Video game companies send me games: not surprising. Yesterday, Nintendo sent me a game they played for me: say what?
In my mailbox yesterday was a copy of 2005's "Animal Crossing: Wild World" for the DS out of the shrinkwrap and accompanied with a letter on Nintendo stationery written in the voice of the game's Mayor Tortimer, encouraging me to use this copy of the game to import all of its unlocked items and its character to "Animal Crossing: City Folk" on the Wii.
Nintendo must have known that I'm terrible at "Animal Crossing" and thought I'd need help. So they unlocked a lot of content for me. They appear to have quite accidentally gotten a bit hip-hop about all this. Whoever played this game for me back at Nintendo trained at least one of the characters to greet me with the line [censored here]: "How are you, N---a?"
A few things worth noting:
Players of "Animal Crossing" can teach other residents in their virtual towns all sort of words. You could teach a character to greet you with the words "Stephen is a champ" or "I like the PlayStation." It's pretty much open to anything. Nintendo blocks these kinds of content surprises from popping up in your copies of "Animal Crossing" by forcing you to exchange 16-digit Friend Codes, which guarantee that you won't be getting unexpected content via strangers.
Unless you're playing a copy of the DS game that a stranger mailed to you. Or you're buying the game used.
What's also notable here is that Nintendo has tried hard to build walls that safely protect its gamers from the kind of unexpected and sometimes unwelcome language that regularly flows through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, to say nothing of any message board and blog comments section on the Internet. If anything, this shows that even the most careful company will miss something.
I've checked in with my main Nintendo rep for comment and will update if I hear back.
"Animal Crossing DS," it should be noted, is E-rated, but it carries a note that mentions that "game exprience may change during online play."
And then there's the word in question. I didn't expect a sheep named Baabara to walk up to me n the game and say "I almost forgot about you n---a." (I confirmed that Kotaku editor Brian Crecente received a similar copy of the game with similar player-added lines.) But I can tell that it isn't meant as an offense. It's clearly meant more as a hip-hop slang greeting.
What about the content Nintendo did want me to see? My character has 37,019 Bells, which I think is a lot of virtual money. A letter in his inventory from the bank claims that he's earned 75,740 Bells from 30 days of interest. The Happy Room Academy has rated his three story house with 272,492 points.
In his inventory he had a fishing pole, slingshot, hatchet, net and shovel. He also had a "stadiometer," a fossil, a cabin wall, a coconut, gas mask, golden can, green cap, and a shirt. He had unopened letters notifying him that Wart Jr. and Kitt have moved out of his town. Bummer.
In his house he has an amazing array of objects, including a statue of a "Star Fox" Arwing, the "F-Zero" Blue Falcon, a "Zelda" Master Sword, and some planted Pikmin. There are fruit trees everywhere. Coconut trees lining the beach. Peach and apple trees all along the river. It's a beautiful place and one that makes me want to try this import thing and bring this haul over.
Really, his town's a lovely place. It just has that one element that I never saw coming.