Friday, April 3, 2020

Animal Crossing is the art of the Zen

I didn’t used to be much of a video game person, although I have to confess that I have always played them now and then. However, with the Coronavirus lockdown, video games have become a lot more important for me and the rest of the family for decompression, relaxing and just staying sane.

In particular, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been huge for us. 

Now, I was already a fan of the Nintendo Switch. It combines the best aspects of the wII and the DS into one really amazing package. (My wife got me a DS early in our courtship which is why Professor Layton is one of my heroes) But Animal Crossing is the perfect escapism when everyone needs some escapism.

In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t, really, before New Horizons), you come to a small community of funny animal people and help develop the community in the Animal Crossing games. In the process, you also catch a lot of fish and bugs and renovate your home with the help of massive but interest-free loans. It’s a resource management, infrastructure development and dollhouse all wrapped up in one. In New Horizons, the community is a deserted island and you start out in a tent.

I understand that there has been a lot discussion over whether or not Animal Crossing is an RPG series. By my lights, it is. But the real character you are leveling up isn’t the funny little person you have running around. It is the town you are creating. But that funny little person is an essential part of of the immersion (as opposed to a game like FarmVille)

Right now, so much of the world is spending a lot of time within four walls. And leaving those four walls can be pretty stressful for those who have to. The ability to go to a peaceful island where you can do whatever you want, everyone is friendly, and the worst thing that can happen is a wasp nest falling on your head is pretty good wonderful.

It also helps that, by video game standards, Animal Crossing moves at a glacial place. There are seasonal changes and I don’t even know if the Switch lets you play with the calendar to hurry the year along. Things take time. Mario is about split second timing. Animal Crossing is about being chill.

Nintendo hit the ball out of the park by creating such an immersive zen experience.

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