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Animal Crossing and the Japanese Concept of "Ma"

"Who needs someone telling you what to do all the time? You can do what you want, when you want, where you want. Yeah, living on your own, being free. It feels great.

You can’t help but giggle at first. A super-deformed dog called K.K. Slider introduces you to the world of Animal Crossing by muttering navel-gazing nonsense about freedom and getting out into the world. Slap a guitar in his hands and you’ve got a recipe for an obnoxious musician spouting platitudes. Your eyes glaze over because what he’s saying is linked to an unattainable dream: the life of a carefree artist who only lives to create. If you look a little deeper though, K.K. Slider is really talking about the Japanese spatial concept of Ma.

In Japanese, Ma roughly translates to “pause”. Ma suggests interval. The rough approximation of Ma in English is Negative Space, a restrictive term typically used in painting and photography. Ma refers to an awareness of space dependent on the human imagination, it’s about th...

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