How Animal Crossing saved my (everyday) life

You’re probably not one of the estimated 11 million people playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH). This cute little time-waster has been called the game we all need right now – it hit the e-shelves on March 20th, just at the right time to occupy millions of kids and adults stuck at home with a Nintendo Switch and nowhere to go….including me.

I jumped on the ACNH bandwagon on March 29th, to give me something to do in the vast span of time between finishing work at 4.30pm and bedtime. This time used to be allocated to community work – meetings, admin etc. In lockdown, early evening was the hardest for me. I’m used to leaving work and racing around doing stuff – now I move from the study to the living room (four steps), and then what? After the first week in Alert Level 4, I was all caught up on my TV watching and podcast listening and wasn’t sure what to do next. ACNH was the perfect gap filler.

It’s a life-making game. You create your character and then find yourself on a small island with a few supplies and Tom Nook to help you find your way. The goal of the game is to decorate your island by planting flowers and trees, upgrade from a tent to a house (and then a bigger house) and make furniture. Once your island is looking sufficiently lush, you’ll get villagers come join you – up to ten little animal characters with their own interesting quirks (randomly selected from hundreds of possible animals). Your job is to make friends with them by spending time with them and giving them items so they can also live their best island life.

It’s really hard to explain why I love this game so much. It’s slow, there is nothing much going on, and no pressure to do much of anything. Most days when I’m playing, I potter around – fishing, tending my gardens, talking to my islanders. In fact, that’s exactly why I love it.

The whole family was playing the game during lockdown – me, Megan, Antony, Bronwen, Isaac and eventually Stephen. The game has a feature where you can fly to another player’s island for a visit, and trade items. It became a nice way to connect when we couldn’t see each other in person. Once we finished lockdown, the kids went back to regular life, but I am still playing daily. I find it relaxing, and I’ve grown fond of my little islanders on Taimoana (the name of my island).

A huge online world has opened up around the game too – it’s amazing! There are several YouTube and Twitch channels where people stream their playtime. There are Discord servers where you can share items and ideas. I’m sure it will come and go just like other fads have, but right now it’s a cultural phenomenon – maybe it will be studied one day!