It’s hard to believe that more than a year has passed since we’ve been yanked from our buzzling daily lives, and thrust into the confines of our homes. Worldwide lockdowns started in the early quarter of 2020 which conveniently enough was when Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons was launched.
The game’s premise is simple, the player is shipped off to a far-away island, accompanied by villagers in the form of cute andromorphic animals. During your stay, the player will be constantly interacting with the island’s head engineer, Tom Nook. Which will provide you with upgrade tools that will help improve your island living.
In its’ core, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is still the same life simulator game; this time however, it does a good job of avoiding the common woes that come along with the genre. Notifications seldom appear and is only present when absolutely necessary (a few calming blips replaced the more common buzzing and the non-stop in your face messages), the deadlines are almost non-existent, random activities that pop-up every now and then re-appear in the future, which means you always have a choice on when to interact.
Being an open-ended type of game meant that the player is not forced into doing objectives with a time-limit which meant the pacing depends entirely upon the player. Also, being a standalone title also meant that the game was not riddled with thousands of quests needed to advance any arching storyline.
The games did a good job of balancing random events with familiarity just enough to captivate the players’ interest. In this world what matters the most is the player, from spending your time grinding away and obtaining bells, to taking in the scenery and enjoying that warm and cozy campfire by the beach.
Outside the Bubble
Packed with a cool, easy listening soundtrack, simple controls and complete with a smooth cartoonish interface made immersion into the world of Animal Crossing a breeze. In a few month’s its hype steamrolled into attracting players and non-players alike, that included icons and celebrities which in contributed to the expansion of the game’s growing player base. The increasing interest would become so vast, that after a few months, various media outlets began reporting on the game’s effect on the Nintendo Switch (which had exclusive rights to the game) having shortage of supplies due to the unprecedented demand brought on by the hype the game was riding on.
Hawaiian for “family”, the term is often used to describe Animal Crossing’s islands by its players and used in discussions among the gaming community. The most common use of the word is to name their island, the Island of Ohana or Ohana Island. Beyond that, some players would describe great village designs as Ohana ideas or costumes as the Ohana collection.
Boasting tons of customization features, players were able to personalize almost every corner of their island. Having an online library also allowed players to showcase and share their personalized creations, ranging from various clothing lines to fancy floor tiles. Developers also kept continuous support by rolling out free updates (somewhat a thing in the past in this era) that increased the game’s content. And in no time, social media was buzzing with content from different players around the world. Sharing and posting about their own personal and favorite animal crossing content, ranging from a few well-put interior designs to huge cities made to mimic real life cities.
Beyond the Game
With a continuously growing player base, small communities started forming around the game. The game’s online features proved useful for various purposes. Some companies who could not get-together, used the games online features for meetings and introduced various team-building activities to make working in this timeline less stressful. Most families that were separated by thousands of miles used the game to bond and interact with each other too.
Another often overshadowed feature that the game had was being linked to real-time and progression through the seasons meant that the developers made sure to roll out new content especially during the holidays, so that players were only able to meet in-game had their time well spent with their loved ones. Social media was flowing with multiple tear-jerking stories that New Horizon helped create.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched almost a year ago with a community that composed only of its dedicated fans. Now the player base ranged from little kids to adults well into their senior years. The game’s virtual islands provided everyone with an outlet that catered to events that were usually held outside.
Players now made trips to spend time on their friends’ islands to have fun and make their own unique moments, bringing with them personalized items that they gave away as gifts. Many players also went from total strangers to becoming friends in real life, maintaining the sense of togetherness despite being confined to virtual avatars in-game.
On the surface, New Horizons may seem like any ordinary game. To many, it was a break from life riddled with uncertainties and confusion as the pandemic raged on. Hearing that relaxing trumpet theme, the sound of the crashing waves and the warm, vibrant sun already gives you the sensation of sand on your feet. Many games offer the sensation of escaping from reality, but nothing quite like animal crossing that welcomes players into the fold with open arms and a warm hug like family.