Community, creativity, nostalgia: Refresh of “Animal Crossing” recaptures minds of American teens

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Source: Nintendo

"Animal Crossing" originally came out in 2001, but was refreshed and popularized with a new version March 20.

When ninth-grader Nate Greeley finishes his online classes he can’t wait to get out his Nintendo Switch. Turning it on, Nate hears the now-familiar sound of the game’s theme song, a comforting mix of brass and guitar that ushers players into a fictional world of their own design. Since its release in late March, 13.41 million copies of this game have been sold to people like Nate who escape to a virtual world where they can connect with others during a time in which everyone has to stay apart.

After having the game for only 50 days, Nate has clocked over 260 hours of playtime. Somehow, this game is so enjoyable that students like Nate are playing as much as 5 hours a day despite their already packed schedules.

Since its launch on March 20, people around the world have become obsessed with the new Nintendo Switch game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” and many students describe the game as a source of comfort during the uncertain time of the coronavirus pandemic.

 Each player has their own island where they can make friends with animals, known as villagers, and work on home improvement. Gameplay takes place in a vast online world where players can visit each other’s islands and interact in real-time.

The open-ended nature of Animal Crossing makes the game enjoyable to people with all kinds of interests nut.

“It’s more realistic than most games,” ninth-grader Juan Chaides said. “You can focus on building connections with villagers, or you can try to make a lot of money, or just make your home pretty. It’s up to the player.” 

These realistic activities are fun, but perhaps more important is the escape from current sad realities.

 “For me, Animal Crossing has honestly been a great way to sort of escape everything,” junior Gigi Reece said. “It’s just a cute game where nothing bad really happens and I’m in control of my own world.”  

Gigi and other students feel that the domestic, almost boring and mundane, action of the game allows players to feel a sense of control that is hard to find in the time of a pandemic.

It’s just a cute game where nothing bad really happens and I’m in control of my own world.”

— Gigi Reece

For others, the appeal of the game is purely nostalgic. Games in the Animal Crossing series have been out since 2001, so many students have had the chance to play variations of the game while growing up. 

“I’ve played almost all of the Animal Crossing games. The series uses the same characters, so in each new game it feels like I get to reconnect with old friends,” Juan said. 

Juan has focused on traveling to different islands where he encounters different villagers to bring back to his island. He uses the game to pay virtual visits to some of his friends from school, such as Nate and ninth-grader Esme Oliver.

“I love getting to visit my friends in the game, we can talk like normal,” Esme said. “I know that it’s not the same as seeing them in person but we can’t really do that right now.”