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Designed as a 'communication' game, Animal Crossing defied genre

Developers of the original Animal Crossing shed light on their inspiration for the game and their struggle to fit it into a neat genre in interviews freshly translated and published by Shmuplations.
"For instance, the seagull...makes all these dark jokes. I’m sure a kid won’t understand them. I imagined he would have to go to his Mom and ask her what the seagull was talking about, and the Mom would then have a hard time answering."

- Animal Crossing director Katsuya Eguchi highlights how a game's design can encourage real-life communication.

Nintendo has been developing Animal Crossing games for more than a decade, and throughout the years they've been commonly referenced as light-hearted simulation games thanks to their emphasis on endless days of fishing, fruit-picking and furniture collecting.

But in a pair of newly-translated Nintendo Online Monthly interviews with developers of the original Animal Crossing published by Shmuplations, it's clear that the franchise was always designed to be a series of "communication games."

These interviews, which were originally published in 2001 and 2003, are worth reading in full because they shine light on the design choices at work in Animal Crossing and, in a broader sense, exemplify the challenges many developers face when asked to fit their creations into a neatly-defined category like "simulator" or "role-playing game." 

As many indie developers struggle with trying to neatly classify their own work, it's nice to look back and see Nintendo developers facing very similar difficulties more than a decade ago.

"We came up with the concept of 'a game where you hang out and do stuff with a bunch of people in a single field,'" recalled Katsuya Eguchi, one of the directors of the original Animal Crossing. "We were consciously trying to create something in a new genre that you couldn't easily reduce to a single label. But in reality, you have to write the genre for the retail package labeling."

"I remember someone saying, 'well, how about we just say "communication"?'" added fellow Animal Crossing director Hisashi Nogami in the same 2003 interview. "Ultimately, our gameplay ideas derive from that theme. Let's swap furniture from our houses! ...That was another way of connecting people."

For more from both directors, as well as composer/sound director Kazumi Totaka (the inspiration for Animal Crossing character K.K. Slider) and sound engineer Taro Bando, check out the full translated interviews over on Shmuplations.

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