Guilt trip in gaming

Do you recognize the feeling? There are games that you do not dare to enter. For fear of getting rebuked, or for fear of losing hours and hours of precious time in the near future. I realized it when I opened my town of TulipIn again in New Leaf. I had dreaded it, as I hadn’t visited there for months. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Isabelle didn’t recognize me at all anymore. But she did. At first she was all business, welcoming me and getting busy to get the town ready. But she started piling on the guilt “Say, it’s been forever since you’ve been were last here. Well, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been doing my best to fill your shoes while you’re were away” No, Isabelle, I don’t mind, I’m forever grateful. I know you are awfully busy already, and I feel very guilty for piling all the extra work on you. Not that I’m totally happy with the job you’ve done…but how can I complain now about you letting the weeds grow, or that my mailbox is overflowing?

Isabelle, new leaf, animal crossing

And then after Isabelle there was the next hurdle: to talk to the animals again. Molly treated me to the full show, tears and all. Oh boy, how can I be feeling so guilty about the feelings of a bunch of pixels? I’m glad that after the initial rebuke though, the animals act like nothing has happened. I seem to remember that Wild World was worse, animals even holding a grudge. I wonder though if it isn’t too much, this guilt trip they are invoking? Animal Crossing can take over your life if you let it, it’s no game to pick up for ten minutes. And by making the pixels react in this way you just don’t go back anymore, all because of the guilty feeling!

ac! Guilt trip,

Animal Crossing isn’t the only game that uses your guilt as a means to keep you coming back. Even HayDay, where no one talks to you at all, has the perfect way: the animals that haven’t been fed in ages really look like they are dying from starvation. A lot of theatrics, with the chickens lying on their back and very slim pigs with wide mouths pointing at their mouth. I didn’t even know pigs could point!

Are there more games that make you dread going back because of the guilty feeling? And are these games doing right in the balance of laying the guilt trip on you or are they annoying you with their pressure?

HayDay, starving animals, halloween


  1. I very much feel this way about Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It was hard to finally put it down, but every time I feel like checking in, I think about this. And if any of my favorite townsanimals have moved away, it would bother me. Especially Maple. I just love her.

      1. It certainly can. I always wished there was a “lock” function on certain townsanimals that you always wanted to live there so you never had to worry about them moving away.

        But yes, all the digital guilt trips do get a bit tiresome.

  2. OMG as if Resetti doesn’t make me feel like enough of a piece of garbage for not saving hahaha. Now I’m afraid to even go into my town lol. Tomodachi Life does this too, just not as intense.

  3. It’s funny because I’m the exact opposite. Going back to my New Leaf game after a LONG absence is a somewhat cathartic experience, almost like coming home in a way. It’s one of the rare games that actually “remembers” the player character in a more meaningful way. Because the game is based in real time, it’s meant to mimic the sort of reactions (and relationships) that I imagine friends and family would have, like the whole “whoa, where did you go? I was worried?”

    I actually came across this cute comic that sort of describes the feeling that AC is actively trying to express:

    1. I hadn’t looked at it like that yet, you bring up a good point. So maybe I should view it more as a sign that I’m really missed (and loved) in the game.
      Thanks for the links, the comics are so cute!

  4. It’s interesting you bring this up because Undertale was another game that really laid on the guilt depending on how you played it. I find the issue of guilt in games fascinating because it’s characters in a game making you feel real emotions. They don’t really care that you’ve left them because they aren’t real, but the guilt experienced is real, even if something in the back of your mind is telling you it isn’t.

    1. Another reader on here noted that we could view it like the opposite: the pixels act like friends who missed us while we were away. I shall try to view it that way in future!

  5. Wow, talk about breaking the fourth wall! 😀 I had no idea the animals reacted like that if you didn’t play for a long time. I’m already very reluctant to play Animal Crossing because of the real-time thing, but this kind of patronizing makes me balk even more at playing it! (And yet I will probably give it a try one day, if only because I own it.^^)

    1. Yep, if you own it, that really means that your obliged to play it…Isabelle can hypnotize you even through an unopened game box to entice you to play!

  6. Wow, talk about breaking the fourth wall! 😀 I had no idea the animals reacted that way if you didn’t pick up the game for a long time. I find it a little bit creepy, actually! I’m already reluctant to play Animal Crossing because of the real-time thing, and such patronizing makes me balk at playing it even more… Yet I will probably give it a try one day, if only because I own it!^^

  7. It is for this exact reason I try to avoid games that require, or at least strongly encourage, a regimented playing schedule. I know I either can’t comply, or will commit so much that I will neglect other things to the point that it ruins the fun. I also won’t get into MMOs because of guilt. Not that the game would guilt trip me, I would manage that myself. Especially if I was paying a subscription, then I would feel obligated to get my money’s worth. To each their own.

    1. I guess the guilt trip is self inflicted in all cases: another of my readers commented that it made them feel quite the opposite, as if welcomed by someone who really cared. Not good to be so engrossed however that real life suffers, that’s for sure!

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