Animal Crossing is an “idyllic world” for students during COVID-19

We’re on island time now.

<p>Illustration by Sarah Mai</p>

Illustration by Sarah Mai

Meg Bishop

With everyone tucked away at home, college kids have dusted off their Nintendos to find comfort in a game they played as kids. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game about going outside and hanging out with friends — the exact opposite of what the CDC suggests people do right now. Many versions of Animal Crossing have come out since its initial release in 2001, but New Horizons is the first version made for the Nintendo Switch.

“It is just the perfect little diversion during a stressful time,” said Drew Birschbach, a journalism major who grew up playing previous versions of the game. “You can relax in a little idyllic world where you can just plant flowers and decorate a town.” 

Animal Crossing’s tranquil game play — its calming soundtrack and mellow pastel colors — can daze players into not setting their Switch down for hours. With the news cycle moving faster than ever, people are keeping their minds occupied and spending more time with the game. 

“I have put in close to 100 hours since launch, so I’ve probably played more than I would have pre-COVID,” Birschbach said. 

Senior English major Claire Breitenbach said she fills the time she used to spend in transit with playing Animal Crossing. 

“Time I would’ve spent on the train or on campus can now be spent on my island,” said Breitenbach, who is used to a packed day filled with school and work. 

The game allows players to do simple tasks like fishing or gardening to gain new items in their inventory or earn currency to buy items from stores inside the game. 

“Since my daily routine has been thrown for a loop, it’s kind of nice to have someplace where I can go to complete some chores: water plants, talk to villagers,” said Garrett Welsch, a student who wanted to buy the game after his friends jumped on the train.

Animal Crossing first came out in the U.S. in 2002. Now, many of the people who grew up with it are still playing. 

“I’ve played the Animal Crossing games since I could read, basically. I remember running across the street to my neighbor’s house to play Animal Crossing every weekend and walking home to play with them after school,” Birschbach said. 

Some have purchased Animal Crossing to satisfy their nostalgia, but for others, it’s a new way to virtually hang out with friends during quarantine. Each player is given their own island to build on and explore. One of the main premises of the game is the ability for players to share the experience with friends by visiting other islands. 

Animal Crossing is packed with hours upon hours of meandering around forests and across streams, providing a virtual safe haven to players looking for a break from reality.

“It’s been a really nice mood booster after a long day,” Breitenbach said.