Need a Break From Reality? Play Animal Crossing

A screenshot of two characters in Animal Crossing
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Animal Crossing became massive quarantine fodder during the first lockdown in March 2020. It was hard not to miss all the memes and tweets about a capitalist racoon and his over-worked colleague Isabelle. I was keen to buy the game and become an island resident, however, I didn’t think the lockdown would last long so I convinced myself I didn’t need another video game

More than a year later and Sydney was put into another lockdown, and we all know how that turned out. So I decided that this was the perfect time to buy Animal Crossing. Since installing it and picking out my G-rated island name, I have been so enamoured by this game.

Animal Crossing is pretty straightforward: you agree to live on a deserted island owned by Tom Nook, CEO of Nook Inc. and now your island overlord. He gives you a house but you have to pay it off in the island currency of bells.

Once you’ve paid off the first of many extortionate home loans through selling fruit, shells, hot items and planting money trees, you can expand your home and grow your island. The aim is to earn a five-star rating for your island so Tom Nook can convince doggy singer and celebrity K.K. Slider to host a concert there. 

From there you can really do whatever you want. For me, that’s one of the best, and most overwhelming, things about Animal Crossing — you can build and design the island any way you like, there are no rules! 

Search YouTube for Animal Crossing videos and you’ll see nearly endless opportunities. You can create a Halloween-themed island or an overgrown island filled to the brim with flowers and shrubs. Some of my favourite Animal Crossing creators are LexPlay and consolecaito, who post lots of building and decorating walk-through videos.

During the lonely days of lockdown and pining for a pint in a pub, I would instead jump on my Nintendo Switch Lite (the superior console, don’t @ me) and hang out with my island friends. Interacting with them gave me some light comedy relief as some of the computed reactions and conversations were a bit bonkers. 

For instance, if you spoke to an island inhabitant more than once in a gameplay it might say something like “I am certain you are stalking me.” 

I have also witnessed a conversation between two residents who were fighting about whether one of the villagers should be living on my island because they are “too city and not country enough.” Between you and me, the city slicker in question did have aspirations to become a superstar and my island was only a small pond, but only I can say who stays and who goes on my island.

Speaking of the villagers, they have a knack for bursting into song at a moment’s notice, squeaking a tuneless solo. If you have instruments and play them around the singers, they’ll join in and together you’ll create a makeshift band — it’s no K.K. Slider, but it gives us something to do. 

During those long days sitting at home, I found out my sister-in-law also played Animal Crossing. This was both a blessing and a curse as it fuelled my addiction even further. If you looked at our text messages today, they would mostly be about this game. 

It was so lovely sitting on the phone for hours at a time visiting each other’s islands and gossiping about our least favourite residents. But the best thing was being able to catch up and do a mental health check-in with each other while we played. There’s something therapeutic about stealing your friend’s apples while having D&Ms. 

Now that I’ve been playing for a good five months, you would think the game has become a bit stale, but I’m still logging on every day, digging for fossils and shaking my money tree. Animal Crossing is getting a big 2.0 update in November that’s adding features like a cafe called The Roost, new designer tools and new items to buy with Nook Miles. While I’m excited for the update, some are tut-tutting at the developers’ tardiness for adding these things to the game.

I also want to use this time to send some love to Isabelle, Tom’s right-hand dog at the Town Hall who works tirelessly all day and night to make sure our island life is the best it can be. You’ll find her either cleaning or asleep at her desk. Thankfully, with the new updates, she can visit the cafe and treat herself to a coffee and a well-deserved break. 

If you have a Switch and need some light, wholesome and addictive entertainment, download Animal Crossing. After a few sessions you won’t be able to get the music out of your head, just like everyone else. 

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