WHY DID THE ANIMALS CROSS?
...For a deserted island getaway from quarantine
Full disclosure, I don’t know how to like something in a sensible way. While most functioning adults can play a game for an hour or two and put it down, I have dug myself a raccoon-shaped hole and dove in head-first. At the time of writing, I have already racked up over 120 hours of gameplay on Animal Crossing: New Horizons in just two weeks. Do I know how I managed to spend most of my waking hours virtually? No, but we’re not here to question my poor time management.
Even though the majority of my time in-game is spent bankrupting myself playing dress-up and trying to achieve the perfect bogus-wilderness aesthetics, thereby defying all laws of nature, Animal Crossing is so much more than that.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the fifth installment in the series, and like the previous installments, the player arrives as a villager that assumes a pivotal role in the town, city, or island they’ve moved to. The town, city, or island is filled with anthropomorphic animal villagers that you can interact with, each with their own unique appearances and personalities. The game simulates real-time, allowing players to play at their own pace; however, you can bypass it through time-traveling if you’re ever feeling antsy and impatient. Throughout the day, there are plenty of tasks to complete: from collecting critters to finding fossils, there are no confinements, almost perfectly mimicking the autonomy of real life (maybe even better). While I enjoy decorating my island to work towards a five-star rating, others may prefer completing their museum collections or cross-breeding hybrid flowers. It’s called having a vocation.
Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons is therapeutic, and its arrival is more than timely. In these trying times filled with uncertainty, we crave nostalgia and normalcy more than ever.
Animal Crossing has been a mental getaway that we so desperately needed, its familiarity harking back to to a simpler time, where the scariest situation you could be in is when Mr. Resetti forced you type out “I am stupid” in admittance to your incompetence; a time where your biggest financial concern was paying back your three-million-bells mortgage to Tom Nook; and a time where our biggest responsibility was to sell our turnips before they spoiled.
In these times that would’ve been lonely otherwise, my friends and I are able to bypass social isolation rules by meeting up virtually. My friend Inga and I video-called each other for hours at the game’s midnight release and combatted our heavying eyelids until we finally gave in and put down the game at sunrise. We would visit each other’s islands with our pockets filled with gifts and banter our days away about each other’s villagers.
This is not my first encounter with the Animal Crossing franchise. I spent years on Animal Crossing: Wild World, the only game I would actually play on my Nintendo DS Lite. The majority of my childhood nights were spent playing Animal Crossing beneath the covers, shoving it under my pillow when I hear my mother’s footsteps creeping near my room. Even though I played the game a lot, I was too young to grasp the objectives of the game or understand the depths of the characters, and I never felt emotionally invested in the game. I liked the game, but that was only ever it.
On the other hand, even though I’m still getting acquainted with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I’ve loved every aspect of the game. Yes, even the ‘ugly’ villagers. When I wake up every morning, I look forward to seeing what will happen or change on my island that day. I know my newfound appreciation for Animal Crossing should be attributed to the stay-at-home restrictions, but the game has significantly improved since its Wild World days.
Everything that put me off from Wild World became a redeeming factor in New Horizons. I found villagers to be irritable in Wild World, and difficult to progress (as someone who was equipped with the capabilities of a child), I would often pick up the game for a few hours and not touch it again for weeks. However, in New Horizons, I enjoy using all of my spare time playing the game. I love visiting my villagers, as they are significantly nicer. When I approach villagers for a chat, I know I won’t have to put up with an unreasonable temper tantrum, well, unless I was attacking them with a net. As for in-game progression, I was able to finish the opening arc in my first few days, and now possess the freedom of doing whatever I want on the island, free from any burdens of a predetermined storyline.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been my lifebuoy. In the midst of an erratic pandemic, I craved a sense of normalcy. I wanted to be doing something I would’ve done regardless of the pandemic. The much-anticipated game’s release fell perfectly at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, and now I can justify blowing off social commitments and spending the bulk of my waking hours at home, glued to my Nintendo Switch.
If you’re seeking a change of scenery, opt to take the leap and move to a deserted island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You can be sitting on the beach, watching the sun set in no time.