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Column: Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the perfect game for a quarantine

April 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to my senior year, and made my ongoing, post-graduation job search more challenging. Many members of Michigan State’s senior class are dealing with similar issues, and I’m only one of many students trying to make the best of this situation.

Amid everything else happening, the pandemic has triggered an incredible demand for the Nintendo Switch. Most major retailers like Target and Best Buy have had their in-store stock cleaned out. The console is also sold out on Amazon, and the only available way to buy one on the site is from third-party sellers for $130 over MSRP.

To go with their system, most new Switch owners are picking up the latest installment in Nintendo’s social-simulator series — Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The game is already breaking sales records in Japan. While global sales figures aren’t known yet, it’s reasonable to assume the game is performing similarly in other countries.

Many video game news outlets pegged New Horizons as one of the most anticipated games of 2020. Still, it’s already apparent that the title is an overwhelming success after only one week on the market.

If you’ve never played an Animal Crossing game, the hype and social response that New Horizons has received might be hard to understand.

As concisely as I can put it:

The premise of every installment in the series involves a player-controlled human moving to a new town populated by a collection of friendly, anthropomorphic animals.

Once you’re settled, you work to pay off your mortgage to a tanuki named Tom Nook. Meanwhile, you improve your town through relaxing tasks like fishing, catching bugs and growing flowers.

New Horizons refreshes the series’ formula by starting the player off on a deserted island with Tom Nook. Unlike past games, the player builds their village from the ground up. You recruit your fellow villagers as you see fit and make your village your own through a deep customization system.

One of the lesser talked-about points of the game’s design is the lack of a finish line. There’s no final boss or level that you have to beat, and there’s no point when the game is “over.” Instead of challenging the player, Animal Crossing provides them with a peaceful escape from the real world.

It’s not a complex game. You don’t need to be constantly checking game wikis to make sure you’re doing the right thing. You can play how you want and for as long as you want without really getting bored.

It’s easy to sink time into the game while working or completing schoolwork from home. Unintentionally, Nintendo created the perfect game for a stay-in-place quarantine.

I’ve spent a good amount of time with the game since its March 20 release. The daily cycle of improving life on my own island and checking in on my friends’ villages has proven to be a nice way to take my mind off of things not within my control right now.

From my perspective, the strange set of conditions New Horizons was released under has allowed the game and its community to flourish in an incredibly short period of time. In the past two weeks, the ability for people around the world to interact with their communities has been severely limited. For some, New Horizons has helped fill that void for the time being.

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