencies, and tiny zones.
Also, there is nothing added to the game to make up for the move to mobile screens and fewer buttons that were such an integral part of the game-playing experience. For these and other reasons, Ars Technica included a scathing review of the game, going as far as to call it a scam:
As a result, this isn't Animal Crossing. This is a scam. Nintendo should be ashamed for attaching such predatory practices to one of its most family-friendly properties, and nothing short of a full-scale redesign will fix the FarmVille-level rot within this shiny-looking game.
Despite these complaints, not everyone is totally against the Pocket Camp version. An opinion piece on the game published by The Verge suggests that the game is great for players with anxiety. The writer explains that the task completion portion of the game is a virtual form of mindfulness that allows players to remain firmly in the moment. Additionally, by opting out of purchasing the Leaf Tickets, users can make the most of the delayed gratification, an aspect of the game that some believe comes with its own unique reward.
Redbull.com also had a lot of good things to say about the new mobile game, specifically that it is perfect for cell phone play. Adaptations for mobile game play such as smaller locations with more options on the map and shorter task timelines make it feel tailor-made for playing on a cell phone. Joining the ranks of Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga, Pocket Camp has a home on many screens.
Even with the noted drawbacks, parents should feel comfortable letting their kids play this version of Animal Crossing — as long as kids know not to expect people to do tasks in exchange for friendship outside of the game. The simplicity of the tasks and good clean fun warrants no parental warning, according to Uproxx. Ultimately, it seems like players will have to decide for themselves what they want from a mobile game and whether this one suits them.
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