Motley Editor-In-Chief Dan Webb explores two of the most legendary franchises in gaming, Animal Crossing and Doom, and gives food for thought on why they may not be so different after all
March 20th 2020, as the dawn broke two of the biggest titans in gaming walked slowly towards the battlefield ready to face-off. Cyberdemon’s sharpened their claws, villagers practised swinging their fishing rods, Doom Slayer’s reloaded their super shotguns. It was all ready to kick-off the battle to end all battles, but then something miraculous happened two fandoms managed to come together against all odds in solidarity, and love of gaming.
Of course, I am referring to the heated release date shared by two of this year’s biggest releases Animal Crossing: New Horizon, and Doom: Eternal. Recently there has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the newfound bond, and friendship between fans of both franchises. Many have stated that this is a perfect marriage of heaven, and hell (excuse the pun) at first I have to admit that I found this matchup quite puzzling.
Who would have ever thought that the fans of a game where you literally murder thousands of demon’s with your bare hands, would ever fall in love with a game where you spend months building up a small community of cute animal people on a deserted island. However after a while of pondering, and a game session or two of Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Doom (2016) the penny dropped. I realised that yes although these two franchises at first glance are so vastly different to one another, it is these differences that make the games complement each other so well
Story: Make Your Own Destiny
In the late 90s ID Software co-founder John Carmack was questioned about the role that story writing had when creating Doom. Carmack’s replied “Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there but it’s not that important” this statement has become infamous amongst gaming communities, primarily due to the mediums strong potential for telling stories. However it also perfectly encapsulates the creative process of the creative folks working behind the scenes at ID software.
ID games aren’t lacking narrative, well not in the traditional sense anyway. The design mantra has always been creating large-scale worlds for players to explore, and to allow the player to discover little clues in the environment which feed them all the lore and content they could ever need. In this way ID’s worlds are living and breathing, and extremely fun to explore (or to chainsaw off a demon’s face we don’t judge here)
As such Doom follows in these design footsteps, put very simply you are the Doom Slayer, your mission is to hunt and kill the demons go forth and unleash hell. This set-up is quite simple yes however it allows for the world around the player to tell so many stories, rather than the player driving the story as you would see in a more narrative focussed game i.e. The Last of Us. Doom Slayer’s motivations are clear and simple, and this allows him to become a husk that the player can embody almost immediately. Of course, ID Software has seen fit to add a bit more narrative complexity to the upcoming Doom: Eternal, however, it is still in line with everything Doom fans have come to expect.
Animal Crossing similarly starts the player with a simple task. The villager (that’s you) moves into town, buys a house and immediately must start working to pay off a loan from the greedy although cute little raccoon Tom Nook. The game doesn’t really have a central storyline other than pay off your loan, develop friendships with your neighbours, and live your little life to the full. Once again that is a very simple setup however it is also one that is very easy to follow, and relate too as it very much mirrors the life many of us live every single day. Just don’t forget to save the game when you quit otherwise prepare for a lecture from the insufferable little mole Mr Ressetti.
Gameplay: Rip and tear, or just care for the flowers
Now, something that any game designer has to get right, straight of the gate is the gameplay. Sure if a game has a fantastic AAA level narrative that is fantastic, however, if the game itself is a slog to play through, and is boring then who is going to stay with it for more than ten minutes? Thankfully both of these games are not lacking in this department, however, they do differ in that Doom is more about frenetic fast-paced action, and Animal Crossing requires a slower and more patient pace when playing.
As mentioned before in Doom you play the role of the Slayer a man who is the literal embodiment of chaos, and destruction. The Slayer’s motivation is to kill as many demons’ as he can and to do this he is armed with an arsenal of classic weapons. Of course, you have the staples pistol, assault rifle, super-shotgun (and it is super). Doom has always been known for it’s more fun creative options, one of the most famous being the BFG (that’s Big F@&ing Gun for the un-initiated) a weapon with the destructive potential to crush ten demons into a bloody pulp at once.
Animal Crossing, on the other hand, steers away from the pass-time of killing demons, and puts a watering can, shovel and a few other tools in the player’s hands. The player’s main goal in the game is to of course pay off their mortgage, and to stop being in debt to a greedy little rodent, he is cute though. How the player goes about this though is completely up to them, go fishing and sell your catch, dig up buried treasure, grow an orchard of trees and flowers to sell the fruit. All of these and more form the core of Animal Crossing’s gameplay loop, all set of course in real-time means that players will be coming back to tend to their town for months if not years on end.
Although completely diametrically opposing each other, it is due to these reasons that the games complement each other so well. Picture this you’ve come home after a long day at work, the boss has been at you and you need to blow off some steam Doom Slayer’s got your back. On the other hand, you come home it’s been a stressful day and you want to just relax, Isabelle and the Animal Folk are waiting for you.
Yes these games are completely different, but like they say opposites attract, and I would like to wager that if you had both of these games in your back pocket you would have all of your gaming needs satisfied just like that. So go forth unleash hell, or head to your island and water some flowers it doesn’t matter so long as you are having fun, just not too much fun though.