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Also in this issue:

Spinning the Web: The Realities of Online Reputation Management
by Nicholas Carroll

Previously in Mindjack:

december 21, 2002
Supernova 2002
Doug Roberts reports from Palo Alto

november 04, 2002
Inside The Internet Archive
by Doug Roberts

november 04, 2002
Smart Mobs
by Howard Rheingold
reviewed by Cory Doctorow

october 28, 2002
An Interview with Warren Ellis
by Melanie McBride


animal crossing

Buy Animal Crossing at

Animal Crossing
for Nintendo GameCube

reviewed by Jane Pinckard

February 17, 2003 | games

If I do say so myself, Birdland is a fine little town. We have quite a few cherry trees, which bear fruit every four days, even in the winter – they're a staple of the local economy here. We have a couple orange trees, too, seeded with fruit I stole one night from Faunapol. And one precious peach tree, our pride and joy – Justy planted that one, from a peach Grizzly gave him. The orchard is coming along nicely, although I'd like to plant an apple tree.

Everyone here is pretty nice – well, mostly. Snooty the Skunk barely gives me the time of day, but I wrote her a nice letter and gave her a pretty dress, and now she likes me okay. Goldie and I are tight – she depends on me to help her out, mostly delivering and picking up things for her. Pierce the parrot used to talk about fishing a lot but then he moved out of town. He's doing okay in Faunapol, he wrote me and said he misses Birdland a little. Maybe I'll go visit him there.

Tom Nook's store is getting bigger all the time, and his inventory changes every day. You never know what you might find. Down at the Able Sisters' textile design shop, you can buy umbrellas and tailored outfits or design your own pattern, and use it to decorate clothes, umbrellas, even walls and floors. If you think you're a hot-shot designer, you can choose some of your own creations to be on display! In fact, you should drop by my house and see the floors I've painted to match the walls! Don't you think the colors complement the giant Teddy Bear my friend Justy mailed to me? Would you like me to mail you something too? Easy! Just tell me your name and the name of your town, and I'll use Tom Nook's express delivery service. I'll email you the code, and you can go pick it up at your leisure!

If you have the time, please stop by! Or write me a letter, because I'll get it the next day. And we can be friends.

Who says multiplayer has to be simultaneous? The brilliance of Nintendo's game Animal Crossing is that you don't play head-to-head with other players. Instead you find traces of your friends as you explore – letters they leave behind, items they send to you, trees they've planted or pruned, fossils they've placed in the Museum, the houses they've customized. Together, you and your friends slowly build an ideal town inhabited by friendly animals. It's a perfect game for a household. I play it in the morning, then my boyfriend gets it in the afternoon, and finally my sister might play it in the evening. It has inspired us to try to get all of our game-loving friends in on this.

Each memory card can hold data for a single town, each town can support up to four players. By exchanging memory cards with your friends, you can go visit their towns and leave them presents, or fish in the other town's rivers, or pick fruit from the orchards. A network of social interaction is possible through both physical exchange and virtual exchange, for the community extend far beyond the confines of the game.

Many websites devoted to the game bring together players from all over the world. Here fans can share the designs they've created, trade hints and tips, or arrange to send each other rare items. One of the most amazing features of the game is the ability to "send" items to other players in other games. One needs only the in-game name of the player and the town, and the game will generate a code based on the information. You then email the code to your friend, who could be on the other side of the world. She takes the code and enters it at Tom Nook's store, the game decrypts it, and produces the item. It's a brilliant non-direct way to connect people without wires.

The game has no scoring, no levels, no missions; it is an entirely self-directed game. It is infinitely playable – there is no winning, no ultimate goal. Moreover the game keeps track of real time. Unique items appear in the game and are gone the next day. If you neglect to answer letters for a few days the animals will be upset with you. In the long term, you can watch the seasons change – different fish and bugs will appear in game for you to collect. It's a combination of neopets, tamagotchi, and an online interactive world in which your actions have consequences. The model results in an unbelievably addictive game. Add a layer of Nintendo whimsy in the form of in-jokes and NES emulators which pop up as rare items in the game, and you have an utterly charming, immersive, and surprisingly social world which encourages you to check in every day for twenty minutes or so. The graphics are unremarkable, but cute and serviceable, the music – part of which you can compose yourself – is a bit repeptitive but sweet. It may look and feel like a kid's title, but it acts like one of the most innovative and creative games I have played in a long while.

Jane Pinckard runs Game Girl Advance and is a member of every blogger's favorite band, Dealership. You can keep up with her at


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