Opinion: Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the Virtual Escapism We Needed

The opening menu screen for Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks into the relaxed world of the game. Animal Crossing: New Horizons released March 20, shortly after coronavirus was declared as a pandemic (Photo by Samantha Semerau).

On March 16, all of Albion College’s courses moved online to protect students from the spread of COVID-19. Just a week and a half later, Albion’s residential facilities closed following Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe order, which forced most students to return home and resume classes from there. 

Though necessary, it is no secret that these stay-at-home orders issued in almost every state have had a negative impact on us and our mental health. It seems that at every corner we turn, there is more bad news about COVID-19, and we are left isolated from those we love. 

Whether you are feeling trapped at home, worried about a friend or family member fighting on the front lines or know someone with the virus, COVID-19 has created a sense of fear and dread unlike any we have known before. That is why escapism, as temporary as it is, is more important now than ever. 

Having something to take your mind off the virus is just as important as taking a break from both work and coronavirus-related news. There is no better place to escape than to an island customized to your liking and filled with friends.

That is exactly what Nintendo offered when they released their latest installment in the Animal Crossing series, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” on Mar. 20. The game, which is sold exclusively for the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite, is the epitome of escapism in a time of uncertainty. 

The game begins with your customized character arriving with two additional residents for a deserted island getaway package. You begin with tents but build your way up to having a full fledged village, complete with additional homes for new residents, a museum and retail stores. 

Everyone you encounter along the way, as the game’s title suggests, is an animal. Residents represent six different species of animals, and the other characters can vary. Each new character you meet offers their own unique personality and appearance, and you will likely find yourself picking favorites. 

In addition to these virtual friends, with the purchase of a Nintendo Switch Online membership, you and your friends can visit each other’s islands. In times of social distancing, when it is more possible to feel isolated than ever, a simple trip to a friend’s island can work in place of a day out together. 

Without the online membership, you can still have fun on your own. There are constantly bugs to catch, fishes to reel in, seasonal events to celebrate and objects to craft. For the first time in the series, players are able to craft their own objects in addition to buying them. Whether it is objects to decorate your in-game home or constructing better tools to navigate the island, this new game mechanic will always keep busy. 

If you’re not happy with your island, the game gives you multiple options of customization. In addition to building your own furniture, you are able to change certain aspects of it, including the color of the wood or the pattern on the fabric. For the first time in the series, you are able to change the layout of the town using land and water building tools. These new options for customization offer something for every player, both old and new. 

Every few weeks offers something new for your island via free updates from Nintendo. This past week wrapped up the Bunny Day event, where players were encouraged to search for eggs on their islands and use them to build furniture and clothes. The next upcoming event is Earth Day, which will arrive along with some new features on April 22. 

As reality becomes harder to come to terms with every day, we all need something to lift our minds from the endless cycle of gloom and the stress of finals. For those that already have a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite, consider escaping to a deserted island getaway.

About Sam Semerau 45 Articles
Sam Semerau is an Albion alum from Oakland Twp., Mich. She double majored in English and History. She worked for the Pleiad from spring 2020 to spring 2022 and served as editor-in-chief for the 2021-2022 school year. She began Pace University's MS in Publishing program during fall 2022.

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