Sakura Momoko no Ukiuki Carnival is an unusual Game Boy Advance game. Players end up being befriended by a carnival fairy, which means they are required to join the committee, convince residents of Colortown to attend and wake the eight guardian gods so they will decorate their respective boroughs. What is interesting is that even though this was a game made in 2002, it understood how important the internet is in connecting with people. Players can only progress when they participate in the “real” and “virtual” worlds present within the game.
In Sakura Momoko no Ukiuki Carnival’s introduction, a player’s avatar’s first activity is learning how to use the internet and receiving a small computer, called a MiniP@, to browse it on the go. These early steps are a means of briefly educating people on proper internet usage. We learn how to browse in-game webpages that resemble the sorts prevalent in the era where Angelfire and Geocities sites ran rampant. We see the basic mail client, one so rudimentary that we can only receive and read messages, but not send them. This introduction suggests how important online communications can be.
Once our character gets out into Colortown, we begin to see more practical approaches. The MiniP@ can be used to check up on which residents of each area are confirmed attendees of the upcoming carnival. We can see profiles for each person, learning more about people we have met or need to still encounter. By checking up on these folks, we can see if they have a job that would keep them from attending or some sort of request they need fulfilled. By talking to them in person and looking them up online, we can get the total information we need to help everyone and make the carnival better.
Sakura Momoko no Ukiuki Carnival even encourages internet investigations. There are mysterious creatures in Colortown called Monpi. They are essentially monsters or sentient objects. To carry out the carnival, you have to interact with them. This means heading into the internet, finding the Monpi’s homepages, clicking links and even searching for hidden links. If you can find them, you can click to become friends. This means it is often to your advantage to check your browser and explore different websites to find secrets that will help bring you closer to holding the carnival.
Then, there are players’ own pages. Each person gets an in-game carnival page that updates as you accrue more attendees and complete objectives. When you visit, you can see how many people are coming and how many visitors have stopped by your site. It suggests that your efforts are not only being noticed by folks in town, but those online as well. And, if you decide to create your own personal webpage for fun outside of the game, one that can be shared with other Sakura Momoko no Ukiuki Carnival owners by swapping with someone else who also owns the title, you have another means of sharing information.
We all know now the value of the internet. It is a part of our everyday lives. You are using it right now to read this! But Sakura Momoko no Ukiuki Carnival came out in 2002, at a time when people did not all have immediate access to the world in the palm of their hands. Still, it painted a picture of a future where someone would need to use the internet and online interactions to help pull together a major festival. It would be necessary to learn more about the community and spread the word about an event. While it does offer a more dated depiction of online affairs, it provides an interesting take on a life simulation where the virtual world impacts the real one.