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I've been reading a lot of House of Leaves lately. I'm not entirely sold on the quality of the book yet, but many parts of it have got me thinking. I especially enjoyed the part discussing the various mythological, psychological, and connotational meanings of "echo".

The part that got me thinking the most, interestingly enough, didn't actually affect me until I played Animal Crossing this afternoon. (I started a new game of Animal Crossing on this Sunday, for whatever reason. It's a fun game. It relaxes me.)

In the book, Navidson walks into the new, dark hallway of his house, and finds infinite branches off of that first hallway, never finding an end to the maze, never advancing or noticing any significant changes in his standing. When he tries to go back, he finds that the path back has changed. He has no way of knowing where he is, and it terrifies him.

Funnily enough, I had a similar experience way back when I first played Animal Crossing, back when I was eight or so. I know it sounds unlikely, but it's true.

I had just discovered the wonders of donating to the museum, and decided to go explore its halls, to see where my donations had ended up. I explored the fish hall first, I believe, or was it the dinosaur hall? Perhaps even the bug hall. No matter. The point is, I entered one of the doorways, and began to explore.

Each hall of the museum is set up like this:


Note the two doors leading in/out of each room. Now that I'm older, I recognize that those doors are for ease of museum viewing: go in one door, walk around the room, go out the other door with no need to turn around.

But when I was young, the spatial qualities of the museum were mysterious and foreign to me. If I went through one of the two doors, where did I end up? If I went through that other door, would I end up in the room I began my adventure in, or would I end up in a completely different room, and be forced to navigate my way through a maze of exhibits and doorways? As soon as I realized the possibility of becoming lost in the museum, trapped forever, I hurried my character out of there and never entered the exhibit halls again. Brewster's Cafe was one thing, but the rest of the museum was off-limits.

Despite Animal Crossing being, at its core, a happy, friendly game about a town with animal residents, emphasis on game, the museum terrified me, and it took a long, long time before I was willing to brave its halls again, even after I'd seen an online map of its layout.

Reading about the terror of the house's twisting hallways didn't resonate with me at all until Animal Crossing. Then it hit me, and the horror of the book became a reality.

It's funny how memories work like that.

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January 2013

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