Several months ago, I installed Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and haven’t missed a single day since. It’s unusual because I’ve never played any Animal Crossing games before, and didn’t care for Pocket Camp when it first came out. Now it’s a daily 15 to 20 minute reprieve from my life; I greet my animal friends, we exchange gifts, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something in my day. But in the last month, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp rolled out new features that seem strangely counterintuitive to its friendly core, the very thing that attracted me to it in the first place.
The addition of a parcel delivery service along with an option to skip non-transactional dialogue were introduced as a way to streamline gameplay. This means that if you don’t feel like making your way to Breezy Hollow to see — let alone talk to — your friend, you don’t have to. If you do happen to interface with them, you can also check a box to skip their effusive gratitude when gifting them an apple or whatever they asked for.
I admit that I’ve kept the “skip” box checked lately, but the introduction of the delivery service surprised me. Why would I want to miss the Terminator-like glowing eyes on my bunny friend when she catches a fish by the pier? Or the impish smirk of a cat who wants to know if you have any good gossip?
Out of curiosity, I tried the delivery service. I pulled up the map and tapped the Pete the Pelican icon hovering above my campsite. A number of “Have Pete deliver” buttons came up, and I tapped on a request for Merry. Immediately, I was taken to the rewards page. I received a bundle of cotton and flower seeds in exchange for sending a monarch butterfly to Merry. That was it. I never saw or heard from her. Was she even there? Is she alive?
I thought of the single-diner ramen chain, Ichiran. Diners are led to single-occupancy booths with partitions on each side; within minutes, a piping hot bowl of ramen emerges wordlessly from under a bamboo curtain in front of your seat. You never have to interact with another human being. This quiet, streamlined approach is present in a lot of areas today: ordering meals, hailing a cab, shopping online, etc. And while my socially anxious self relishes the options for minimal human contact, the idea of streamlining my friendships — my one moment of reprieve — defeats the point.
I want to hear the bad puns and the food-obsessed commentary from my animal friends. I like seeing their animations when they get self-conscious or shy. I like aimlessly wandering an area just to hear snow crunching under my shoes. Seeing these cute friends is a highlight of my day.
The new features are completely optional, but using them ultimately drains the color from what makes Pocket Camp so vibrant. The tiny flourishes that Nintendo assigns to each of these personalities is what makes the game so special — missing them would be a travesty. Besides, how else will you see Terminator bunny?