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People Are Going on Dates in the "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" Museum While Stuck in Quarantine

Animal Crossing holds the potential to bring people closer to one another much more intimately than even similar life simulator games.


While most players have spent their first few days in Animal Crossing: New Horizons upgrading their homes, hoarding fish, and customizing outfits, some people have taken Nintendo's flagship life sim game in an unexpectedly romantic route.

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Did Nintendo Create COVID-19 to Make "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" the New Way to Socialize?

Could Nintendo really be behind the COVID-19 pandemic?


Why spend your day isolated in quarantine when you can spend it relaxing on a tropical island surrounded by cute talking animals and all of your real-life friends, too?

As if being the first mainline Animal Crossing game to release in over eight years isn't exciting enough already, Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrives at a time when life as we know it has been flipped upside down. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic–characterized by social distancing, food shortages, and rampant joblessness–Nintendo's patent brand of life simulation feels like an all-too-necessary escape to a far better world.

Coronavirus may have been capable of destroying the dream vacation to Japan that I booked in May of 2019 and spent close to a year planning, but when I booted up Animal Crossing: New Horizons on my Switch, everyone at the Nook Inc. travel agency seemed entirely unconcerned about my upcoming flight to a deserted island getaway. Within hours of meeting Tom Nook—the island's tanuki (raccoon in the US version) proprietor who gives out houses with interest-free loans—I had already made friends with my jock squirrel neighbor, Sheldon, eaten a ton of fresh pears, and hoarded roughly 20 fish in tanks stacked outside my tent with plans to start an aquarium.

Animal Crossing New Horizons SheldonNintendo

Animal Crossing is the perfect distraction from everything horrible going on in the real world right now. The aesthetic is overwhelmingly adorable, the island locale is relaxing, and the gameplay experience is entirely tailored to your own inclinations. You can spend your day exploring new islands, hanging out with your animal villagers, or creating custom art to display on your wall. You can also visit your real-world friends' islands and just hang out.

As it turns out, that latter feature is especially useful during a real-world quarantine. During the weekend of the game's launch, I discovered that nearly every one of my friends who owns a Switch had also purchased Animal Crossing—even people I wouldn't expect to play a cutesy life sim game. On Saturday, I visited five different friends' islands to hang out and chat. On Sunday, my friends and I took things to the next level, getting together on the same island and hopping on Discord voice chat so we could all literally talk to each other while fishing and gazing at virtual shooting stars. Amazingly, hanging out in Animal Crossing actually feels like socializing during a time when hanging out in-person isn't possible.

Throughout the weekend, I heard roughly the same sentiment from nearly everyone I met up with in-game: "Animal Crossing couldn't have come out at a more perfect time." I agree wholeheartedly. It's a thought I had many times during the weeks leading up to the game's launch. As the world seemed to crumble around me, as my long-held plans for the coming months fell to the wayside, I kept thinking, "At least Animal Crossing is coming out."

But then something dawned on me, a notion so chilling that it sent...well, a chill down my spine: Animal Crossing: New Horizons is timed so perfectly, that maybe, just maybe, it's too perfect.

If the past few years have taught me anything, it's that the world is a godless sh*tcircus wherein the most stupid, bad faith takes are usually correct and no attribution of evil intentions are ever too far-fetched for humanity's boundless penchant for villainy.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons stands in stark contrast to this worldview. Animal Crossing is good and wholesome, a happy game worth being excited over, a genuine reprieve from everything gross and vile. The laws of the universe practically mandate that, in the midst of a global pandemic, something as pure as Animal Crossing must be secretly tainted. Seeing as the game wasn't delayed, and it really is as great as everyone always wanted it to be, it follows that Animal Crossing's toxicity isn't upfront but, rather, behind the scenes.

It follows that Nintendo was behind the entire COVID-19 pandemic. Their plan? To create a deadly virus forcing humanity into quarantine, with nothing to look forward to other than Animal Crossing. Then, when everyone is playing and realizes that they can hang out in-game, chilling in Animal Crossing: New Horizons will become the new default form of socialization. People, by and large, will never leave their homes again, preferring to live vicariously through their cute little avatars on their happy fictional islands. By this point, Nintendo will have successfully cultivated an army of dependent consumers who will buy whatever Animal Crossing: New Horizons DLC they need in order to maintain their new form of social status.

Yes, I submit that COVID-19 is all about selling DLC.

Tom NookNintendo

The open secret of DLC is that even though gamers constantly complain about how much we hate it, we continue to buy DLC because it adds more content and, by proxy, longevity to our favorite games. On a baser level, in multiplayer games where the DLC is largely cosmetic, we buy DLC to flex on other people by making our accounts look better than theirs.

