Syndical Crossing is meant to be a cute, fun critique of the extractive capitalist tendencies of the better-known game to which it pays homage.
While watching Animal Crossing, I couldn't help but make some observations:
- Most of the island workers are permanently confined to their jobsite. Isabelle, Blathers, Tom Nook and his nephews never appear outside except on very rare occasions. Isabelle can often be seen gazing longingly out her office window, to a world of exploration she is explicitly barred from participating in. Blathers appears to have no home, sleeping all day in the museum.
- All of the heavy constructive labor of the island is completely invisible. Whenever a new building is constructed or an existing structure altered, the labor who perform the task are obscured and alienated totally.
- Everything in the game is transactive, with nothing given nor received for the joy or generosity of it. Gift anything to an islander and they feel compelled to give you something in return.
- All knowledge is commodified, taking the form of DIY recipes or Nook-phone apps. Once a player learns a new recipe, the card from which they learned it vanishes, making it "single-use." The player is unable to teach what they've learned to any other residents. Likewise new phone applications cannot be shared.
- The natural world of the game exists solely to be commodified. Everything from the smallest clump of weeds to the largest tree serves only an extractive, productive purpose—and everything has a cost and a price in the market.
- In fact, almost every commodity in the game has no use value whatsoever, only exchange value. Extract the necessary resources to construct a bicycle and you cannot ride it. Chop down every tree, break every rock, pluck every piece of fruit on a different island and it doesn't matter—nature's entire purpose is to provide resources for production.
- Most tools in the game break after anywhere from 10-30 uses, and cannot be repaired, requiring the player to craft or purchase a brand new tool. Even tools which do not see stressful use—such as watering cans—break in this way, necessitating the purchase of a new can, or the extraction of further resources to produce a new commodity. This sort of planned obsolescence will be familiar to any modern consumer.
I kept wondering what a different mode of gameplay might look like, that sought to capture the fun of the Animal Crossing series while counteracting its inherently consumerist and capitalist mechanics.
What would a game look like that denies the capitalist mode of production and proceeds from a cooperative perspective?
What would an explicitly syndicalist game look like?
How would it play?
How do you take a style of gameplay which is individualist at its core, and collectivise it?
These are the questions I hope to address in the development of Syndical Crossing!
Currently, the closed-alpha is available to my patrons.
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The game allows you to customize your character using either a small, built-in customizer, or you can use the templates below to design your own character skins using the image editing software of your choice.
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