On <3 and Animal Crossing

I've been playing this game against my will lately. My niece and nephew adore it, so I've sort of been peer-pressured into playing it on Alex's behalf. He's not quite old enough to play it on his own, but he is old enough to appreciate it and understand that he and his cousins can play it "together" online, visiting each other's towns and such.

We all know the <3 emoticon denotes love. What's the opposite of that?

See, I've played the previous Animal Crossings, on Gamecube and DS, pretty extensively. I've already paid off multiple mortgages to Tom Nook and filled numerous museums with dinosaur bones. I've shaken trees and conversed with town inhabitants ad nauseum. Even the hottest show in town, KK Whatever-his-name-is on Saturday night, got boring years ago. So this third time around, enduring all of Animal Crossings odd quirks (the endless dialogues, the not-quite-exact enough controls, the lack of new content or gameplay) doesn't feel quite as rewarding or enchanting as it was, especially, the first time around.

The game makes you pay a steep price -- especially if you want to go online. I knew about friend codes, so I was expecting that part. I wasn't prepared for the fact that, before you can even get your damned friend code, you need to complete your first round of odd jobs for America's favorite predatory lender Tom Nook (which happens to involve having lengthy conversations with every bleepin' animal in town). Then, once you have all the friend codes (and every human player needs his/her own code -- fun fun fun!), you have to be online simultaneously, with your gate open (a setting which requires a save and restart to change) and Wi-Fi firewall settings fixed just so. For some reason, I had a ludicrous notion that I'd be able to mail letters to another friend's town, but I couldn't get that to work. I mean, there's absolutely no way in hell you are ever getting Animal Crossing set up online without also having to be on speakerphone with the people you are trying to contact, which just seems ridiculous. What's the opposite of <3 again?

But when we finally succeeded, and Alex's cousin made her first exuberant foray from Pretty town into Gearland -- with Wii Speak enabled and everything! -- I've got to admit, this game that has frustrated me so, the game that has been shoveled from system to system with the most minimal of effort, became magical all over again. My ennui evaporated and I was full of <3!

I'd still like to know the other emoticon, though. Alex and I haven't even made our first mortgage payment to Nook, and given how he always gives us an earful even for the simplest transactions, things are bound to get ugly.


"NO! MINE! [pause] Thank you!"


There are few more classic symptoms of the terrible twos than this phrase, which Alex has started saying lately. He doesn't so much say it as he does bark it like a dog trainer or German soldier. It's so curt and stern-sounding that it is obvious if it were being typed, it would be in ALL CAPS. It's mostly uttered in reference to a cherished toy or piece of candy, and it's usually said in the expected context -- if he fears something is going to be taken away from him, either by us or by another child. We're trying to cope with this as we have any of his other "terrible" stages -- correct when possible, ignore when necessary, divert and distract when all else fails.

Sometimes, though, "NO! MINE!" comes out at strange and (since this is my blog, I can say it) really darling times: at the dinner table, right after he's helped himself to something off my plate, or at random moments throughout the day, like recently when Nick heard Alex say the following:

"NO!!! MINE!!!" Then a pause. Then, in the sweetest, most polite tone of voice ever, a chirpy little "Thank you!"

Mind you, Alex said this to nobody in particular. When he was playing all by his lonesome, with unchallenged access to every single one of his earthly possessions.

The little guy may be in his terrible twos, and he may be developing a real sense of territorialism. But you can't say he isn't being polite about it.