Animal Crossing Pocket Camp Runs on Barter

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is an app that you can play on your phone or tablet. It is a smaller version of previous Animal Crossing games. Your character has a campsite in which different items can be placed. Animal friends that are invited to you campsite will interact with those objects. They also sometimes ask you for things, and at other times give you things.

The majority of the interaction between your character and the animal friends runs on barter. Every animal friend you encounter wants something that you could – potentially – give to them if you happen to have it.

There are four (small) locations in the game that your character can travel to in order to interact with animal friends. Each location has something useful that the animal friends want – but appear unable or unwilling to obtain for themselves. Each location has fish, or bugs, or fruit.

When you encounter an animal friend in one of the four locations, a bubble appears over their head that shows what items they want. If you have those items, they will gladly accept them. They will give you some resources you can use to craft items for your campsite. If there is an event going on that involves growing a specific kind of flower, the animal friend will give you some seeds in exchange for what you gave them.

The animal friends don’t have gardens, so they can’t use the flower seeds. Your character has a fairly large garden at their campsite, and needs the seeds in order to complete goals for a current event (and receive prizes). Your character is easily able to catch fish, or bugs, and can pick fruit. The animal friends can’t do that on their own, so they give you something for your efforts.

There is never a point in the game where an animal friend you visit hands you a bunch of Bells (the in-game, easy to obtain, currency) in exchange for the fish, bug, or fruit you gave them. Instead, the game gives you some Bells each time you give an animal friend the items they want. The animal friends at your campsite sometimes hand you Bells for upkeep of the camp.

This has more to do with game mechanics than anything else. Nintendo wants players to have currency that they can spend on interesting items that can be crafted, or to upgrade some of the bigger items that they put in their campsite. Currency makes the game work – but the majority of the animal friends use barter.

Fallout Shelter Reflects the Real World

Fallout Shelter is a game created by Bethesda. It appears to have been released in 2015. I’m just getting around to playing it now, on my Xbox Series S. What I did not expect was how much the game has an eerie resemblance to the real world.

The basic idea with Fallout Shelter is that you are the “Overlord” of a Vault. The outside world has become a nuclear wasteland. The first thing that happens is a line of people arrive at the door of the Vault. It is too dangerous to be outside.

In the real world right now parts of California are on fire. Louisiana is experiencing hurricane Ida. In other places, there are droughts or flooding. The delta variant of covid is out there, making some people sick and killing others.

With all that in the back of my mind, I decided to accept all who came to the Vault door. Once inside, the people are given identical uniforms to wear. This makes them look interchangeable. It becomes harder to tell the people apart from each other.

The people in the Vault have conversations. Most of it is small talk as they go about their work. They ask trivial questions to coworkers. What kind of pet would you have if you could have one? One person wants an iguana, but worries it would be all weird due to the radiation.

Other questions are more serious. A person asked a coworker if they would ever be able to go outside again. It reminded me of the lockdowns that were put in place in an effort to prevent the spread of covid. I remember the uncertainty of it, worrying about being able to get enough food and toilet paper.

A few of the people are super happy to be working. One claims he is the G.O.A.T. at his job. Another hopes there is a chance to get some overtime. Not everyone feels that way. A worker in the diner told his coworker that “the Overlord is always watching us”. It sounds like a conspiracy theory – but he is right. I was watching them.

Since none of them can safely leave the Vault, they are given living quarters. The game recommends you increase the size of the living quarters, so I did. Now, several people can share the same one. They have absolutely no privacy at all, and can be called back to work at any time. Jobs are interchangeable, and there is no guarantee what task they will be assigned.

The situation reminded me of news articles from 2020 that pointed out that workers were being monitored by their employers through their work laptops. This sounds incredibly violating, especially considering that all of these workers were in their own homes. One cannot have work/life balance with that going on.

How is my newly created Vault going? We’re constantly running out of food, water, and energy. I’m hoping the workers will drink more Nuka-Cola because the bottle caps are currency I can use to build more rooms. The water processing plant keeps catching on fire. Everything is fine!

Xbox Adds Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech Features

Xbox posted information in its June Xbox Update that focuses on newly added features for Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. The Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech features can be used in party chat.

At Team Xbox, we believe that gaming should be inclusive, approachable, and accessible to everyone. That includes making it easy for gamers to play and communicate together. Party chat, used by gamers around the world to talk to their friends while playing, now supports converting speech into text and text into speech. Each of these features can be used to help games who are deaf or hard of hearing and/or cannot or choose not to speak.

