There have been a lot of quarantrends over the past 6 months, but one I fell hard and fast for: Animal Crossing.
Sean and I were very lucky to receive a Nintendo Switch for Christmas last year, which means we got one juuuuust in time for Chinese factories to shut down and a worldwide Nintendo Switch shortage to occur. Grateful is an understatement.
I’ve felt all spring and summer like I don’t really have any hobbies, but then I realized that, as sad as it may sound, Animal Crossing is 100% a hobby of mine, and I’m becoming more and more okay with it.
For those who don’t know, Animal Crossing is like The Sims meets Tamagotchi meets Island Tycoon (if Island Tycoon was a real game that branched off of Zoo Tycoon and Roller Coaster Tycoon in the early 2000s). It’s a Nintendo game that’s been around since 2001, but it’s newest iteration, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was releasted juuuust in time for quarantine at the end of March 2020.
The premise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons (or ACNH for short) is pretty simple: you decided to change up your life, so you move to a deserted island with a raccoon named Tom Nook and two animals, who are your new neighbors.
The game follows the time of day and time of year where you are (at least, based on your hemisphere, which you set at the beginning, and the time and date settings on your device), so if it’s night in real life, it’s night on your island. And in summer in real life, it’s summer on your island. Now that it’s September, I’ve noticed my trees start to change color; I’m really excited for them all to turn red, orange, and yellow!
It’s an open-ended game, meaning there’s no “winning.” (Though there is a point when the credits roll, and Sean loves to bother me by exclaiming “ooh you won!”). You could honestly play the game forever; or at least until your Switch stopped working and Nintendo stopped supporting the game.
You spend a bunch of time doing “chores,” shaking fruit from trees, fishing, catching bugs, and selling things to two other raccoons named Timmy and Tommy in exchange for Bells, the island currency. You can eventually expand to have 10 neighbors, a shop, a tailor, a museum, and whatever else you want to build on your island.
There are so many aspects to Animal Crossing that there’s no one “way” to play the game. You could focus on catching all of the fish and bugs and fossils to fill up your museum, you could build out every aspect of your island from restaurants to movie theatres, or you could focus on the inside of your house and turn it into a brewery.
I’ve been doing a pretty solid mix of all of the above on my island, Caitland (yes really), since I started playing the game in April. I’ve gotten my island up to a 5-star rating (out of 5 stars) and have a neighborhood for me and my 10 neighbors, a pool, a gym, a carnival, a cafe, a smoothie bar, a movie theatre, and a dope museum with a t-rex, triceratops, and stegosaurus outside.
But what I love the most is the social aspect. You only have so many things available to you, because Nook’s Cranny (the creepy name of Timmy and Tommy’s shop) only has so many items per day, and you only unlock so many DIY recipes at a time, so it takes some time and effort to find everything you need to build what you want.
But if you add your friends to your Nintendo Online account, you can send each other things! One of my coworkers is working on a jazz lounge, so I’ll send her instruments when they’re available in my shop. When I was working on my carnival, she found a street organ in her shop and sent it to me.
Plus, your friends can visit your island in the game and take a tour. I haven’t had a bunch of friends visit yet, but it’s been a blast when I have!
So while my quarantine hobby may not be sewing or cross-stitch or painting or baking like I want it to be, I can also feel confident that I do, in fact, have a hobby that I really enjoy. And that’s something to celebrate.
If you play Animal Crossing, send me a DM on Instagram with your friend code so you can visit Caitland!