The Best Way to Cope with Quarantine? Animal Crossing.

Kayla Oh

As people try to get used to spending most of their hours at home, concerns have been rising about social distancing’s effect on mental health. The looming dread of the disease’s unknown impact can worsen anxiety and depression. For those who already had an issue with leaving their house, quarantine can restrict people from doing activities that otherwise give them a sense of comfort, especially during difficult times. 

Luckily, there seems to be a game that couldn’t have been released at a more perfect time: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. A game that consists of you doing mostly mundane tasks to develop a quiet deserted island and transform it into a quaint town. And while that may not sound as appealing at first, it has caused a craze on social media as social distancing starts to affect more people’s lives. 

Notably, this is the first staple game in the Animal Crossing series that lets you fully customize your character from the beginning. While that may not seem like a big deal, it makes all the difference considering that this is a life simulation game. By having no restrictions on what your character can look like, it allows people of all identities to enjoy the island experience. For example, you can have a feminine character with short hair or a masculine character with eyelashes. Not to mention that your character wears neutral clothes at the very beginning, allowing trans and non-binary people to be comfortable with the appearance of their character right from the start. 

As soon as I booted up the game, I immediately knew I was in for something special once I realized that I wasn’t moving in alone. Each island starts with two villagers who are along with the ride as everyone tries to settle in. Meanwhile, Tom Nook, the proprietor of your island getaway package, helps you find a place to set camp, which eventually becomes a permanent house. One of the recurring things in the series is paying off your home loans to Nook. While there is no official goal set in the game, you’re encouraged to take care of your island and make it your own, while also interacting with your fellow villagers.

Easily my favorite thing about the game is the museum. If you didn’t know, one of the essential qualities of the game is collecting bugs, fish, and fossils that happen to spawn in your town. You have the option of selling them or donating them to the museum, where the latter feels much more rewarding as you start building a personal collection. I’ve always been a nerd for zoology, but I think anyone can appreciate the beauty of all the virtual animals that you’re surrounded in. While my museum is mostly empty for now, I absolutely plan to fill it 100% over the year to get that special sense of achievement. 

I would say that one of the highlights is being able to enjoy the game with friends from all over the world. As long as you have online play, anyone else who owns the game can visit each other and experience people’s islands; whether they already have a mansion or still live in their humble tent, the fact that you can interact with people in a “real life” setting certainly touches at an aspect that we’re all missing in life right now.

I think however, the most important thing about the game is the sense of community it has you feel. Your villagers are reflections of real people that everyone seems to know. They spread rumors, get into fights, but also appreciate the presence of others, constantly exchanging gifts and even sending you letters. And just like real people, they can move on and leave your town. But it’s clear that they count on you to make their home the best it can be, and the appreciation is clearly shown. Personally, I’ve been quite fond of Mira not just for her fashion sense, but also because of how headstrong she is while also being just soft hearted enough to talk passionately about her mom.

The fact that you get a sense of familiarity and routine, yet Whether it’s fishing, organizing your house, paying off your debt, or simply taking a stroll, Animal Crossing: New Horizons provided for me, and many, many others, a bit of what was taken away from us: normalcy.