Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Helped Maintain Social Interaction Online
If I were to tell you I’ve had a pleasant conversation with an anthropomorphic cat about the weather and how my outfit choice is completely vile…you’d think I am insane. Maybe so, but we all felt some sense of…insanity almost when we’re trapped in doors due to the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. While texting your best friend about the shows you’ve watched is interesting and all…it just isn’t the same. I, personally would much rather go out with friends getting food and exploring the town. Not being trapped indoors for a long period of time and having only technology be the way to communicate. It isn’t even fun either. Texting and FaceTiming is convenient for the lockdown…but it wasn’t entirely fun. Communicating with people through FaceTime or Zoom is getting boring.
A lot of us, myself included, felt the need to communicate with new people. To be extreme with the case…our old friends became “boring.”
Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn’t just known for its “online play platform”. It can certainly provide much needed social interaction, but there are so many other mechanics that have this benefit!
When not communicating with other players, the game has hundreds of villagers that can live on your island. Each of these villagers come in different species and are divided among eight personality types. One day, you might have a conversation with a bodybuilder cat about working out. The other could be an anteater discussing her latest read.
As the Animal Crossing series grew, players began to notice the dialogue of these villagers became…friendly. Animal Crossing players prefer the almost realness of the villagers from the earlier games (Animal Crossing: Population Growing, Animal Crossing: Wild World). From several of the older games, villagers will judge the player cold hearted-ly for anything they did unusual if they were not friends yet. Villagers would become so harsh…it added a sense of realness to the game as there are people in real life who also behave similarly. In these older Animal Crossing games, you had to gain friendship points with the villagers and their dialogue will become nicer. The number of points is not shown in games, it’s truly based on who the villager is and how you interact with them. Much like real life.
Lin Zhu, author of the case study, “The psychology behind video games during COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” explains the relationship more in-depth between the social interactions that can happen within the game. For starters, even though you are starting off the game “alone,” there are villagers there waiting to become your friend in-game.
Now, talking to a non-playable video game character is nice…it isn’t the same as talking to an actual person. Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows players to play online with each other to experience the game more. There are many benefits to the players playing the game by playing online. This includes collecting items for your island and having villagers move to your islands. But when it comes to Animal Crossing players, they are finding more ways to utilize playing online.
The creators of the game allowed the online feature to be used to visit friends’ islands and trade items. With the players trying to crawl out of the boredom they are facing, they took the ability to interact with users online to a whole new level.
New Horizons offers are large variety of items that players can use to decorate their islands however they’d like. Obtaining these items, however may be harder than others due to the rotation the game automatically sets for when items will be available for purchase in the in-game store. Nookazon is an online platform where Animal Crossing players can purchase any in-game item using the in-game currencies (Bells or Nook Miles Tickets) to purchase these items. Communication among other players is crucial for these transactions to be successful and this allows other players to have the opportunity to visit other player’s islands and possibly become online friends.
Zhu discusses in detail the benefits of playing online. In Animal Crossing: New Horizon, players have the option to create events that bring people together through their creativity. “The gamers not only can invite others to their islands to trade items but also talk and hang out virtually. There are even real stories of people having weddings on the game after their ceremonies had been canceled in real life. It is a thoughtful way to make memories and have some laughs during the time they cannot in person.” For many people, Zhu stated, many meaningful events were canceled. High school proms and graduations were also held in this game. It was through these events that many people came together to plan the events, to decorate a part of the island, and to get together — just as if it were a real-life social gathering.
During this time I wanted nothing more than to see my friends and spend time with them. I’m sure a lot of other people thought the same during the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. Animal Crossing: New Horizons created a “safe space” for a lot of players. Myself personally, I put so many hours in the game because there was simply nothing I wanted to do more than play a game where I didn’t have to worry about what was going on in 2020. Animal Crossing: New Horizons provides players with a “safe space” from the troubles going on in the world. Sometimes, all we need is to be with people to get our minds off of certain topics and the online mode mechanic in New Horizons does just that. Clinician Andrew Fishman, writer of Video Games are Social Spaces: How Video Games Help People Connect, explains, “There is also evidence to suggest that video games can be a safe place to experiment with social interactions for vulnerable people.”
The beginning of the pandemic, I personally felt more “vulnerable” than I ever felt before. I wasn’t ready to accept this fast and quite so sudden change we as a world faced. With the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I felt so excited to feel “relaxed” as the rest of the world felt when they played the game. I did everything the game had to offer and more. Socially interacting with other players around the world was strangely rejuvenating. Trading items was simple, efficient, and fun. Playing made up games on different people’s islands were relaxing to me. I felt there was some sense of normalcy again after a long time without it.
Writers Jonathon N. Cummings, Brian Butler, and Robert Kraut of the article, The Quality of Online Social Relationships explain that after many surveys among people, “Even in the age of the Web and e-commerce, online social interaction is still the most important use of the Internet.”
Before the epidemic we faced enabled us to actively use the Internet for social interaction. A fairly large sum of individuals before the pandemic utilized any form of the internet—including online games—to interact with people online. During the pandemic, these survey results changed with more people becoming more dependent on online social interaction.
