It seems that the release of Nintendo’s new game Animal Crossing New Horizons in mid March was created almost exclusively for the scenario of a worldwide lockdown. As we all patiently wait for the hope that the ongoing pandemic will subside and that all of our loved ones remain safe and healthy, Animal Crossing is there to help us get through the tediousness and boredom of staying at home whilst we continue the practice of social distancing. By building a new community of animal friends and exploring the virtual outdoors of a deserted island, the game is successful at replacing at least some of that void and longing for going outside and socialising.
The simple premise of the game has made me into a dedicated fan. Everyday I wake up excited to see my favourite villagers (animals who live on my island) and give them gifts. My favourite villager is a bear cub called Pekoe, and I make sure to gather and buy the most expensive and cutest of items for her, be it clothes, furniture and so on. At this point, I have given her almost all of my most prized virtual possessions just because she is so cute and I want to see her happy face. Today was Pekoe’s birthday and so I began my morning by diligently trudging through online forums for gift ideas and things her character likes. After finding a compiled list and proceeding to my local Able Sisters clothes shop to see if Pekoe’s favourite clothes items were in stock, I finally found a shirt which was number 3 on the list of her favourites! These generous acts have made me realise that I am still capable of enormous sacrifice for the ones I love despite not having a lot of human contact but also the sheer power this game holds over me. My actions in ACNH have also brought up more philosophical questions, primarily – how important is it to be attractive in order to succeed in life? I give Pekoe all of the best things because she is simply so adorable. By contrast, I have built a stone fence around the house of a hamster by the name of Rodney ultimately creating a makeshift prison in an effort to make him disgruntled and encourage him to move out from my island. I do this because Rodney is, objectively, not an attractive character and doesn’t match my aesthetic. I haven’t spoken to him in weeks and the only gift I gave him was probably an old boot I fished out from the sea.
Apart from the escapist nature of the game and my ongoing moral debate on how I treat villagers based on my superficiality, the game also offers a breath of fresh air when it comes to gender politics. I play this game along with my boyfriend with neither of us ever experiencing any prejudice or debating about whether ACNH is targeted towards boys or girls as we both enjoy it equally. When you are first asked to select your onscreen identity, there is no question about which gender you are, simply it is referred to as a style, and it is just as easy to change your style throughout the duration of the game if you so wish. One of my villagers is a boy koala called Gonzo. I like to give him dresses as presents and he enjoys wearing them just as much without putting up any fuss. The villagers can also tell players about their favourite novels or movies which at times centre around love storylines with protagonists of the same gender making homosexual relationships a norm of society.
In short, Animal Crossing New Horizons offers the prototype of what appears to be the most wholesome and inclusive video game yet. As a person who never really enjoyed video games prior to this, Animal Crossing has converted me. There is no set expectation towards you based on your gender, race, sexuality and the game offers an alternative reality to our pandemic with a variety of cute animal villagers (plus Rodney) to cheer up your day and keep your mind off social distancing.
Girl Museum Inc.