Back in 2012, io9 hired Rob Bricken onto their team, and he brought a column from his previous place of employment, Topless Robot, with him, called "Fan Fiction Friday." The series was a snarky look at fan fiction, usually of the terrible slashfic variety. I'm not going to comment on whether the column was good or bad, I honestly didn't read enough of it to have much of an opinion, but I think it's safe to say that at the very least, Fan Fiction Friday wasn't a good match for the site, and it was cancelled after only two installments.
Here's the thing: Fan Fiction Friday wasn't a good fit, but I think there's room within the io9 community (in this case on Observation Deck) to have a weekly column about fan fiction. Fan fiction gets a bad rap, and while it isn't entirely undeserved, there's a whole lot of really good fan works out there.
So what I'm going to do for at least the next few weeks (longer, if there's interest) is use what I'm calling "Fan Corner" to highlight the fan fiction, fan projects, fan film, or fan art which are actually worth your while.
So, overlong intro aside, welcome to the first installment of Fan Corner!
The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing by Chewbot
"I'd never heard of this particular summer camp, but it was cheap and we were broke."
What is it?
The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing is a text-based Let's Play released in thirteen parts. As the title indicates, its a let's play of Animal Crossing: Wild World, written from the point of view of Billy, an eight year old kid who has been sent to summer camp.
Upon arrival, Billy immediately knows that something isn't right. For one thing, everyone at the camp seems to be dressed up in giant animal costumes all the time. Even worse, the "shop owner" of the camp, Tom Nook, immediately tells Billy that he's purchased a run down shed, saying that it's his "house," and insisting that Billy needs to pay off his loan on the house in some fictional currency he's invented called "bells." Since Billy doesn't have any bells, he has to come work for Nook. A pretty nice scam, right?
Billy tries to leave the camp, only to be stopped by two men in dog costumes who strongarm him into working for Nook. In fact, the whole town seems to be working for Nook, and it seems that the only way Billy is going to ever make it back home is by figuring out what exactly it is Tom Nook wants from him, and what sort of dark secrets this "camp" is hiding.
Why should I care?
The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing manages to turn Nintendo's most G-rated franchise (and we're talking about Nintendo here) into a really effective thriller. There are actually plenty of "dark Animal Crossing" stories, but in my opinion this is the best one.
The work is primarily told through text and screenshots, and it's actually surprising how the author manages to contextualize things which are totally harmless in game, and turn them into something sinister or creepy.
The Animal Crossing franchise is about as plotless as you can get, basically amounting to "there are animals in this town, you owe Tom Nook a bunch of money, go catch some fish or something. Fruit." And yet, The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing manages to contextualize characters and events from within the near-plotless series, and tell a dark, harrowing tale of survival.
While I initially started reading The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing for laughs (I was basically sat down in front of a computer by a close friend, and told that I needed to read this ultra-dark take on Animal Crossing), within a few chapters (or "parts") I was hooked, and was no longer reading because of the Nintendo connection, but because I wanted to know where the story was going.
There's a core silliness to a "dark, horrific take on Animal Crossing," but if you're willing to suspend your disbelief and just go along with the ride, The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing is really well written and enjoyable. Go check it out.
How familiar with the source material do I need to be?
You don't need to be familiar with the source material at all, for this one. While fans of the Animal Crossing franchise will get a kick out of seeing a horror story set within the franchise, the plotless nature of the games means that you'll get as much out of it if you've never even heard of the games as you would if you've played 100+ hours on each of them.
Where can I find it?
The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing was originally posted to the Something Awful forums in 2007, but without paying for their archival upgrade, you can read it on Let's Play Archive here.