Cherry blossom petals float through the air as we step out of our houses into the bright morning sun. It’s time to pick weeds and water the flowers — we need to make sure the yard looks nice. And now, we hunt down the six rocks on our island, and hit them as many times as possible. Bang bang! Out comes some money and iron nuggets. Yes! A little centipede tries to slither away, but we catch it with a net so we can sell it. Excited at the prospect of making extra money, we smile at the screens in front of us.
“Animal Crossing” is a Nintendo video game that allows players to build their own island paradise — specifically we play “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” By performing basic tasks such as fishing, digging up treasures and collecting resources from the landscape, players can craft or buy customizable items and furniture pieces to create whatever they want on their island home.
Yet, we found this game is so much more than its premise. This school year was supposed to be our last chance to connect with each other, but the pandemic kept us trapped inside. Despite all of the hurdles thrown our way, “Animal Crossing” continues to brighten our lives as we begin to move past the pandemic.
Roll out of bed. Open Zoom. Stare at a computer for seven hours. When we all find ourselves repeating this monotonous routine amidst on-going personal or global conflict, finding an escape is necessary. Although we can’t just run away from these issues, it’s been beneficial to take time for ourselves and our mental wellness via “Animal Crossing.”
Rather than emphasizing the end goals, the game encourages a slow, peaceful gameplay that’s about enjoying the process, straying from the fast-paced structure of most video games today.
The in-game characters who live on our islands also contributed to this uplifting atmosphere and brought a smile to a year of pandemic life. There’s nothing better than celebrating a quarantine birthday with Bob the cat or having Stu the cow surprise you with a spontaneous present.
The main interactive feature of the game is the ability to visit friends’ islands, where you can admire their aesthetic and chat together in a digital space.
Until a year ago, we had numerous activities that gave us a time and place to hang out with each other: from going to each other’s houses for board game nights, to goofing off at family barbeques, to just seeing each other during lunch every day.
Especially as friends who go all the way back to first grade, we’ve missed having an easy way to see each other. And though we began our island life at drastically different times, that hasn’t stopped us from playing “Animal Crossing” together. In the game, one of us just moved out of a tent and the other wears a crown, but we can still teach each other new things.
In a year when our friends were suddenly just faces on a screen, a year that was a final chapter of our childhoods, being able to find joy together in a video game made a world of difference.
We’ve bonded over the cute cherry blossom trees and swirling snowflakes, laughed over our shared experiences and searched together for the items we’ve looked to add to our islands. In a year when our friends were suddenly just faces on a screen, a year that was a final chapter of our childhoods, being able to find joy together in a video game made a world of difference.
Next year, we will no longer be a short seven-minute walk away from each other’s houses. Instead, we will be on different college campuses, living new lives and looking to find a way to continue our friendship.
Luckily, this past year of virtual connection has suppressed any worries about not being able to stay in touch — we’ve adjusted to connecting online and maintained our friendship in novel ways. While we will be going our separate ways, we know with the help of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” we will keep diving into new horizons, together.