Chris Kluwe’s debut novel Otaku takes us to Ditchtown, a city built on top of what used to be Miami. But Kluwe’s heroine, Ashley Akachi, spends most of her time in the Infinite Game, an alternate reality where she can be the person she was meant to be. The more we thought about it, the more we asked ourselves: what video games would we live in? Not fictional, alt-reality type situations like the Infinite Game, Snow Crash’s Metaverse, or Ready Player One’s OASIS, but real-world video game universes that might be fun to live in.
Maybe, even, more fun than living here on Earth in 2020?
Super Mario Sunshine
Yes, you have to clean everything, but there’s something so viscerally satisfying about pressure-washing an entire seaside town. Plus, the town itself? Super pretty! And here’s a fun real-world tip, for those of you who live in colder climes: if you play this game in the winter and ditch Mario’s job to swim for a while, you might be able to trick your brain into thinking you’re warm.
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game wasn’t just the best game of last year, it was the best cultural EVENT. And the more we thought about it the more we realized we’d like to live in it. The pastoral village is incredibly cute. There’s a nice pub, and a lovely river winding through town. Really the only downside is The Goose. As long as you’re not on his to-do list, the mean pranks he pulls on the other villagers will be hilarious to watch. And when your turn inevitably comes, won’t it be worth it to be mildly inconvenienced by The Goose in exchange for the sense of community you’ll feel with all of his other victims?
Shadow of the Colossus
The game is lush, the countryside is beautiful, and if you lived there, you might be able to conk Wander on the head or something and save all those sweet, innocent Colossi. They’re big chonky fantasy bois, and they should be allowed to live unstabbed. And once the protagonist is out of the way, you can sit back and watch the majestic megafauna traipse the landscape.
NOTE: this one only works if you live there before the whole undersea kingdom falls in, and, as with Shadow of the Colossus, you may need to off at least one game protagonist in order to live a fulfilling NPC life.
But imagine it! Free run of this gorgeous Art Deco planned community, with iconic music, fabulous nightclubs, and isolation from the stress of life back on land? Surely that’s worth murdering one crazy megalomaniac before he ruins the place for everyone.
There are strawberries everywhere and you get a pie at the end, so it already beats life in New York City in March. And if you need any life advice (and whomst among us does not?) there’s a wise old lady who lives on top of the mountain: if you’re willing to attempt the climb, she’ll happily dole out some sagacity; failing the climb, at least you’ll have the strawberries. In the end, even if it feels like losing to slide back down the mountain, you’ve likely gained a stronger sense of self.
Ori and the Blind Forest
This is another one that’s pretty time sensitive! If you can move there after the elements have all been restored, and the fire has been snuffed out, you’ll get to live in a beautiful new growth forest with a bunch of baby spirits, a spider creature, and a newly-hatched owlet.
Arrive too early, though, and you might get caught up in the whole quest-to-balance-the-Elements, ravaging-forest-fire, giant-flash-of-all-consuming-light thing, and that will not be fun.
What sort of life do you want? In the world of, oh, say, Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, you can inherit a farm from your grandfather, work yourself most of the way dead trying to make it sustainable, spend months wooing the sarcastic hipster girl in the village (as you have been instructed that finding a bride is the only way to succeed in this game, er, life), convince her to marry you, and then finally level up—only to discover that she doesn’t want to help you water the plants, or bring in the crops, or anything, and the farm is doomed to fucking fail, and you have a kid to support now? But she seemed so much more level-headed than that cheerleader type who kept flirting with you, but she had a discernible personality unlike the girl-next-door type who maybe would have been a better choice now that you’re thinking about it?
Maybe you can move out and live with Murrey in his yurt.
But will that ruin your relationship with your son?
In Stardew Valley life’s a little easier, largely because the game was inspired by Harvest Moon, and was specifically designed to fix a lot of its problems. It’s sort of like if Earth was in beta, and then you had the opportunity to hop over into a new life—still inheriting a farm from your grandpa (RIP) and still wooing various village maidens, but this time you can also fight monsters, learn how to be a smith, and develop fun hobbies like stargazing!
Now maybe those both sound great…but you simply despise the idea of sustaining life? Starting over in Graveyard Keeper will be similar to Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, but instead of maintaining a boring farm you get to work IN A MEDIEVAL GRAVEYARD. You dig graves, you go to historically-inaccurate witch burnings, you, um, tend bees? To be fair, there are beehives in New York’s most iconic graveyard as well, so, sure? And yes, you’re probably dead the whole time, but this still sounds pretty idyllic to us.
This is another obvious choice, as the town and countryside in Animal Crossing are a perfect pastoral daydream. Living in this game would also be huge improvement as it makes all the things like “plans” and “goals” entirely optional: you can just kind of hang out being a cute animal, or you can play other Nintendo games, which we suppose in this scenario would just be “games”, as you’re living there now and that’s your reality, and the word “Nintendo” would be alien to you. Or you can add to your house, buy furniture, redecorate, take part in celebrations like the Harvest Festival or Toy Day… although you probably won’t realize that those festivals are references to holidays celebrated here, in what we think of as the real world.
Will you remember that you were once a human on Earth? Once every person on Earth has died, will you still exist in the world of Animal Crossing? Will your existence end when the Earth is consumed in the death of the sun?
Where will Resetti be then?
Any Zelda Game, Really
We don’t suggest becoming the One True Savior of Hyrule, but maybe the person who spends their life perfecting pumpkin soup, or the kid who won’t blow his nose, or a rando villager who has to keep replacing everyone’s mysteriously shattered pots. Other than the slight annoyances caused by Ganon, or the moon getting possessed, your daily life would be… fine? Nice, even, depending on which part of the sprawling Zelda timeline you ended up in. Maybe you could go sailing on a talking boat! Or chuck a pig right off a cliff! Or visit the majestic Deku tree. You can do that without being on a quest, right? And as long as Link saves the world occasionally you’ll get to attend Time Carnivals and Picori Festivals and maybe even a Wing Ceremony, depending on which iteration you live in.
Will you get to choose, though, in this scenario? We said any Zelda game up at the top there, but what if you’re in the original NES game and you have to hear the theme music on endless loop until you finally head into one of the dungeons just to give yourself a break from it? …Will you even be able to hear the theme music? If you die in the game—which for you under these rules is presumably just death, like any other death—will you be reborn into a later era, or is that for heroes only? What if you’re afraid of heights and you end up in the one where you have to fly around on huge birds?? What if you’re incarnated into the moon in Majora’s Mask and then have to live through its possession?? What if you’re one of the pigs who get chucked off a cliff???
Or, oh heck what if you’re GANON? That could happen, right? We just said “Game Worlds We Want to Live in”, we didn’t specify “But Not as the Sometimes-Pig-Headed Villain Destined to Die at the Hands of a Twerpy Little Boy”.
We gotta rethink this whole thing. It’s gone way too far, we’re severely overthinking, and this post probably should have just been trashed entirely.
Ecco the Dolphin
This one requires a snorkel.