This article is a guest contribution from game enthusiast and sometimes Dungeon Master, Mo.
I have always been a fan of Nintendo.
My first gaming device was a black and white Game Boy which I purchased at age seven with saved up birthday money.
One Nintendo franchise I never quite understood, however, was Animal Crossing, and I was quite dubious about it until I acquired a copy of the latest addition – Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) about three weeks ago.
If you’ve somehow managed to miss all of the hype around the game, here’s the trailer:
Essentially what happens is, you arrive on a deserted island, having purchased a getaway package from an adorable raccoon named Tom Nook.
Tom Nook also gives you a tent, a NookPhone, and the basics to get started on island life. He then informs you that you owe him approximately 50 000 bells (the in-game currency).
So begins the cycle of paying off your home loan, upgrading your home, and having to pay off further home loans.
So, it’s just like the real world, except you’re being scammed by a cute animal, so it takes the edge off.
I’m currently indebted to Nook for approximately 1,2 million bells. You can, however, pay off the interest-free loan at your leisure.
‘Leisure’, in my view, is what defines the gameplay experience in ACNH. The in-game clock syncs with the real-world time on your Nintendo Switch, so one day is a full 24 hours.
As the days progress, you will find yourself gathering resources, catching fish and bugs to sell for bells, or just chilling on your private beach.
Just before writing this, I was working on a room in my house which pays homage to the mascot of the Animal Crossing franchise, the wandering dog musician extraordinaire K.K. Slider.
Perhaps the best thing about ACNH at this juncture is the ability to visit friends on their islands (real friends, who also have the game… we haven’t reached that level of insanity yet).
I met a friend of a friend a few months back (in the before times) but reconnected with him after lockdown began via ANCH.
We now speak every day, we visit each other’s islands to examine turnip prices for the Stalk Market (ACNH’s version of the stock market), have a look at new decorations, or simply explore and socialise.
I also know of another person who is in a long-distance relationship, and who uses their island as a refuge which they share with their partner.
There is a reason it has become the top-selling title of the coronavirus lockdown, as millions seek light relief to break the monotony of quarantine living.
The Atlantic even talks of the ‘Quiet Revolution of Animal Crossing‘, saying it “serves up unexpected consolation by offering surrogate habits—a structured, if fictional, alternative to normal life”.
If there is any doubt about the social power of ACNH, keep in mind that China banned the game after it was discovered that the Hong Kong protestors were organising in-game protests during lockdown, and spreading messages concerning Hong Kong democracy.
The message of ACNH a simple one of community and friendship in difficult times. It’s visually appealing and joyful.
It’s also a slice of what life was like before, in the long, long ago.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite K.K. Slider songs, K.K. Samba.
Stay safe, and keep gaming.
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