Animal Crossing has taken the world by storm this last year. Throughout these months of social distancing and staying inside, the newest version of this game has kept spirits high. There have been more online downloads in a single month than any other game. Not only does Animal Crossing provide an escape from the millions of problems in everyday life, but it also gave gamers a world of their own to build and live in. Japanese creator, Katsuya Eguchi, wanted to create a game in which community, friendship, and family relationships were the central focus after feeling isolated from his family when he went to work at Nintendo. Throughout 2020, many people were in that boat. We all took something different away from Animal Crossing, New Horizons, what have you learned?
i: timing is everything
This game runs in real-time, making every day a new adventure. Special guests can come to your island and give you rare items to personalize your space. This can be either a seasonal
visit or a random visit. Seeing these characters come and go reminds me that you always have something to look forward to and that as people come and go, you can still create lasting relationships with them. You never know what you could learn from each character.
This also means that the shops are only open for business hours. When you are trying to build your island, the Nook shop is one of your biggest allies. Using resources from the island, Timmy and Tommy will trade whatever you sell to them for a certain amount of Bells, the game's currency. You build up your wealth by selling fruit, fossils, shells, and other loved items to the Nook store.
I think about what Tom Nook would say if he saw his nephews buying back these little shells and irrelevant things to pay off the $500,000 house payment to live in a place that I created. It makes me chuckle. Profits that come from your grind can be spent in the Nook shop, The Able Sisters shop, and to the guests that come in on your island.
Every day there are new items and clothing in the shops, so visiting them is also on the daily agenda. Sometimes there are rare items that only come around once in a blue moon. Sometimes they appear too early in your journey and you don't have the funds for them yet. It's a mental practice of "where you are is exactly where you are supposed to be". These items will show themselves again once you are ready.
ii: progress is slow and patience is a virtue
When you first put in the game, you are taken to this deserted island in which you sleep in a
tent with a cot, a cardboard box, and a lantern. You're finally roughing it, you're out there doing the damn thing, right? There are certain milestones that you reach that show the progress you are making in the early stages of the game, but at you reach that 3-star rating,
there are less immediate gratification events. It can be a little bit daunting when you finally ask what to do and Mr. Nook (basically) says "you've done it! You'll do great out there!". Now that I have a 5-star island (like a B minus 5-Star island) the screenshots of my first couple hours of playing, it's hardly even recognizable. It's incredible to see the progress made knowing that the island literally had nothing on it before. The houses and buildings are all built from the resources collected on the island. It reminds me that I am continually growing and working towards my goals even when it feels like progress is slow going.
iii: the value of your labor
the only income you have is selling what you shake off trees, you start to learn how long each trip takes, how much you make from each trip, and how you can make each trip more efficient. You realize which items are worth selling and what doesn't make the cut. Just like in real life, as you start to do something more and more, you develop a routine in it. When you look at that from a small business/freelance perspective, it can be easy to undercharge for your product or service because you are used to that routine. You have to remember that anyone can create something incredible, but what's incredible is your version of that. It's so rewarding to know that you created this piece and that you worked hard to produce your desired results.
iv: not everything is what it seems
Since this game came out, so many people have built some incredible custom islands. People have made whole cities based on places in real life. I visited an island that resembled
Disneyworld's Magic Kingdom, one that had the Pyramids of Giza and a marketplace that took great inspiration from Cario. These places have the same items that everyone else has, but they have found a new and unconventional way to use them. This is important to remember in the workplace and everyday life.
This game has been out long enough for people to start finding more uses for some of the items in the game. Online, users are sharing tips and tricks on what you could use for decoration on your island. Flipping a climbing wall around makes for a great outdoor wall, drink machines behind a counter make it look like a fun party bar, and sometimes it's like these villagers know much much more than us.
v: capitalism is the worst
Tom Nook has been on the headlines for quite a while. "Capitalist crook" they call them. There does seem to be something sketchy with bringing me to a deserted paradise and then making me take out a loan after the NookMile was introduced. I get that part of the issue, however, Nook seems to be doing more good to the endeavors of Esperanza (or whatever you call your island). He connects you to Blathers who is able to come out and be your museum curator and researcher, he supplies you with the tools to expand and build your setting, he supplies the labor and materials for upgrading your house, the shop, bridges, inclines, and
plans all of the community events.
It's nice to have someone to take care of each of these things, it's nice to know that it is possible to freelance and build something incredible without having a "real job". Because everything you forage for has capital, you can essentially do whatever you want. Some people are really into fishing so they fish a lot, some participate in the turnip trade, I like to make the majority of my bells by farming. I'm also a big advocator for tree shaking.
vi: be the change you want to see
Every time a bridge or incline is finished, the majority of the credit can go to you. All of the villagers seem to just be enjoying the island while you're out there busting your butt shaking trees and selling shells. You've gotta work hard and stay resilient.
The nicest part about your villagers not really doing anything around the island is the fact that they can't mess up your design. After you get K.K. Slider to come to your island, you will unlock the terraforming tool. At that point, the only limit to what you can do is your imagination. Then you can really start to enjoy the hard work you have achieved. If you want something changed, you have to step forward and work on it attentively. Your consistency will pay off sooner than you know.
It's important to remember that you are capable of so much and your villages do care so much about you. If you want to get closer to a certain villager, go ahead and put your time into seeing them every day and sending gifts. If you want to be more money-minded at this time, but lots of energy into that.
vii: think on the bright side of life
One of my favorite things about this game is the fact that they add little mantras throughout the game to ground you. This post actually started after screenshotting the cutest things my
neighbors do and say. Villagers will send you things in the mail and run up to talk to you. If this doesn't happen in day to day life, it can really make you feel validated and supported. In this, you have to remember that life does move so quickly, it's important to make sure that you are happy and healthy and that your friends are happy and healthy. It also really puts things into perspective.
My friend Leif here, who sells flowers, says that the rain is the most perfect day to shop for flowers. Of course, he would say that. Flowers love the rain and he loves flowers. It's the little things that make this game and life great.