When I think of video games designed and developed by Nintendo, the first word that usually comes to mind is family-friendly. Nintendo’s origins as a game and toy company led into the design of many of their early consoles, and arguably their most successful hardware and software releases of all time were aimed at family markets.
The Wii sold huge numbers of units off the back of motion-controlled sports games and exercise programs, the DS became a huge success off the back of virtual dogs and games about training your brain, and Nintendo was late to adopt online play largely because of concerns about safety for young players.
As Nintendo is such a family-friendly company, there are certain topics and ideas that generally just do not show up in their games. With the exception perhaps being 2008’s Japan-exclusive Wii game Captain Rainbow, you’ll rarely, if ever, see first-party Nintendo games acknowledge sex, vulgarity, or inebriation. In 2000’s Majora’s Mask, Nintendo themed what was clearly an adult-only nightclub as a milk bar, where sad and often depressed adults go to drown their sorrows in calcium-rich drinks. Nintendo really tries to shy away from people getting drunk in their games.
This is why I was so surprised when, just recently, Nintendo pretty openly allowed one of their most overworked female characters to finally unwind with a silly, fun, intoxicating beverage.
Originally released in October 2017, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a mobile version of one of Nintendo’s more relaxed and casual game series. The idea in the Animal Crossing games is to manage and care for small towns, improving the local area and ensuring visiting residents not only want to move in but desire to stay in your utopia permanently. You generally collect fruit and shells to sell for money, clear weeds from the town, landscape, decorate, and slowly upgrade a town to the point that it becomes filled with characters you grow to really enjoy.
First introduced in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Isabelle took on the role of assistant, while the player acted as mayor for a town. Isabelle is a workaholic, compulsively overworking herself to come up with ideas for how you can improve the town, managing all your notifications, and basically running the town by herself any time you’re not online and playing. She’s officially a mayor's secretary, but I’d argue she’s often more of a hands-on mayor than the actual player. I’ve not loaded up New Leaf in nearly three years, and gosh, I still feel bad about how much work Isabelle has basically been doing on my behalf.
In Pocket Camp, Isabelle takes on additional responsibilities, if being a town’s co-mayor wasn’t enough work for her. She also oversees your management of the game’s campsite, adding to her overloaded schedule.
Now, as a workaholic myself, I don’t think it’s bad to admit I occasionally enjoy a night out on the town with my female friends and a few alcoholic drinks. Sure, that might not be Nintendo style family-friendly, but it's a bit of harmless silly fun that can help me to get out of work mode and get into the non-work fun mode. Amazingly, Nintendo seems to sort of agree now, thanks to an item added to Pocket Camp back in June.
Vacation Juice, which appears to be a blue cocktail served in a large bowl-style glass, is a new in-game item, and it’s very clearly a thinly veiled reference to alcohol. Vacation Juice as an alcohol nickname basically sounds like the kind of term a parent on Summer vacation might use when talking to their children, the kind of term that only works if you don’t already have a basic concept of what booze is. It references alcohol as relaxing, a treat when taking time off work, and its effects are noticeable pretty fast.
Besides Vacation Juice, I think they could also have got away with calling it "Isabelle's Overworked Medicine", or maybe just "Silly Drink".
Videos of Isabelle consuming vacation juice quickly began to go viral online after the item was added to the game, and I think it’s easy to understand why. Who can’t relate to being an overworked woman, constantly trying to do her best, letting her hair down at the weekend to dance along to some music and wave around some fans in the company of good friends?
It’s not like Isabelle is being one of those depressed characters who sits behind a desk in a dark office to take a shot of neat whiskey and push through the night; she’s being a social drinker, not exceeding her limits, and simply allowing herself a bit of respite from apparently working two separate jobs where she has all the responsibilities of a mayor, but none of the acclaim or reward.
Isabelle, you’ve been looking after my neglected Animal Crossing town for several years without taking a break. Trust me, I won’t judge you for taking a night off every once in a while to enjoy your vacation juice. In fact, I might join you. You seem pretty fun to party with.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.