Animal Crossing saves student from quarantine boredom

So, this year has been weird. In the last seven months, many of us have spent more time alone than ever before, and as much as arts and entertainment can be a great way to bond in person, they are just as important when we’re stuck in our rooms. This term, I’m going to be asking Lawrentians what piece of art or media has gotten them through quarantine and what captured their imagination or made them feel less alone during these hard times. From the silly reasons to the serious ones, why is it important to them?

In the days before COVID, there was a lot of noise on Twitter about a new Nintendo Switch game that was coming out. I’m not sure If you’ve heard of it. It’s called, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” The internet was HYPE for this and many were lamenting that they couldn’t play it as much as they wanted to because they had school or work in the weeks after its release. Funny how those things work out, huh. In the lonely days since then, tons of my friends have been glued to their Switches, selling turnips, visiting each other’s islands and interacting with the animals that call them home. In my endeavor to talk to people about their quarantine binge I knew I had to find out more.

I sat down with Gaming House’s senior Sofie Schwartz to learn more about Animal Crossing and how it helped her get through isolation. “Animal Crossing is a franchise made by Nintendo,” Schwartz explained. “I think the first game was on the Game Cube, and I played it with my brother when I was really little.” With the nostalgia factor hitting hard, she was really excited for this new version, one with new features and a “better quality of life” for her villagers. Schwartz then went on saying she likes that her villagers now have to ask before moving out but quickly stopped, exclaiming, “Oh, I didn’t explain the game!” and filled me in accordingly.

Animal Crossing centers around a deserted island you, the player, moves to. There, you meet the animal people who reside there. “They’re all animals, but I’m not . . . I’m not sure what the lore is there, but we all live together, and it’s great,” Schwartz cracked up. On your island, you build the best life and environment for you and your fellow villagers. You can plant crops, build and decorate houses and hold events on your island, among a plethora of other activities.

 Schwartz loves the new options and dimensions added to Animal Crossing in “New Horizons.” “You can place furniture outside and even terraform and make landforms on your island,” Schwartz said excitedly. “It’s much more of a personalized experience than any of the previous Animal Crossing games have been.” These new facets of the game subsequently make it very time consuming, which, during quarantine, gave Schwartz a whole new world to dive into when the four walls of her bedroom seemed to be collapsing in. “It’s such a happy place!” she exclaimed about her island, which, by the way she named “Wholesome Island.” She can show how proud she is of her masterpiece by inviting friends to visit through the social aspects of Animal Crossing. Visiting other friends’ islands also serves as an education for her. Schwartz explained, “I can see my friends’ islands and see how theirs are different and get ideas and inspiration, and also, I get to see like, what they decided to represent on their island.”

It’s the wholesome creativity of Animal Crossing that really captures Schwartz’s imagination. “You can design so many different spaces that are all what you want them to be so there is nothing uncomfortable or frightening about it,” she explained. “You can just build spaces that you feel happy in.” She also found joy in interacting with the many villagers on her island. “In a time where we can’t see people in our lives, I really bonded with these imaginary villagers,” Schwartz explained. “It was nice to just talk with my animal buddy who lives next door.”

The online Animal Crossing community has also been a great new resource for Schwartz. She has visited the islands of people she doesn’t even know in real life to trade items or interact with new animal villagers. “The game itself is built around community and being happy and cute all the time,” according to Schwartz, “and I think that inspires the fans to approach the game that way as well.” 

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” has been a happy and healthy form of entertainment for Schwartz during quarantine, and if you, like her, are interested in getting involved with Animal Crossing on campus, there’s a thread in the Gaming Club discord for that! You can email mcgeej@lawrence.edu to get an invite!

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