Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Pedant's Delight: Random Knowledge in Games


A Pedant never should be confused with descriptions with similar prefixes but which are negative 'tags' associated with illegal desires connected with children. A Pedant simply is some one who loves details where knowledge is concerned, an individual who takes great joy in knowledge for its own sake. I believe I once read a review of the original Animal Crossing game, describing it as a game that would appeal greatly to pedantic individuals. I would go further and state that it truly is 'A Pedant's Delight', a place where any one with pedantic leanings can experience the thrill of acquiring little tidbits of esoteric, random knowledge at any point in time.

Blathers, of course, is the ultimate font of esoteric knowledge. With every donation you give, he will reward you with a fact or two about the item in question. Sometimes the facts are fairly well-known, but quite often, they are more esoteric in nature. His 'lectures' are delivered with the humour and wit for which he has won international fame and renown.

Natsume prides itself on producing games that combine learning and education with fun. Animal Crossing is another game that can claim the same achievement.

I am done very little fishing in the real world, although I always have loved aquariums of every sort, so do have some intrinsic interest in fish in general. I have little interest in insects in academic or practical terms, however, but even so, I am a pedantic person in many respects who loves knowledge for its own sake.
I inevitably find some of Blathers' lectures fascinating. The problem ultimately is that I seldom retain the facts that he generously dishes out for more than a minute or two.

I do believe, however, that the text of his 'lectures' has changed from Wild World to City Folk. I do not recall that the description of the Red Snapper, for example, in Wild World included the information that:

Blathers: '...right near the gills of this fish is a bone that actually looks just like the fish itself… Some cultures believe keeping one of these on you brings good luck.'

I think I would have remembered THAT. It is entirely possible that I simply forgot it and therefore was delighted anew by this trivial detail. In fact, I am inspired to search for a charm created from the Red Snapper bone in the real world. I wonder if I could find one on Ebay?

Incidentally, there IS an auction house now in the City! I need to explore it further, but I was reminded of Ebay at once, although the Gyroid in charge is far too posh to be connected with anything less than an Animal Crossing equivalent of Christie's or Sotheby's.

In many cases, it is not the facts but the way in which they are delivered that makes Blathers such a wonderful character. For the Dace, for instance, he will declare:

Blathers: 'Most fishermen think of dace as a bit of a nuisance because they interfere with catching more desired fish. This fish cares not… During spawning season, the dace dons a bright orange stripe across its belly! Even nuisance fish get the urge to dress up and strut a bit, eh wot?'

In general, Animal Crossing is filled with extraordinary dialogue that varies wildly between the truly wit-inspired and the inane. In our village, surrounded by our bizarre Animal Neighbours, we can enjoy being silly, even if our 'real' lives do not allow much time or opportunity for that sort of thing.

In fact, Animal Crossing does address the woes of 'real life' as well and the cruelty of corporate expectations. In the person of Lyle, once an insurance salesman but now the curator of the HRA in the City, you will find a creature who was judged by corporate rules and found wanting. Lyle may have been intensely irritating in Wild World, a real pest sometimes, but I would imagine that every player must have a little compassion for Lyle now when he confesses:

Lyle: 'Lyle used to have dreams… Lyle used to have it all. Big car, corner office, bang. Then it all went to pot. Know what the boss said: ‘Offices are for closers.’ Guy busted my chops! You believe it?'

Then there are characters like Chrissy, who has only the vaguest notion where important environmental subjects are concerned. When she 'recycles' an old outfit of hers by giving it to you, she may tell you:

Chrissy: 'I’m, like, totally concerned about greenhouse flashes and sustainable forest fires or whatever!'

Who on earth would not be seduced by a world filled with characters like these?

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