The word “self-isolation” is being thrown around a lot these days. Take one look online and you’ll see a barrage of reminders to stay inside and distance yourself, all due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19. These strange circumstances have become a part of our daily routine as of late. Luckily, there has been a bit of reprieve from it all. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is spreading positivity much like a ray of sunshine, not only for myself but for countless other players.
Nintendo’s release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons could not have come at a better time. Released exclusively on Switch on Mar. 20, Animal Crossing: New Horizons quickly dominated the online discourse. Though many major cities and countries began implementing stay-at-home orders, this wholesome game of building a township, gathering resources, and interacting with friends helped to break the otherwise negative and sometimes anxiety-inducing cycle of news.
Many games by default are a means of escapism. Quite literally, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has you escape to a deserted island to forge a township under Tom Nook’s guidance. That can sound pretty isolating on its surface. However, as you dig a little deeper, you’ll quickly find out you don’t have to be alone. If online interactions aren’t really your thing, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers opportunities to interact and befriend the loveable cast of characters in the world. Many of these characters can eventually reside on your island. They’re all unique and quirky in their own way. Each presents opportunities to gain rewards simply by checking in on them from time to time.
The more impactful side to all of this is opening up your island to your friends online. Much like how you see so many people online take part in group FaceTime call parties or gatherings on Skype, Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets you and your friends chill out. Whether its to tour a friend’s island, sell your items at their shops, or exchange fruit, it’s all relaxing. There’s no sense of urgency or in-game threat. Nook’s loan payments aside, it’s just quite honestly a breath of fresh air to exist in such a relaxing world, interacting with friends.
I popped over to a friend’s island to drop off a few cherries, seeing as though it was not a native fruit on their island. That small interaction was a great distraction to everything going on in the real world.
Even if you aren’t interacting with friends directly through the game, there is a sense of community. If you’re following along in your playthrough with any social media platform, you likely know what I’m talking about. The day-to-day progression system of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons gives players daily objectives to advance their in-game community. For instance, waiting for Blathers to open up his museum caused thousands to flood Twitter and Reddit with screenshots of their bug and fish collection. Everyone was waiting for doors to open for donations and there was a communal understanding. We were all able to laugh at as we eagerly awaited the day the museum opened.
Interacting with other players isn’t the only way Animal Crossing: New Horizons has helped spread positivity. It’s also largely in part by the laid-back nature of the gameplay and mechanics. Many of us are consistently at home right now, so completing menial chores may be thrilling. However, Nintendo has somehow found a way to make simple tasks exciting and engaging.
Taking a stroll across your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you’ll undoubtedly fill your time by catching bugs, planting trees, and going fishing. Perhaps it’s because those tasks are accompanied by a catchy soundtrack or a cute animation. Personally, it has been a helpful distraction knowing that everything I do is checking off another box. It’s like having a digital to-do-list.
The incorporation of Nook Miles, the new form of currency alongside Bells, gives a sense of accomplishment. Every vibrating notification from the game’s Nook Phone notifies me that I’ve completed a task and there’s a new one to complete.
The customization features of the game allow you to make your island feel like your home away from home. You can add that little touch, reminding you of something you cherish, or going absolutely crazy with wallpaper designs. There’s no shortage of ways to add your personal flair to the game. It gives you a sense of ownership over your island and becomes an extension of your personality.
Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons don’t come around all that often. A title like this has the ability to nurture and breed positivity organically through its art style, mechanics, and gameplay. Much like catching lightning in a bottle, Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s release fell just as the stars aligned. Animal Crossing: New Horizon‘s positivity offers an escape during these trying times.