Cummings, J. N., Butler, B., & Kraut, R. (2002). The quality of online social relationships. Communications of the ACM, 45(7), 103–108. https://doi.org/10.1145/514236.514242
Fishman, A. (2012). Video Games Are Social Spaces: How Video Games Help People Connect | ResponseCenter. Jcfs.org. https://www.jcfs.org/response/blog/video-games-are-social-spaces-how-video-games-help-people-connect
Zhu, L. (2020). The psychology behind video games during COVID ‐19 pandemic: A case study of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1002/hbe2.221
I would like feedback on if what I have written is really a well structured causal argument. With this piece, I am unsure if I really got the right idea with this argument.
However, after our conference from earlier, I have an idea of what to adjust in this argument.
You Introduction is a good idea, and fairly well executed, too, G00dSoup, but also confusing.
You establish the crazy, but you don’t establish the “just isn’t the same.” Clearly, in order for the shutdown to be boring, you want to contrast it to the active, lively, interpersonally-social festival of fun we were all experiencing BEFORE COVID. That contrast is not present in “just isn’t the same.”
And for the paragraph to work formally, it should call back the cat. So, if you establish that the “new normal” got pretty boring, along with all our friends, then . . . we can all understand why we got friendly with cats in pirate costumes.
Now to the bigger question. Is it a well-made Causal argument? Paragraph by paragraph.
P2. Partly successful.
—It establishes that some sort of “conversation” goes on, which counts for social interaction, but it’s unclear to a reader unfamiliar with the game what sort of conversation you mean.
—Your “isn’t known for online play” sounds like an apology. It’s certainly a qualification of some kind. Maybe you could find a way to spin the distinction as a positive, not a negative?
—It’s the “While not communicating with other players” that has this reader confused. Who, exactly, DO players communicate with? A bot that provides dialog for the “inhabitants”?
—Is it CAUSAL to say, “these villagers BECAME friendly”? It’s an intriguing possibility, but maybe I’m misinterpreting. Did the dialogue start out aggressive or neutral or challenging and EVOLVE to be more friendly?
P3. Partly successful.
—I can’t tell whether “Animal Crossing players prefer the almost realness of the villagers from the earlier games” compares today’s AC players from players of EARLIER versions of AC, or players of DIFFERENT GAMES. And, if so, from WHAT games?
—”several of the older games” doesn’t clarify what you mean.
—You’re confirming partly that someone other than “other players” is in charge of “The Game’s Side” of the conversation. Is that true?
—Villagers used to be judgmental?
—And that was considered a benefit of the game?
—But AC:NH changed the tone . . . and players are disappointed?
—What were you hoping to demonstrate?
P4. Needs a claim.
—You prepare us for evidence with your citation, but we can’t tell if Lin Zhu’s primary value was to mention that the game provides instant social interaction opportunities. —And since we’re still wondering about whether players want confrontation or glad-handing, we feel you’ve dropped the ball. Lin Zhu might have something to say about THAT. Does he?
P5. Really confusing.
—I keep thinking I’ll get clarity on a few details.
—Maybe the new AC:NH offers an aspect of play completely different than “earlier versions” of AC. Maybe IT is the version of the game that permits direct interactions between PLAYERS instead of between players and THE GAME. Is that it?
—Could you clarify what this means: “There are many benefits to the players playing the game by playing online”? Are there Offline and Online versions?
P6. Partly successful.
—This is a CONSEQUENCE claim that needs a clear CAUSE spelled out. Did the creators of AC:NH produce the online version BECAUSE players of earlier versions had requested inter-player interactions? Could you call them something like that to help us understand the distinction?
P7. Almost entirely successful
—Let’s get this up toward the top of the essay, please, G00dSoup. We’ve been waiting for this. Tell us AFTERWARDS about the dissatisfaction with earlier “non-interactive” versions of the game. We’ll understand better and care more once we’ve seen how beneficial the game can be at providing a safe and comforting “location” for social interactions that were cancelled in “meat space.”
—While you’re at it, you could sneak a clever detail into your Introduction that anticipates this nice description of virtual events. “If I told you I attended my niece’s graduation wearing a pirate costume, accompanied by an anthropomorphic cat in a cap and gown, . . . you’d think I was insane.”
P8. Partly successful.
—Similar advice here, but within just one paragraph.
—Move the explanation UP.
—Believe it or not, we are impatient even for a few sentences, GS.
—If you tell us FIRST that “not just big social events” like weddings and funerals, but “even daily transactions to buy small items” are rich in SOCIAL OPPORTUNITIES, then you can tell us about the complications of inventory and currencies as an illustration.
P9. Partly successful.
—There’s good causal evidence here that the game provided a safe space for comfortable, supportive, if artificial social interactions.
—But it wastes its source.
—You set up a claim by saying you were looking for a place to escape worry.
—So you should frame your citation of Fishman by promising that his quote will address “escape from danger” or a “refuge from worry” before you let him talk.
P10. Partly successful.
—Your personal proofs are lovely and very persuasive, G00dSoup.
—The contents of paragraphs 8, 9, and 10 feel jumbled.
—Your remarks about the joy of trading could be part of 8.
—Your remarks about relaxation and rejuvenation could be part of 9.
—I’m not sure what you’d need P10 for at all if you made those moves.
P11. Partly successful
—It’s very strong to have a source here to champion “social interaction” as a primary value of the internet.
—But it doesn’t help as much that their only named example is email.
—And I don’t know why you would need to “estimate” that lots of people used the internet to interact.
Regraded APR 22