Christmas celebrations were over and the entire family had all settled into the living room to visit and attempt not to fall asleep, or at the very least to hide the sounds of our own snoring. The clitter-clatter of knives in mayonnaise jars, ham sandwiches being made and the beep-beep-beep then gentle hum of leftover broccoli casserole being warmed in the microwave came from the kitchen. My young cousin, Josh, actually my second cousin, about 12 years old, came and sat on the couch next to me, ensuring I would not fall asleep. He tapped away at the screen of his Nintendo DS playing a new game he had just received today.
“Can you change the date on this,” he said, handing me the small game console and stylus, “I have to pee.”
I took the game from him and looked at the screen. “Wednesday, January 5th, 2000,” it read. “You want me to set the date?” I asked.
“No, just change it to the next day.” He ran off to the rest room and I dutifully changed the date, “Thursday, January 6th, 2000,” tapping at the screen.
Curious, I pushed “Confirm” and tried to see what the game was. The screen changed to a picture of a room, a bare room with only a bed, and maybe a night table, I can’t remember, and a character lying in it. I tapped on the character to see if I could rouse him. “Do not turn off the power and do not remove the game cartridge,” the screen read. A circular icon spun in the bottom right corner. It was saving.
Before it could finish and I could explore outside of this small room Josh returned, hand extended, waiting for me to return the game. I gave it back to him and he sat next to me tap-tap-tapping at the screen, silently playing the game.
“So why did you want me to change the date on the game?” I asked.
“Because I can only earn two thousand bells in a day,” he replied, as if that really explained anything. So I had to assume that bells were currency in the game.
“Why do you need to earn bells?” I asked, expecting to hear that he was trying to acquire a weapon or a map or some other typical video game item of interest. No.
“I have to pay off my debt.” Yeah, that’s what he said.
“Your debt? Why do you have a debt?” I obviously had to ask.
“I had to buy a house. Now I’ve got to pay off my debt,” he said, never looking up from the game, tapping away.
“It really works a lot better if you save up some money first, and then buy the house, that way you won’t have any debt.” I had to attempt to instill some financial responsibility into him, right?
“You can’t do that,” he said. “You have to buy a house first thing. You have to have somewhere to live.”
“So you have to go into debt?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he continued to explain, “that’s the whole point of the game. You have to buy things to live and you have keep paying off your debt.”
“Holy—!” I didn’t say shit. I stopped myself, in a room full of kids, at my grandmother’s house for Christmas — I stopped myself from saying shit.
∙ ∙ ∙
I checked it out of course, when I got home, just to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting what he was trying to explain. The game is called Animal Crossing, you can look it up if you would like. Of course, I wanted to figure out what the point of the game was: the set up for the game and what you do. To quote the top reviewer on Amazon, in this game “you're moving into a new town inhabited by animals. You have no money, and get a new place with a hefty mortgage.” After that, it honestly kind of sounds like the Sims, you can buy things to decorate your house, talk to the animals in the town, build on to your house, explore the town, buy clothing and accessories (hats!), except it seems to be aimed at a younger crowd.
Oh, and one more added feature: from the very beginning of the game you are forced into DEBT!
How is this not a blatant attempt at indoctrinating our children into a world of living in debt, sprinkled in with other bits of fun to make it not so boring and obvious, but mostly just about debt? A life of a little exploring around town and finding new things to buy, all while just trying to survive with debt hanging over your head! The point of this game seems to be to introduce our children to and make them comfortable with living in debt. Sure, you can call me crazy, but if you can honestly look me in the eyes and claim that this game is an innocent attempt at nothing more than entertainment, then I, sir, am Snow White and you are the lost eighth dwarf, Naive!
I hate to sound like some wound up conspiracy theorist, but what else are you supposed to think? We all know from experience that our children have lost all interest in living life, that the generation we are bringing up now (and a substantial bit of my generation) is the most apathetic generation in America’s history (however short that may be). Gone are the days of youth lead social movements and counter cultures. We are living in the days of the isolated individual, head locked firmly at their own feet. Video games, among other things, have been such a huge success at dividing society into single person fragments, why would it not be a brilliant idea to start indoctrinating them into certain beliefs with this, too?
Something has got to be done. We, as a society, have got to take some sort of control over ourselves, over our minds and over our lives. We need to set ourselves free not only from the bonds of our own enslavement – from debt and wage slavery and the never-ceasing work week – we must also set ourselves free from all the ways these ideas are drilled into our heads!
I know I sound like a guy who sits in his room all day and writes on conspiracy theory message boards and adds up all the ‘A’s in news articles to see if there is some secret code to be derived, but I promise I am not. Every since my living abroad, time spent away from the constant bombardment of these ideas, upon my return my eyes were immediately opened by some of the flagrant indoctrination going on in this country – and I am surely not the only one that could tell such tales.