Everyone was frantically searching for something, anything, that will help pass the “two weeks” we spent at home, isolating ourselves from others. Many of us felt the need for activities to fill the days. Some have turned to hobbies they’ve always meant to try, or they have decided to tackle that project they’ve been putting off for months, or they have even started online classes to learn a new skill or language. Others have been savagely searching the internet to purchase a Nintendo Switch so they can play the new Animal Crossing game that has been all over the place for the past few months to pass the time along.
Regardless of what people did, it’s clear that everyone was looking for ways to stay busy and entertained during the time of isolation we faced. With so many people stuck at home, it’s no wonder that the Nintendo Switch has become such a hot commodity. It offers a way to escape reality and immerse oneself in a completely different world, even if only for a little while. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is no exception to this.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a video game that was developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch console. It is the fifth main series title in the Animal Crossing series and was released worldwide in March of 2020. The game takes place on a deserted island and allows players to build and decorate their own homes, fish, catch bugs, and interact with various animal characters. The game has received critical acclaim for its relaxing gameplay and charming graphics, making it a popular choice for gamers of all ages.
What makes this game so fascinating? What is it about living on an abandoned island with unique, anthropomorphic animals that is so intriguing due to its open-ended nature?
One of the main appeals of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is its ability to offer some sense of normalcy during a time that is anything but normal. The game allows players to create their own virtual, fantasy world and escape from the stress and anxiety of what we experienced the pandemic at its beginning.
In addition, the open-ended nature of the game allows for a unique and personalized experience for each player. From designing and decorating their own homes to creating their own fashion and interacting with a variety of characters, players have the freedom to create their own story within the game. Overall, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers a much-needed escape from reality and a chance to be creative and express oneself in a safe and enjoyable way. It’s no wonder that the game has become such a sensation during these challenging times.
Let’s take a closer look at Animal Crossing and what makes it so captivating. The game begins with the player arriving on a deserted island with few villagers, each with their own personality. To start, you must improve the island’s appearance to gain a good approval rating. Once achieved, the rest of the game is up to you. You can create a metropolis-style town, a quaint cottage village, or fill the island with unique, zany objects and only have rabbit villagers without upgrading facilities. The possibilities are endless.
Beyond the creative aspect, Animal Crossing: New Horizons also offers a sense of community. The game allows players to visit other players’ islands, trade items, and interact with each other’s villagers. This social aspect has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as players are able to connect with others and form friendships in a safe and virtual environment. The one thing we craved the most during the lockdown was social interaction, and this video game – a video game! – gave us the chance to have the feeling of being with friends all over the world. Birthdays, graduations, proms, and even weddings were celebrated within the world of Animal Crossing.
Within many players, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has given them a sense of autonomy. In Andrew Z.H. Yee and Jeremy R.H. Sng’s article, Animal Crossing and COVID-19: A Qualitative Study Examining How Video Games Satisfy Basic Psychological Needs During the Pandemic, they claim, “Participants recounted that ACNH offered a feeling of escape and distraction from the restrictions and stresses of the pandemic and day-to-day life, provided a platform with the freedom to artistically express oneself, and enabled them to set and fulfill their own goals.” During the pandemic, many people have experienced significant changes in their daily routines and lifestyles. With the sudden shift to remote work and social distancing, many individuals found themselves struggling to adapt to the new normal. Especially so suddenly!
In the midst of this interesting time, the game provided players with a much-needed sense of escape from the stresses of the world we were all experiencing. Whether it was through exploring a virtual world or engaging in a lively multiplayer battle by making a make-shift wrestling ring and shoving the other players out of the “ring.” The game allowed players to forget their worries and immerse themselves in a new and exciting environment. In short, the game offered a valuable source of entertainment and connection during a challenging period in human history.
No one can claim to have been happy during the lockdown, when we were unable to be with our loved ones. Who could be? Personally, I was deeply upset by the situation. The release of this game, so conveniently released, too, brought a sense of excitement within fans of the franchise. It brought curiosity to those needing something to do. Kelsey Guenther’s article, Can Animal Crossing make you happier?, She discusses how Animal Crossing can give people a sense of accomplishment. A video game can, in fact, do this! I am telling you that by donating fifteen different specimens to a developing museum is an accomplishment. No matter how ridiculous it sounds.
Guenther claims, “Even though these accomplishments are happening in a virtual world, this goal-attainment can still positively impact mental health. Specifically, by producing positive feelings, these games improve life-satisfaction and enhance players’ general well-being. In addition, accomplishments in video games occur regularly, are often very achievable and have immediate rewards, whereas accomplishment in real-life can often be infrequent, difficult to achieve, and might go unnoticed.”
There may be numerous occasions where you put so much effort into something and anticipate receiving so much appreciation for it. You don’t feel too hot, though, when you don’t receive it. Villagers, Special Characters, and even the game itself congratulates you on these achievements inside the game’s rules. The “Nook Miles” you earn by completing tasks are an in-game currency. You spoke to the seagull that washed up on your beach and helped him find his Communicator? You get rewarded with Nook Miles. You planted all five types of fruit trees on your island? You get rewarded with more Nook Miles. You spoke to all the villagers on your island, cleaned up the weeds and planted flowers, and crafted and placed furniture outside to make your island look somewhat appealing? You can receive more Nook Miles. You may buy a variety of in-game things with these Nook Miles as compensation for the service of playing the game. Just by turning on your Nintendo Switch and enjoying another day of Animal Crossing, you are continually showered with rewards. As you play more, you’ll begin to take pride in how far you’ve come in the game.
Guenther, K. (2020, October 31). Can Animal Crossing make you happier? ScIU. https://blogs.iu.edu/sciu/2020/10/31/can-acnh-make-you-happier/
Yee, A. (2022, April 1). Animal Crossing and COVID-19: A Qualitative Study Examining How Video Games Satisfy Basic Psychological Needs During the Pandemic (J. Sng, Ed.) [Review of Animal Crossing and COVID-19: A Qualitative Study Examining How Video Games Satisfy Basic Psychological Needs During the Pandemic]. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.800683/full