There are no paid Animal Crossing DLC items yet, but there is a Nook Inc. Silk Rug DLC that you can download if you subscribe to Switch Online (which costs $20 per year and is necessary to hang out with non-local friends in-game). Of course, Nintendo can't just come swinging right out of the gate. They're playing the long-game. That's why they possibly released this pandemic. It's not hard to imagine a future where nobody wants to go to your island to hang out unless you have the coolest new virtual firepit or virtual sound system that you can only get with real money. At that point, when socialization is conducted exclusively through Animal Crossing, your options will be to buy whatever new item Nintendo is shilling or become a social pariah.

In order for Nintendo to make their plan a reality, people need to emotionally fuse themselves with the game. Due to COVID-19, it's working. I wasn't the only person who spent my weekend substituting real-life human interaction with Animal Crossing chill seshes.

All across the Animal Crossing subreddit, users have shared stories of the genuine human interactions they've experienced in-game. People are going on virtual museum dates and connecting with family members from different countries, all from the safety of their own homes. In short, human interaction via Animal Crossing is becoming the new normal.

All of this would be genuinely beautiful if I wasn't so certain that Nintendo engineered the entire thing to sell DLC. Because if Nintendo didn't engineer the whole thing, if Animal Crossing: New Horizons really did just coincidentally come out at the time when it was needed most to provide people with a novel, wonderful means of human connection amidst a crisis, well...that would mean there's still goodness in the world. And if there's still goodness in the world, that means there's also hope that things can get better. I can't accept a reality where it takes a virtual squirrel named Sheldon who always talks about lifting weights to make me recognize that my worldview is flawed. Because if I did, one might say that Animal Crossing has shown me...a New Horizon.

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"Animal Crossing: New Horizons" Has All the QoL Improvements Fans Could Ever Ask For

Terraforming functionality, and mainly the ability to afford a home, ensures that Animal Crossing: New Horizons be better than real life.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

As the first mainline Animal Crossing game to come out since Animal Crossing: New Leaf in 2012, the upcoming March release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a pretty big deal.

On one hand, Animal Crossing games can and should last for a very long time. There's so much to do, from decorating your home to unearthing every fossil to digging holes around your least favorite villager (looking at you, Diva) and chuckling to yourself as they struggle to walk. But eight years is a long time, and eventually you have a decked out mansion, a full museum, and an ideal town with little left to do other than curate your garden.

Thankfully, New Horizons will let players start from scratch on a mostly deserted island, fulfilling every gamer's ultimate fantasy of going from living in a tent to owning their own home––in a town full of cute anthropomorphic animals, no less. But as if Animal Crossing on an island with Switch-generation graphics wasn't a big enough draw already, Nintendo revealed a number of new features in their Animal Crossing: New Horizons Nintendo Direct that seem to fulfill fans' every wish.

For instance, most hardcore Animal Crossing players are familiar with the dreaded map hunt that precedes the true start of a new game. In layman's terms, this is the process of endlessly restarting the game at the beginning to ensure that the randomly generated town map layout has all the right features to maximize space (i.e. beach location, river placement, etc.). New Horizons streamlines the process by...just letting players pick the layout of the island.

Considering how much time people put into designing and curating their town, there are few things worse than having a new villager move in and build their house in the exact wrong spot (who builds their house RIGHT IN FRONT of someone else's house, Diva?). New Horizons has a solution for this, too, allowing players to set up the locations of new villagers' houses in advance of their move.

In fact, almost every new feature in New Horizons seems tailor-made with player customization in mind. Players can now change their skin color, as well as access gender-neutral hair options. Players will get access to terraforming tools, allowing limitless town customization with the ability to turn rivers into solid ground, or vise-versa, and build or destroy hills. There's even compatibility with New Leaf through a new NookLink mobile app that allows players to scan the QR codes from their old custom clothing/art designs and transport them to the new game. Moreover, players looking to expand their custom designs can make QR codes for free online, enhancing their ability to share and import unique creations seamlessly into their gameplay.

Of course, New Horizons also has Amiibo support that promises a photo mode featuring fan-favorite villagers along with other as-of-yet unannounced functionality.

In fact, the only major drawback to New Horizons is Nintendo's decision to tie game saves directly to the Switch console, without the ability to backup data on the Cloud or transfer through an SD card. Moreover, only one island can be built per console, although up to eight different players can create characters on the same island. Perhaps the lack of transfer support comes down to Nintendo wanting to prevent situations where one person in a family transfers data to a new Switch, resulting in every other family member losing access to their island––but somehow that seems rarer than the likelihood of someone simply getting new Switches and being forced to start their entire game over. Still, Nintendo promises to have some sort of backup support available in situations of loss or Switch breakage.

