There’s this trope in movies about criminals, scammers, and businessmen where the better the gig is going, the more insatiable the hustler becomes. Even after destroying their initial goal, the character will not feel satisfied, and instead they’ll keep moving the goal post — until inevitably, their ambition ends up being their downfall.
I’m fascinated by such stories, because they make me wonder what my line would be, and whether I would be smart enough to know when to stop. How much money would it take for me to hang up my hat and give up the game? Perhaps the closest I can ever come to answering that question is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a life sim where the economy is so broken that I’ve somehow amassed 6.8M bells.
I’ve seen some of the bank accounts belonging to more hardcore Animal Crossing players, and compared to them, I don’t have much. Still, it seems like enough. “Enough” in this case means a fortune that can occasionally account for an expensive Nook’s Cranny item, and maybe a crown or two for my favorite villagers. Plus, of course, whatever pocket money I make from day-to-day playing. I’ve already paid off my loan, so that’s not a worry anymore.
Feeling satisfied in a video game is a strange concept, especially when many of them are designed to leave you wanting more. But saving up these bells was largely the product of playing the Stalk Market, where every week the goal was to buy turnips low and then sell them high.
At its worst, the Stalk Market can be the most stressful mechanic that Animal Crossing has to offer. To make the most of playing the market, you need to log prices twice a day at Nook’s Cranny in the hopes that a calculator will bless you with a good forecast that week. And, failing that, you’ll always need to be on the lookout for a friend or acquaintance who might be having a better price week than you are.
Except, as I’ve written before, the standards for what a turnip is worth selling for have gotten absurd. Social media means that extraordinary prices of 500 bells and above are always visible, which makes it easy to feel like you’d be a fool to sell for anything less. And so you don’t just end up worrying about your own prices, you’re also constantly wondering: yes, but what if I could get more?
And if you do find that “more,” guess what, other people have probably seen it, too. Then the stress becomes being able to get into that island at all, as people flock to the pal with the strong price that week. Cue the repeated connection attempts. If you get in, then there’s the stress of having the game continually pause for other people to hop in. But probably, you’re going to sit through a few warnings, where the game urges you to close that damn menu, because other people are waiting. Even as you’re there, handing over the turnips to Timmy and Tommy, the stress is still hanging over your head. Never mind if you bought multiple swaths of turnips that week — then, you have to do it all over again.
me on my second month going “buying turnips is so stressful” and then doing it anyway pic.twitter.com/uutrHL9KpM— Patricia Hernandez (@xpatriciah) May 17, 2020
It’s not just a psychological thing. Turnips also effect the basic Animal Crossing experience, because if you buy a handful, you have to store them. Suddenly, my rooms were filled with this veggie that made it impossible to decorate or move things around. Eventually, I stopped trying.
It sucks. All of it sucks. And these turnip practices are made worse by the knowledge that gaming the system or being serious about it at all can feel like you’re betraying the supposed chill nature of the series, even if you’re getting rewarded at the end. Nobody forced me to play this way, of course, but by nature of it being possible at all, the greedy play style seemed inevitable. People will always see how far they can push a game, even if it’s not fun, so long as a number somewhere goes up.
But now, I’m out. After adding a few more million to my purse, I told myself that was it. No more buying turnips for the foreseeable future. The big test came on Sunday, when Daisy Mae showed up selling her wares at 98 bells a pop. Not bad! I was tempted, until I remembered how awful the experience actually is.
So, no more turnips. No more worrying, no more keeping track of numbers, no more hauling veggies to and fro in the search for profit. No more waking up early on Sundays, like a chump. I’m glad to find out that there is, indeed, a number that can appease the monster.
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