Animal Crossing: New Horizons is Social Media
“Video games are in no way a substitute for real social interaction!” Sure, video games do not have that real, true feeling of interacting with a person face-to-face. But in situations where we are in need of communicating with someone…anyone…doing so online is really our only solution. We have FaceTime, Google Meets, Zoom, and other applications for video chatting with family and friends…but there’s no “fun” in that. Video games, like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, enable players to not only play the game, but to also be able to communicate and play the game with their loved ones when they are physically unable to do so in real life.
There are many different types of social media applications available to us today, and they provide us with enjoyment as well as the ability to interact with people all over the world as a result. Animal Crossing is social media. Obviously, it is a different type of social media, but the game does provide the same benefits as Instagram does when it comes to social media.
An article from Cornell University, “Animal Crossing – A New Social Media?”, dives deeper into the idea that Animal Crossing is, in fact, a “new social media.”
“You can also add a player as either a friend or best friend, and send messages or mail whenever you want. These relationships can be seen as building a social network, perhaps with strong ties between your friends or best friends, and weak ties between those whose island you just visit casually through codes or the cloud storage. These relationships are unique in the pandemic times, where you can now virtually interact with someone, visit their home, share gifts, and explore together, which can retain current relationships and foster new ones.”
A game like Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers such an expansive selection of mechanics for players to explore within its (digital) world. I think one of the most impressive aspects of this is that you don’t have to do this alone. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has so many in-game features to explore.
The recent release of the franchise, New Horizons, excited many seemingly lifelong fans. Each Animal Crossing game in the series had the same format: You move into a new town and you explore your newfound life the way you want to…but each game advances in their special features.
A new feature of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the ability to communicate with people online and form new friendships and connections. In addition, seven additional people can be on one digital island at the same time (whereas previously only three additional people could be on the island), there have been added new events to celebrate with friends, new furniture items in the game to decorate islands as the player sees fit, and there have been online mechanics created by Animal Crossing players.
Nookazon, similar to Amazon, is an online platform where Animal Crossing players can purchase in-game items with in-game currency. The only thing required to get the desired copy of Van Gogh’s Starry Night is to interact with people online…much like most online transactions. The joy with this method of getting in-game items is the ability to visit the seller’s island, or have the seller visit you. It is ultimately the player’s choice whether they want to become online friends with this stranger.
Furthermore, Animal Crossing: New Horizons provides more in-game mechanics that promote social interaction exceptionally. Though there are hardly any people who do this, New Horizons allows players to write letters to both, their anthropomorphic animal villagers and to the friends they make online. Players can mail them a heartfelt letter expressing their appreciation. As well as sending packages and emergency fruit, they can also write an angry, hate-filled letter expressing how their newfound online friend is the bane of their existence. Quite like real life, except people share their opinions of each other on social platforms like Instagram and/or Twitter. Or perhaps they simply tell the person face-to-face.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (and other video games can be seen as this, too) can be used as a “safe place” for most players. People have their methods for escaping the worries and stressors of real life, but investing that method into purchasing this game will make such a huge impact. The relaxing, atmospheric nature of the game and the ability to not only interact online with strangers, but also with your animal neighbors is very relaxing to most.
In regards to video games in general being “safe spaces”, writer Andrew Fishman, of the article, “Video Games Are Social Space: How Video Games Help People Connect”, explains: “Video games and other online spaces are “safe” for these individuals because they allow people to communicate when they want to, with little or no pressure to respond immediately and without requiring them to be in the same physical space with others.”
The joy of being in an awkward situation with a stranger online is the glorious ability to shut the WiFi connection off your Nintendo Switch, kicking everyone on your island off and immediately returning them back to where they came from (if only we had that luxury in real life). Communicating with people online can often put us in uncomfortable situations, much like communicating with people in real life. The only benefit of communicating with people online versus in person is the ability to remove yourself from the situation.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows the player to select who they want on their islands to spend time with and who they’d rather not interact with again. Much like any other form of social interaction through social media platforms, New Horizons features the almighty “Block” button. Even our cell phones have block buttons for those we do not want to remain in contact with again.
“Real social interaction” truly comes in many forms. Communicating verbally is just one way of social interaction, much like texting and using social media. Animal Crossing: New Horizons provides another outlet to communicate with those and to feel relaxed whilst doing so. New Horizons also enables players to do so much more than play online to effectively communicate with their friends and families, they also have the ability to sell their items online and to write letters. The game provides many resources to have real and meaningful social interactions. The special thing about this kind of social interaction is that it is through a video game.
Animal Crossing – A New Social Media? : Networks Course blog for INFO 2040/CS 2850/Econ 2040/SOC 2090. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://blogs.cornell.edu/info2040/2020/09/29/animal-crossing-a-new-social-media/
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