All that being said, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will almost undoubtedly be the definitive Animal Crossing experience, where we can delight in throwing our lives into the void of a happy animal world simulation. Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out on March 20th, but in the meantime, we can gaze longingly at the adorably limited Animal Crossing: New Horizons Edition Switch console which has long been sold out on Amazon.

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"Animal Crossing" Is a Blueprint for Functional Socialism

Animal Crossing New Horizons is sure to push the series' socialist ideology to an even wider audience.

Animal Crossing

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Animal Crossing isn't a game people play for a few hours or days and then set aside; it's a game that people spend months or even years on, tweaking flower beds, rearranging furniture, and doing everything in their power to get Bitty to move out of town.

But when so many people dedicate so much time to a game that essentially boils down to a "living-in-a-town" simulator, it begs the question: What do people get from Animal Crossing that they don't get in the real world?

In the world of Animal Crossing, everyone just kind of exists. The society is clearly not lacking for basic living essentials. Everyone has food and clothes and the means to create more of it whenever necessary. When you want fruit, you go get fruit from a tree. When you want fish, you catch it in the river. Everyone has a shovel for digging, a rod for fishing, and an axe for chopping trees. The world's bounty is at the characters' fingertips, and they realize that for a community to function, they must all strive together for the communal good. Animal Crossing offers more than just simple video game escapism; it's a blueprint for a functional socialist utopia.

Most townsfolk spend their days just like the main character does: hanging out, tending to their flowers, and talking to their neighbors. With their most basic needs presumably taken care of through the efforts of the larger community, they are free to pursue their interests and creative endeavors. Some, like Goose the jock chicken, provide communal services like offering fitness advice to help keep everyone in great shape. Others, like Bob the lazy cat, are fundamentally incapable of working hard, and that's okay, too. Everyone is free to spend their time as they wish.

Of course, the system allows those with extra motivation to work for monetary gain. If the Able sisters want to run a textile business, more power to them. If Kapp'n wants to charge villagers for the opportunity to go out on his boat, he's more than welcome to. Just because bartering is the primary exchange method in society doesn't mean coin can't exist to handle transactions that go above and beyond the essentials. The community doesn't need to share everything––just the basics to allow every villager food, clothes, and a roof over their heads.

Government exists within Animal Crossing, too, but it works towards the greater good of the community. For instance, there's a police station, but its primary directive is to operate the lost and found. As far as we've seen, Copper the police dog holds no punitive power. Similarly, the town has "laws," such as zoning restrictions for where you can build your house, but they're almost entirely practical, designed to prevent your home from abutting the local parade grounds or opening your door into the river. The Animal Crossing political bodies truly function by and for the animals they govern.

But what discussion of Animal Crossing politics could truly be complete without analyzing Tom Nook, the real estating/shopkeeping/money lending tanuki who serves as the player character's primary benefactor in every game? Isn't Tom Nook the very definition of capitalist greed, trapping the player in an endless cycle of debt and home improvements? Well, not really. Tom Nook has no power, whatsoever. There's no government backing him, no corporatist structure for him to thrive off.

Tom Nook gives you a house, upfront, for nothing. Sure, he asks you to pay him back, but he can't enforce those debts outside of refusing to build you a bigger house until you do. There's no time frame for his loan and no interest. In other words, Tom Nook literally just lends you money for nonessential home improvements, and he takes 100% of the risk on his own shoulders knowing full well that you might never pay him back. He's the wealthiest animal in the entire community, and he spends all his time and resources donating those funds in exchange for little-to-no personal gain. If anything, Tom Nook is a shining beacon of the core socialist structure of Animal Crossing's society.

In essence, Animal Crossing paints a picture of a friendly, functional society wherein different species co-exist peacefully with their every basic need provided for in full. The government is run by and for the community, ensuring that the needs of the townsfolk are properly met without ever overstepping or interfering with their private lives. From there, animals have the freedom to pursue their interests, provide communal services, or consolidate wealth. Those who do consolidate wealth tend to invest much of that profit back into the community. It's a system that works and everyone is happy—except Bitty, because she sucks and needs to move.

In the real world, we're stuck in a capitalist nightmare, riddled with government-enforced debt, corrupt politicians, and corporations as people. White supremacism is on the rise. In Animal Crossing, we never need to worry about having fresh food, clean water, or a roof over our heads. A duck and a wolf can be next-door neighbors and everything is totally fine. Both of these options are possible in real life, too (at least if we substitute the duck and wolf for people from different walks of life). Which do you prefer?