Animal Crossing players seek New Horizons


Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

This article is a part of the Trinitonian’s remote coverage due to Trinity University’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Click here to read the rest of our reporting.

Like countless other spring activities, Alpha Chi Lambda’s annual weekend beach trip was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But this year, beach lived on in a Nintendo game called Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

“We got all of the girls that have a [Nintendo] Switch and had Animal Crossing together, and then we’re like, ‘Alright, everybody meet up on this person’s island.’ And we were like, ‘This is Alpha Chi beach,’” said first-year Taylor Crow. “It was just really fun. We were all kind of running around and hitting each other with nets.”

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a life simulation video game in which the player is a customizable character who buys an island getaway package. The game takes place in real time, and the player is free to explore their island, craft items, catch fish and even visit the islands of their friends.

The latest release of Animal Crossing was highly anticipated before the coronavirus pandemic, but some speculate its release on March 20, when many shelter-in-place orders were already in effect across the world, aided in its success. The game is not only a means of escape but also a means of connection: While some just use the travel feature to connect with their friends, others are hosting virtual Animal Crossing graduation ceremonies and weddings.

As Animal Crossing podcaster David Thair told Wired, “I couldn’t think of a better game to see us through.”

Thus, it’s no surprise that Animal Crossing has reached the Trinity community. Crow guessed that she plays the game for two or three hours per day, at minimum.

“I know that sounds like a lot, but [it’s] just because there are different things happening at different times in the game,” Crow said. “Some species of bugs or fish are only available in the morning and others are at night, so I kind of just made myself a little schedule of different tasks I want to complete, depending on the time of day.”

Sophomore Gabriel Mello said he plays Animal Crossing four to five times a week. For him, the game is a way to stay in touch with faraway friends.

“I use it to play a lot with my friends who live in different states, like I have friends who live in Vermont,” Mello said. “We visit [each other’s] islands frequently, and it’s a good way to stay in touch and kind of uplift each other in these weird times.”

Previously, Mello played first-person shooters and other multiplayer games with his friends, but he said Animal Crossing is a pleasant change of pace.

“It’s so different. It’s just relaxing. The other games we play are high stress, high focus. And this has just been a nice departure from that,” Mello said.

As New Horizons is the fifth main title in the Animal Crossing series, many players of the game grew up with previous versions and are buying the new game partly out of nostalgia. Senior Raquel Belden remembers playing Animal Crossing: City Folk when she was in the sixth grade.

“I think having a bit of nostalgia right now has been helpful for sure,” Belden said. “Thinking back to simpler times.”

However, many are just discovering the game for the first time. Crow said she was surrounded by Animal Crossing players in high school, but she never hopped on the bandwagon — until now.

“I had a Switch and all my friends from high school were really hyping it up, like anticipating the release of the game. And they’re like, ‘Taylor, you have to get this game,’ and I was like, alright, you know, I’ll check it out,” Crow said. “Now I’m like, ‘This is so cool.’”

There are numerous goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Players are encouraged to pay off their loans to a character named Tom Nook, collect fossils for the museum curator, an owl named Blathers, and decorate their unique homes. But at the end of the day, it’s the simple things that keep Animal Crossing players coming back.

“I just really like hitting people with the bug net. It’s really funny to me,” Belden said. “Absolutely nothing happens; it just kind of makes this hollow sound, but I get a lot of joy out of it.”