In a world full of uncertainty and a type of loneliness many of us haven’t experienced before, Animal Crossing brings a slice of calmby Helen Whitehouse / May 4, 2020 / Leave a comment
Yesterday I went fruit picking, strolled on the beach, chatted to a savvy raccoon and visited my friends.
But I wasn’t breaking lockdown rules—I was indulging in one of the biggest coronavirus trends, Animal Crossing. The video game has become as synonymous with lockdown as sourdough starters, DIY haircuts and pints over Zoom. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on the gaming console Nintendo Switch in March just as we all sealed ourselves away. And it’s since become one of the Internet’s favourite hobbies.
Like previous iterations of the game, the concept of New Horizons is simple: your character lives in a wholesome world of anthropomorphic animal characters including Tom Nook, the enterprising raccoon who runs the show. As well as completing tasks like building houses and helping residents, you catch fish and bugs, dig up fossils for the local museum, grow flowers, pick fruit and decorate your house.
But one of the key features of the game is that you can also visit friends and strangers on their islands, bonding a community of lonely, frustrated people in lockdown all over the world.
I bought Animal Crossing as a treat for myself during the bizarre second week of isolation. I was (and still am) at my family home in Yorkshire after a weekend visit coincided with the enforcement of lockdown measures. Miles from everything that linked me to adult life, I felt a sense of relief that I was healthy and safe, but a frustration that I couldn’t do anything. Work was slower than usual, I had no social life and I’d ploughed through all the good things on Netflix. I felt stagnant.
I was just in time for my purchase too—almost all retailers had sold out a few days later. Booting it up felt comforting, like I was visiting a place I’d been before. I was a fan of the earlier 2006 Nintendo version, Animal Crossing: Wild World, but I was ten when I started playing it, and never got much done. I was ready to play the game properly this time and fully commit to maximising each adorable opportunity.
Animal Crossing topped the game charts in the UK and Japan when it was first released and seven weeks later it’s still topping Nintendo’s game chart. So why do we love it…