An Island of your own…
During the pandemic, one game in particular defined our desire for virtual connection: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) by Nintendo.
According to VentureBeat, ACNH "sold over 13.41 million copies in its first six weeks." 🤯
In case you still don't know what all the fuss is about, here you go...
Nintendo explains ACNH as "Your ticket to a relaxing stress free life," offering the player access to a whole "community."
With its soothing, colorful environment and peaceful music, the game allows you to play "your way at your own pace." You are "free to do what you like."
It’s truly an island of your own. Your custom creation. A creative delight.
And here’s the TL;DR on Animal Crossing:
It’s this delightful escapism, controlling our digital islands in a chaotic world, which draws so many to ACNH — and still does.
It’s an Animal Crossing world!
The following for ACNH is massive.
Just enter the #ACNH hashtag on Twitter to get a glimpse. Here's one Tweet to give you a flavor of the community...
You can even make custom clothing and furniture for yourself. If you follow the #ACNHdesigns hashtag, you will find a plethora of Etsy-like digital offerings...
ACNH allows players to visit others islands so they can be "be inspired" by a friend's original creation. No two islands are identical, each one a microcosm of the player's individuality.
And Nintendo keeps releasing new updates to Animal Crossing to keep us coming back:
Snorkeling and diving for sea creatures.
Seasonal outfits and themes.
Super Mario-themed furniture and outfits!
And now players can share their virtual island as a poster or tour with Nintendo’s Island Tour Creator.
Now, over a year later, many are still exploring, harvesting, and communing on their islands.
Looking back at our love of Animal Crossing during the pandemic offers some insight and encouragement as we embrace our lives right now.
Escape to the Island!
During social isolation, ACNH allowed kids, teens, and adults — yes, those big kids too — to form their own digital utopias within the reality of COVID-19 stress.
Dr. Pete Etchells published a piece on Animal Crossing for the BBC's Science Focus Magazine. In it, he explores the ACNH phenomenon and why people are playing it in droves.
He offers two big reasons:
The game itself is a portal, what he calls a "sanctuary," where we can "escape from our worries and impose a little order on some small aspect of our lives."
And I think that part is huge: imposing order in a world that feels chaotic. Players have total control over their island utopias. They can...
Choose the location of their homes
Build their own items
Plant what they want to plant, and
Visit whomever they want to visit
Regarding "Self-Determination Theory," Dr. Etchells explains it comes down to a few main elements: "autonomy, competence and relatedness."
In other words, ACNH offers a respite for players to do what they want and to be who they want to be.
As well, the game is easy to pick-up and to start playing, Thus, it’s been a balm. An oasis from loneliness during the stresses of 2020 and now 2021.
Animal Crossing: Be human in an island world
Since we suffered the pandemic pains of social isolation for so long, it’s no wonder Animal Crossing has been a timely runaway success.
Thought its popularity may fade, I believe it carries a strong metaphor for our current state.
Here’s three lessons this simple and charming game taught me….
1. EMBRACE THE JOY OF HUMILITY
Animal Crossing is a humbling game. You start off in a tent and have to use the island’s resources to grow your home.
But, you also have to share those resources with others. Hoarding things actually takes away from the fun of Animal Crossing.
There’s also a lot you have no control over in the game:
Time marches on (unless you mess with your Switch’s internal clock).
Islanders move, eat, and talk without your say-so.
Trees drop fruit. Fish appear in the deep. And roaches will invade your home if left untended.
Animal Crossing is a reminder of our humble position in the universe and this world. We didn’t create it, nor can we control it.
This honest-to-goodness realization is humbling and freeing.
2. APPRECIATE OTHERS & BUILD COMMUNITY
Animal Crossing lets you create bonds with fellow islanders, each a cute animal character.
But it’s the bonds with real humans we missed so dearly during the pandemic.
Though ACNH is a delight to play, it can never replace those we love. So, here are some ways to increase those real bonds right now:
Schedule a board game night over ZOOM or in person.
Join a new community of people who love what you love. Maybe it’s books, nerdy games, church, or wind surfing.
Allow yourself to emote with others in person or over the phone. Laugh, cry, and joke-around with them.
Find an exercise buddy who can challenge you throughout the week.
Resist the temptation to play video games until 2 AM (at least not every night 😉). Take care of your body and sleep well. Boundaries totally help with how you connect with and enjoy other people.
3. KNOW YOUR PART IN THIS CRAZY WORLD
Lastly, ACNH imitates the beautiful world we share.
The game’s mechanics, how you build and tear-down, affect the other islanders.
If, for example, you decide to terraform your entire island and get rid of all water sources, you’ll never find freshwater fish again.
If you hack down all your trees and never plant again, then your islanders (whom you’ve probably ignored anyways) will leave for a better place.
Though ACNH is a silly utopian getaway, it’s a microcosm of the world we share.
Likewise, reflect on your part in the broader world. How you care for others right now will have lasting effects beyond the pandemic, beyond this year.
For the journey...
Here at Techless, we are dedicated to enjoying technology in a pure and simple® way. As much as we love our computers and video games, we know human flourishing is the most important thing.
We look forward to seeing you on the other side of this pandemic, digital islands and personal lives flourishing. 🏝️😊