My sister and I crouch in front of the Nintendo GameCube, placed ceremoniously on the basement floor of our childhood home. We carefully step through the mess of cables running haphazardly from our console, toward the bulky rear-projection television that towers over us.
Excited, my sister opens the case of a brand new copy of Animal Crossing and quickly loads the mini disc into the system as I leaf through the game’s manual. With a whirring sound, the screen fills the room with an image of a snowy forest town. A wolf in a checkered shirt strolls over a wooden bridge by a lazy river. A bobble-headed girl stands patiently at the edge of a dock waiting for her line to sink. A blue eagle walks through a field of cherry blossom trees.
Before we even pressed start for the first time, the game already felt alive. You could imagine the humdrum of this strange and isolated town full of colourful critters.
Unlike any of the other games we’d played before, Animal Crossing felt like it was already in progress. The citizens of the town we were seeing on screen didn’t care if you came to join them — but they would be happy to have you nonetheless; they were busy collecting sand dollars on the beach or tending to their flower gardens.
We spent hours in the basement settling into our new lives. Running errands for our neighbours. Saving up our bells (the in-game currency) to buy new pieces of furniture from Nook’s general store. After a while, we were feeling ambitious.
What if we had two towns?
According to the manual we could! We only needed two memory cards; one for our existing town and one for our new town. This is where our dilemma began. Thoughtfully, Nintendo included a standard 59 block memory card with each copy of the game which meant we now had two standard sized cards. The problem was the game needed all 59 blocks to save your town’s data.
With one memory card already full, me and my sister started to browse through our save files resting on our original card. What could we sacrifice to build our new town? Tony Hawk? Maybe. 007? I’m sure our older brother wouldn’t mind—he already beat the game after all. We began erasing save files.
We assured each other it was all for a good cause. Then we landed on our save file for Harvest Moon. I imagined our farm. The chickens and cows. Our carrots and prized tomatoes. Could we really get rid of them? We’d have to be ruthless if we wanted to make our second town a reality.
In a weird way our memory blocks were like a digital photo album. A reminder of all the silly adventures we’d been on together. They didn’t tell the whole story but they were a catalyst for reflection. If we deleted them...what did that really mean?