Animal crossing game popular amid COVID-19 isolation

Photo by Stephanie Swensrude

By Stephanie Swensrude

It’s New Year’s Eve, 2003. I hop out of the family minivan and run inside, clutching my new GameCube game in my hands. I know little else about the game other than there are cute animals on the cover and that I can play it on the console I got for Christmas a week ago.

Animal Crossing. The game would come to be a favourite of mine and my sisters’. And 17 years later, it would be the way that we connect during a city-wide lockdown amidst a global pandemic.

A few months ago, I would have scoffed at the suggestion that soon I would only be able to see my loved ones through a screen. Now that it’s turned into a reality, I am seeking more and more comfort from this little game.

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I can leave my house whenever I want. Making money is as simple as fishing or catching bugs. There is no employment. Tom Nook’s loans are interest-free with no deadline. And, strangest of all, I can hang out with my friends and family.

My sister lives across town, and usually once a day, we’ll meet up in the game to exchange fruit and show off our islands. We actually talk more now than we did before the game came out. It’s the way we connect, in an age where gathering together can result in fines.

My boyfriend and I can run around in adorable outfits and hit each other with nets. We send each other letters and plants and cherries.

There is no way Nintendo could have known this game would be released just as millions of people around the world were retreating into lockdown. But it worked out perfectly, didn’t it? My social media feed in the past week has been nearly equally plastered with news regarding coronavirus and cute videos from Animal Crossing.

If I didn’t have this game, I would probably get a lot more work done. But I would probably spend a lot more time with my eyes glued to my Facebook feed, going over the numbers, making graphs, and feeling worried about grocery store workers and health care staff.

Instead, I arrange flowers and trees on my little island just right. I catch huge fish and curate a museum. And for a couple of hours a day, I forget about the real world.