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Keeping Spirits Up with Animal Crossing’s New Horizons

By Destiny Anderson, Social Media Coordinator

What better way to cheer yourself and your friends up than by hanging out with some cool animals on a beach?

Several Moore students got together on April 20 for a night of cuteness on recent Fashion Design graduate Jasmine Schulte’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons island as part of Moore’s Spirit Week celebrations.

New Horizons’ surge to popularity has left many people asking: What IS Animal Crossing? Contrary to popular belief, no, you don’t have to defeat Tom Nook, and, yes, Gulliver is OK.

 Animal Crossing is a long-running social simulation video game series, with its first self-titled game released in 2001. Players have gotten to know countless animals of varying personality types, such as lazy cats (author’s note: Punchy is the best boy), sisterly deer and smug squirrels. Players can invite the quirky characters to live in their village, leading to wholesome bonding and the occasional neighborly spat between clashing personality types.

The game has gained a cult following through the years. Allison Warren ’20, who graduated from Moore with a BFA in Illustration, began her Animal Crossing journey with Animal Crossing: Wild World, released on the Nintendo DS in 2005.

“I had two copies of Wild World because I got so upset about deleting my other village,” Warren recalls. “I had to swap back and forth between both of my towns. I’m sure they’re both a ghost town by now.”

OLD AND NEW

Players were reunited with many familiar names in Animal Crossing: New Leaf in 2012. Animation & Game Arts major Madi Diaz ’21 got her start in the Animal Crossing franchise with New Leaf and prides herself in being well-versed in Animal Crossing knowledge.

“I was pretty into the internet community for Animal Crossing,” Diaz said.

While the game was long a console exclusive, Animal Crossing eventually came to the mobile gaming world with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp in 2017. This free game gave many new players the opportunity to join the fray, such as Graphic Design major Brooke Friend ’21.

“I wanted to test it out and see what everyone was talking about. I am now addicted and check on it multiple times throughout the day,” Friend admits.

The franchise is now back with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released in March 2020 on the Nintendo Switch. This installment of Animal Crossing invites players to create their own personal island paradise on a deserted island. Players can build their own expansive homes (through loans from the infamous Tom Nook); decorate their islands and design their own clothing options; and search for building supplies and collectibles, such as rare famous art pieces to display in their island’s museum. As of April 26, 2020, New Horizons has sold over 13 million units, eclipsing the lifetime sales of all past installments within its first six weeks of release.

Many players go on crusades to acquire their “dreamies”—their favorite villagers that they dream of having on their island. Some villagers have gained infamy for their rise to fame—such as newcomer Raymond, who was first introduced into the series with New Horizons—while other villagers have a love-hate reputation for being “less adorable.”

Players can acquire new characters by exploring other islands, or they can hope their favorites coincidentally visit the campsite on their island. Many hardcore players conduct trading of villagers who are moving away, exchanging them in a trade with another player or for other in-game items.

Sometimes, though, luck strikes at unexpected times, as in Madi Diaz’s case.

"One time I was talking to [my friend] Noelle about how much I wanted Astrid, and then she moved in!” Diaz shared. Astrid is a star-covered kangaroo, which Diaz says is her favorite type of animal villager.

CONNECTING

For many, New Horizons couldn’t have come out a better time. In the era of social distancing, the game has presented a great opportunity to connect with friends.

“I like to have people over at my town!” Diaz said, who’s connected with fellow Moore students and other friends via the game. “I have friends over, and we play hide and seek.”

Players have built many fond memories in the game, with activities such as playing hide-and-seek, admiring in-game designs created by their friends and chatting with their friends’ villagers.

“Me and my friends have a lot of inside jokes in the game, so it can be really funny for us,” said Warren. “I’d like to say it’s pretty relaxing and can get us in a great mood.”

Many players agree that the game proves to be a relaxing distraction from current world happenings.

“It's fun and lighthearted and keeps my mind off things for a little while,” Friend said. While Pocket Camp doesn’t allow for as many chat opportunities with other players within the game, players often build anonymous relationships with users around the world as they quietly water strangers’ flowers, buy their produce and visit other players’ campsites.

Animal Crossing’s ever-growing online community has also seen a large influx of fan art. Friend paid homage to her favorite villager, Molly, with a cheerful journal entry featuring stickers reminiscent of many Pocket Camp facets. Others have joined the popular internet art trend of re-imagining some of their favorite villagers as humans, which Madi Diaz did. She illustrated kangaroo villagers Astrid and Sylvia as humans, and she didn’t leave out their joeys, either!

The game’s lighthearted and beautiful nature has been a peaceful escape for many, but some have decided to spin their creativity in a different direction, such as Warren. Warren created a horror-themed art piece, featuring her in-game avatar and a certain special guest.

“In my three previous runs of Animal Crossing, I always made beautiful, pretty towns,” she said. “For New Horizons, I wanted to go for a dark theme.” Warren created an entire storyline told in diary format on the bulletin board. Her unique island concept has also attracted attention, such as the time she was featured on a 2,000-viewer Twitch live-stream.

“It was hosted by a YouTuber named Quackity as he came to my island, just to be chased around,” Warren said. “This inspired me to draw my piece for him.”

For those who may be considering joining the world of Animal Crossing, Warren offered some words of wisdom.

“Get the teacup ride,” Warren said. It's an inside joke.

Published on May 29th, 2020