Everyone has their coping mechanism for dealing with this prolonged self-isolation. For others, it may be baking, exercising, Minecraft meet-ups, 24/7 sweatpants or sleeping in. For me, its Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Animal Crossing has been one of my favorite video games since I received City Folk for my 10th birthday. I loved the game’s cute characters and soothing music. I enjoyed expanding my house and getting my character’s fortune told. Little did I know, Animal Crossing would be one of the few things keeping me sane in the middle of a global pandemic 10 years later.
New Horizons was released March 20, 2020, and has quickly become one of best selling franchise games in Nintendo’s history. This isn’t surprising; there are many people willing to buy video games to pass the time while stuck at home in quarantine. If I hadn’t preordered the game months before, I definitely would have been one of the people who immediately jumped at the chance to enter a virtual island world after hearing about the stay-at-home orders across the country.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons places the player on a deserted island. Animals accompanying them on this excursion then instruct the player on how to manage game controls and features. As the player exits the tutorial, they enter the game’s real-world time. At this point, the player also learns more about the initial goals of the game: craft items, pay off their house loan, catch bugs and fish, bring shops to the island and improve the town. After a few days to a week of playing, the initial goal of general town improvement can be accomplished. Now the player is left to their own devices without any specific goal. This may be frustrating for some, as the game no longer incentivizes any specific action. For many, this is where creativity can shine.
After the beginning of the game, the goals in Animal Crossing are self-determined. Players have the freedom to choose what direction they want to go with the game. Some may choose to breed rare color flowers and create sprawling gardens. Others may choose to fully expand and decorate their houses. I have been trying to fill my museum with completed fossils, while other players have already begun posting their gorgeous towns on social media, complete with outdoor cafes, spas and carnivals. The online multiplayer aspect of the game allows you to show off your progress to friends “visiting” your island. With the online function, you can also share clothing designs with your friends and the online community.
When you are spending every day inside your house, the days can start to blend together. Because New Horizons matches your real-world time zone, the days in Animal Crossing create a more distinct passage of time. The “stalk market,” for example, allows players to buy turnips on Sunday mornings and then sell them later in the week for a profit. On Saturday nights, a singing dog named K.K. Slider performs. There are events and holidays in-game that give you something to look forward to in a time when we can’t really look forward to anything outside our own home.
At $60, the price of the game is steep, especially when many people have been temporarily laid off from work due to the virus. However, if you have the money to spend on the game, I would strongly recommend it. New Horizons is cute and cheery, bringing us joy when many need something to smile about in our daily lives.