Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Season of Advent

Virtual reality can be a blessing during the holiday season. When one has little money or resources, a quick visit to a place like Second Life or the wonderful world of Animal Crossing can bring a little light into the day.

In the real world, the Tree still is not sorted out. It should not be a complex affair, but has proven to be so. At least I did put out the creche.

The creche is some one's heirloom but not that of my own family. In the middle of July a few years ago, some one was having a house sale down the road. The old man who had owned the house and who was a widower, had died and his best friend was selling off his personal possessions. I spied some vintage Nativity figures among the bits and pieces displayed on a couple of long tables. To my delight, they proved to be a complete set of Italian hand-painted figures. When I bought them, the man hauled out the creche and gave that to me as well.

They are not valuable but they remind me somehow of my own childhood and it saddened me so much to think of that man's traditions all laid out on tables to be sold for a pittance that I vowed to adopt the creche and treasure it as though it had belonged to my own family.

I always loved dollhouses and a creche is sort of a little dollhouse for the Holy Family. The Christ Child is placed in the centre only on Christmas Eve. Until then, all the other participants in the drama wait... It's rather magical.

I would like to be able to decorate my castles in Second Life before Christmas. There are so many wonderful holiday creations in that world and one can command snow at any moment should one desire it.

I haven't had any time to visit Second Life unfortunately but having promised to write guides for the new Animal Crossing game for the Wii, I finally forced myself to take a break from the incredibly complex Rune Factory 2 to visit my new village in Animal Crossing.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was able to play hide-and-seek with the wonderful Turkey Franklin, who had accepted an invitation from the Mayor in good faith only to discover that, far from being a proper guest of honour, he was the designated main course! If you take the knife and fork sets that Tortimer gives you to Franklin and he will exchange them for items of furniture in the 'Harvest Series'. Any vegetarian would approve of this.

Yet another year when Mayor had to preside over a Thanksgiving feast without the main course...

I do not know why these wonderful holidays were eliminated from the DS version of Animal Crossing but international protests apparently had some effect. They all have been reinstated in City Folk.

In any event, I went to my village simply to do some 'on-site' research about the new Animal Crossing game and was thrilled to discover the Festive Tree in Tom Nook's shop on the 1st of December.

It may be a silly game to some but it really put me in the holiday spirit. Even if I have not been able to trim a real tree yet, I was able to place the Festive Tree in the centre of my little shack in Animal Crossing.

You may start with one tiny room, and that heavily mortgaged to the Tanuki, Tom Nook, but it's still a house and it is yours to decorate as you wish. This is a game that is based on collecting furniture. Describe it in those terms, and it sounds incredibly tedious, but it is one of the most beloved games on our planet. The colour characters, from the curator of the local Museum to the often bizarre Animal Neighbours can be witty, erudite or simply silly and they are unforgettable.
It is an amazing game.

Animal Crossing is good for me personally, I think, because the funny little characters who resemble Raggedy Ann dolls are so devoid of any dignity that it forces one to relax. My 'avatar' in Second Life is very beautiful and she is a bit too serious perhaps. My character in Animal Crossing perforce is like all the characters in the game, described by an Animal Neighbour as some one with 'little person hands'. However much I may gravitate towards regal attire even in Animal Crossing, a Raggedy Ann doll tarted up still remains a Raggedy Ann! (Bless her little heart!) It is good to be able to forget about dignity once in awhile.

When the holidays prove to be too stressful, a game like Animal Crossing provides a little harmless relief, while still maintaining the spirit of the season.

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