This is a wonderful decision because it makes gaming more accessible. People who are deaf or hard of hearing will now be able to see what is said in party chat because those words are transcribed into text.

The Speech-to-Text feature, once enabled, will automatically turn all words spoken by the people in a party into text. A transcription will be displayed in an adjustable overlay on top of gameplay.

A person who uses American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication can enable the Text-to-Speech feature. The text posted will be read by a synthetic voice to the rest of the party. The Xbox June Update says that there are several voices per language that a person can choose from.

The Text-to-Speech feature will also be useful for people who are selective mutes and who do not want to use their voice in social settings. People who are nonverbal can use Text-to-Speech. It can also help autistic people (and other neurodiverse people) who may feel overwhelmed by the sensory experience of a video game and having to try and participate in verbal conversation at the same time.

Another great thing about the Text-to-Speech feature is that it can be used by transgender people who happen to dislike the sound of their voice. The ability to choose a synthetic voice can make gaming with strangers a safer, more comfortable, experience.

The Speech-to-Text feature can be useful for people (like me) who have chronic illnesses that cause exhaustion and/or pain. A person who is having difficulty typing can communicate with their party just by speaking. Pain can affect a person’s voice, so the option of using a synthetic voice could make communicating easier.

App Games are Underrated

phone being usedThere are those who will only play a video game if they can do it on their computer. Their gaming world starts and ends there.

App games are seen by many as inferior. There is this perception that those who play app games are not “real gamers”. The problem here is that this concept is presented by people who don’t play app games and have a strong bias against them.

A vivid example of the strong bias some people have about app games happened at BlizzCon 2018. Diablo Immortal was announced by Wyatt Cheng, Lead Designer of the Diablo Immortal Team. It was completely unexpected. The moment it became clear that Diablo Immortal would be an app game – and would never come to PC – the crowd reacted negatively.

App games are underrated. Everyone who attended BlizzCon 2018 had the opportunity to play Diablo Immortal. I found it to be incredibly fun, and fast, and could not wait to find out what lore this game would reveal. Those who didn’t try it – because they don’t play app games – were missing out.

Pokémon GO is an app game that can only be played on a phone or tablet. It is an extremely popular game, worldwide. Nostalgia plays a role in this, as people who played previous Pokémon games when they were younger want to relive that experience. The game is fun, can be played without making any real-money purchases, and (before COVID-19) encouraged people to go outside and get some exercise.

D&D Beyond launched the D&D Beyond Player App. It enables players to view all of the characters they have on D&D Beyond. Players can manage health stats and spell slots, make skill checks and attack rolls, track conditions, and more. I can see how this app would be useful for players who are away from their computer on game night.

App games aren’t inferior to games played on a computer or console. The purpose of gaming is to be entertaining, to give the player an interesting world to explore, and to make it easy for people to play with their friends. The best app games provide all of that.

(Image credit: Ketut Subiyanto)

My Sims Lack Social Skills

I’m new to the Sims series, and picked up Sims 4 when it was being offered for free. It is a game that I’d been curious about for a while. My assumption was that I could create some Sims, build them a place to live, and watch what happens. I thought it would be like watching one of those cheesy TV shows where celebrities have to live in the same house and figure out how to get along with each other.

Unfortunately, it turned out that my Sims lack social skills. If left to their own devices, I’m certain they would either starve, die of loneliness, or (as one did) die in a fire. My Sims desperately needed help learning how to interact with other people.

My first Sim died in a fire while trying to cook himself dinner while angry. I learned that deceased Sims can be memorialized with a gravestone marker. That seemed kind of nice, so I put the gravestone out behind the house that Sim once lived in.

The new Sim I created to live in the house (that I had to renovate due to fire damage) found the gravestone. He would drop whatever he was doing and sob uncontrollably. The new Sim had never met the first Sim! Eventually, I had to take away the gravestone so my new Sim could move on.

Once he stopped crying, this Sim was able to start making friends. His first friend was a little girl who wanted to talk about coffee. I’m not sure if she wanted him to buy her a coffee, or if another Sim had already done that.

My other Sim made a friend with a woman who liked video games. With help, I was able to get my Sim to invite her friend to the library. The two of them stood outside it for a while and talked about video games. The conversation ended in a super awkward hug.

The thing I dislike the most about Sims 4 is that the Sims have a tendency to avoid stopping an activity in order to go use the bathroom. The player has to remind them to go, and point them towards the nearest bathroom.

The same Sims are quite able to get up in the morning, get dressed, cook themselves breakfast, and get to work on time on a regular basis. There is a cognitive disconnect here that I haven’t been able to unravel.