The whole concept of Animal Crossing is kind of beautiful. In each iteration, you start the game as a brand new resident in a town filled with charismatic and adorable animals. You find your house, get accosted by a mole and owe Tom Nook a ton of money.

Somewhere in that mix of pressure and freedom is the soul of a game. Animal Crossing is an individual experience. It’s a title that’s “played” at individual paces. When you start Animal Crossing, it is inherently yours and yours alone.

Which makes buying and playing used copies of Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS absolutely depressing.

Animal Crossing: Wild World released for Nintendo’s most successful dual screen handheld back in 2005. It was met with strong popularity, critical reception and sales. As such, used copies are available en masse today at online retailers and brick & mortar shops.

I bought a used copy earlier this week. Rather than delete the save file within and start my village from scratch, I decided to see what the previous owners had done before trading the game.

Meet Rob and Joey from, as I learned, Philadelphia, PA.

I picked “Joey…” Go figure.

Joey lived in a village he and Rob named “philly.” The gaming duo were apparently against two things: classy decorations and consistent capitalization.

The sadness of the traded town was more overwhelming than I could have imagined. Firing up the game for my first brief session meant I was made to walk through a virtual wasteland covered in weeds and, believe it or not, garbage.

This is what neglect looks like in Animal Crossing.

As I made my way around Philly, I was approached by each resident and asked the same basic question: where the heck had I been. Rob and Joey hadn’t visited Philly in more than 60 months, one particularly cranky duck told me. The result was a dilapidated city and a host of very lonely villagers.

What made me turn the game off, though, was something that I honestly didn’t think would bother me. Villagers in Animal Crossing send players correspondence from time to time. Since Rob and Joey had traded their game in, the villagers had taken time to send them each a batch of letters.

The subjects of those letters? They’d moved.

I know, I know, virtual characters in a video game that aren’t real. It’s just that, well, I formed an immense bond with Animal Crossing when the game launched for the GameCube like a decade ago. I built my town up and played the title constantly. When my villagers moved, I got bummed out. To see that Joey and Rob blew their virtual popsicle stand and left a group of “friends” in their wake was oddly disturbing.

Buying this game used was exceptionally weird. I like to think that Rob and Joey loved their town as much as I loved mine so many years ago. If they didn’t, which is probably the case, that’s fine. But thinking they did makes this whole thing seem a lot nicer.

I’ve since deleted “philly” and constructed my own village. Things have become significantly less depressing.