You would’ve heard of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons If you’re even remotely plugged into pop-culture. But what’s with the hype? And why does the hype keep building? If like me, you’re not attuned to the attraction of what is arguably 2020’s most popular video game title, you can rest easy in the fact that you are not alone. Though it’s probably best you get yourself across it before Dodo Airlines leave you behind (that’s an Animal Crossing reference, it’ll make sense by the end of this).
Animal Crossing at a glance
You begin by creating a highly-customisable avatar featuring a ridiculously large head who’s dropped on to an untouched island, and your avatar is joined by a group of racoons (stay with me here). The aim of the game is to make the island your home by farming the natural resources and trading them within the raccoons’ economy. There is a raccoon leader called Tom Nook, and you’re paid in a currency called Bells or Nook Miles—safe to say this Nook character has a lot of pull around the place.
There are plenty of ways to interact with the habitat around you; you can grow things, go fishing, catch bugs and make friends with your penguin neighbour. The game plays out in real-time, meaning life inside Animal Crossing continues whether you’re plugged in or not. There are seasons, changing weather patterns, and night and day. Much of Animal Crossing is familiar and predictable to real life, which is part of the charm.
For the tl;dr version: think an undeniably pleasant social simulation game like The Sims, but you inhabit your own island and your head is huge.
Are there other players in the game?
Animal Crossing shares similarities with current gaming trends in that you can interact with other users. Sort of like how Call of Duty and other first-person shooters have a battle royale, except far more peaceful and bucolic.
Up to eight other players can reside on the same island, however, you can visit other players on their island to give them a hand with their harvesting, to check out their digs or simply to just hang out on the beach with them—it’s all very cathartic.
How do you visit other players’ islands?
Your island comes stock with an airport which is operated by dodo birds who run an airline called Dodo Airlines. You can purchase your flights to take you anywhere inside the Animal Crossing ecosystem with your Nook Miles.
You can join more than one player at a time. Birthday parties have become a common celebration within Animal Crossing, but the occasions are more or less unlimited given that almost everything can be customised and tailored to your liking.
What else happens inside Animal Crossing?
So far, we’ve barely scratched the surface. The exponential hype for Animal Crossing can be partly attributed to how significantly customisable your experience is, and more likely that it was released just prior to COVID-19 kicking in. People have found themselves with a lot of time on their hands, and they’ve been putting it to use inside the game.
Some have created stunning renditions of the cartoon Sailor Moon, others have meticulously recreated scenes from neo-cult classic film The Lighthouse and larger organisations have even hosted virtual events. More recently, major fashion and streetwear publisher Hypebae just held an invite-only fashion show; check the recap here.
Celebs have got involved, too, with Sting releasing his latest single via his in-game avatar. Wild.
How do you clock Animal Crossing?
The short answer is that you can’t.
Animal Crossing isn’t so much about winning as it is existing. Sure, some will relish in their extravagant abodes they’ve spent months building within the game, whereas others will be equally as pleased with the number of turnips they've accumulated through successful trading methods. It’s best seen as an experience of whimsical escapism that you can invest minutes or months into.
Still not sold?
The pace of Animal Crossing: New Horizons may not be for everyone, but with 13 million copies being sold across the world, Nintendo has done something right.
Origins of the game can be traced back to its debut in 2001 on Nintendo 64, and while the original title—along with its five sequels and three spin-offs—have been met with some success, it appears Animal Crossing: New Horizons dropped at a time where people needed it most. With life returning to normal, however, only time will tell if people will continue to embrace their humble, island existence inside the screen.
Looking for more ways to pass the time? Check out our Entertainment section.
Image credit: Nintendo