Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons really the peaceful, anxiety-dispelling game we need amidst COVID-19?

Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons really the peaceful, anxiety-dispelling game we need amidst COVID-19?

Game face on

Text: Emily Heng

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I'll say this: Animal Crossing has taken over the globe. A gaming series borne in 2001, this social simulation sends players to a desert island, where they're tasked with developing a thriving society using whatever limited resources they have on hand. You plant trees, fish, and undergo a variety of weird to-dos at the behest of chubby anthropomorphic animals. It's sunny all the time, and literal presents float above the sky, ripe for the picking. Your mother leaves helpful gifts in the mailbox. There are no bosses, high scores, or critical missions to complete. It is, essentially, the wet dream of every millennial — a world that allows you to meander on at an easygoing pace without being (entirely) unproductive.

The popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is understandable considering our recent circumstances. With social lives grinding to a halt, folks are turning to the digital sphere to spend time with their loved ones without flouting social distancing rules. This is all thanks to the game's collaborative nature, where up to four players on a console can inhabit a single village to build a society together. Players can even visit other player's islands once they've exchanged Friend Codes. It's come to the point where whole communities can congregate, with Hong Kong's pro-democratic protestors shifting their movement online. In a recently released video, groups of players are seen using bug-catching nets to hit pictures of the city's leader, Carrie Lam, within the game.

Knowing this, I set out on my own Animal Crossing journey gleefully. Two weeks in, I began wondering if everyone was on hallucinogens. Or that I had picked up a faulty copy of the game, somehow. You see, while everyone was waxing lyrical about rolling in fields and building mansions, I was drowning in a sea of mundane, loathsome, and downright maddening errands with no end in sight.

Is it me? Am I not cut out for desert island life, with its countless white-sand beaches, mai tais, and money trees (*snort*)? Perhaps. I pondered this for hours on end before — eventually — reaching a reasonable conclusion. Without further ado, here's every single one of my frustrations with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, in no particular order, below.

#1. You start the game already in debt.

How's this for a promising start? You kick things off by travelling to a beautiful island, setting up a tent... and getting told by a villainous raccoon that you owe 49,800 bells (aka AC's currency) right off the bat. Uh, I asked for escapism, Nintendo. Not a recap of my real-life situation comprising mounting student loans and education repayment schemes. Had I known, I'd have cancelled this whole moving-to-a-desert-island dream and stayed on my parent's couch for the next 15 years.

#2. Everything breaks, and nothing lasts

Naturally, you require certain tools to complete tasks on Animal Crossing. Say, an axe to chop down trees and re-plant them. Sounds reasonable. What's not, is the fact that they're FLIMSY and break after repeated use. I don't need to be reminded of the impermanence of objects, people! That's what real-life relationships are for.

#3. You get stung... a lot

Let me paint you a picture. You've painstakingly planted a whole gaggle of trees, and, lo and behold! They're bearing fruit. Maybe some tasty cherries, or a pear or two. To get to them, you simply have to shake a few branches and watch them thump to the ground. Except, oh wait! You unearth a wasp nest instead and are promptly stung to high heaven. You must now walk around bearing a swollen, puffy mien for the rest of the day. And no, there's no makeup option to conceal those welts, though you can buy medication to bring down the swelling. Too bad I'm stingy.

#4. Your pockets just aren't big enough

I'm told that you're allowed to expand upon your inventory as the game continues. Still, in the beginning, you're only allowed to pick up 20 items as a time — a ridiculously small number, considering the number of things you unearth on Animal Crossing. I feel like I'm being forced to re-enact Sophie's Choice at any given time, where I have to deliberate dumping a pretty coral and the carp I fished out of the lake. What if I love them both?!

#5. You get followed around by a humongous, galloping bunny

Meet Zipper T Bunny, my nemesis. The hopping, walking, and talking nightmare that has hidden eggs and recipes all over my island, sowing chaos and despair as I attempt to uncover all of them before 12 April — aka Bunny Day, a live event hosted by Nintendo Switch. His hobbies include creepy hovering, giving cryptic instructions, and staring listlessly into space as I attempt to get on with my day. As if I didn't have enough to do running my island, now you're telling me I have to entertain this goober? I (politely) decline any requests from this pitiful, pirated version of Roger Rabbit, thanks.