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Animal Crossing New Horizons: Virtual Socializing While Practicing Social Distancing

Posted in Entertainment & Media, Life, and Video Games

Today I had a fulfilling day of social interaction in the midst of a global pandemic. Straight from the airport I met up with friends on the beach. We went fishing, chased butterflies, and ended the day around a bonfire sharing fruit. But before you yell at me for not social distancing, I should add that our fun-filled day was lived entirely virtually from our respective homes. Animal Crossing New Horizons has arrived for the Nintendo Switch just in time to make self-isolation a little less isolating.

Arriving to see my friends on the island

I’ve always loved gaming but I’ve never referred to myself as a “gamer”. Admittedly a self-imposed stigma in my head, I’ve always left that title to those who play the more serious games. “Serious games” being the FPS and MMOs of it all. (Btw, this is not true at all, any game is a serious game if you love it enough.) That said, I’ve always loved a good story. Give me an entertaining adventure role playing game and I can lose myself for hours in digital zen. And I think it’s safe to say we could all use a bit more zen these days. For this reason alone, the release of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons couldn’t have come at a better time.

Dating during self-isolation
Dating during self-isolation be like…

For those unfamiliar, Animal Crossing has been a part of the Nintendo family of games since 2001. As a social simulation game, it allows the player to exist alongside friends and NPCs (non-player characters generated by the computer), completing activities at your own leisure. The only goal is to build your life within the world as you see fit. And with the rising concerns surrounding COVID-19, a virtual escape has proven even more enticing than usual.

Hanging out at Tom Nook's place
Squad Goals

My friends and I counted down the days leading up to Animal Crossing New Horizon’s release. Having been fans of previous versions, we knew that its playfully addictive nature would be a welcomed distraction. So today, the day after the game’s official release, we eagerly signed on and arranged for our characters to meet up on the same island. With the Nintendo Online App we were able to enable voice chat while playing together, and literally just hung out. And we enjoyed each other’s company in the matching Spirit Jersey style shirts my husband made us to wear in-game. Not for long. Just long enough to leave our own isolated islands and come together to share some fruit. We took a few photos, something that we do often when together in person, enjoying each other’s virtual company.

Better than Spring Break, an island paradise in Animal Crossing
Soaking up the sun and an island in paradise

And for just a moment, as we ventured from our separate islands, life felt normal again. We helped one another gather materials and craft tools. We even ran around the island on a scavenger hunt. Instead of toilet paper and school closures, we talked about the fruit growing on our islands and our plans for expansion. We allowed ourselves to play make-believe and embrace something frivolous. We rekindled the magic that this group of fantasy-loving nerds had been missing for the past several weeks. And we just…had…fun!

Socializing while social distancing in Animal Crossing New Horizon
Who needs Spring Break?

My purpose in writing this blog post isn’t to convince you to start playing video games, though if I did…great! I highly recommend giving gaming a try at any age! I just wanted to share a way that my friends and I have been able to connect and feel less lonely during our time social distancing. Animal Crossing New Horizons has given us something other than COVID news updates to look forward to each day. It’s reminded us that even in our isolation, we aren’t alone and that we still have so many ways we can connect.

If it’s not Animal Crossing, perhaps it’s another game. If not a game, then maybe a phone app or virtual book club. But I urge you all to continue finding ways to connect. Continue finding ways to let your creativity flourish. Continue to find the things that bring you joy. Vince even channeled his love for graphic design and had a blast designing these Spirit Jersey inspired “Tom Nook” shirts we’re all wearing. (Find the QR codes at the end of this post)

Animal Crossing Spirit Jersey Design

For the sake of my senior parents and immunocompromised friends, I want to personally thank all of you who are slowing the spread of the virus by staying home. But for the sake of humanity and all that is beautiful about this world, never stop connecting with others around you.

It wasn’t until today that I truly realized the constant that Nintendo has been as a source of joy in my life, with its particular knack from bringing people together. It started the day my mom brought home my first NES and has lasted well into my 30s. And I’m grateful to have friends who share that joy, as simple and silly as it may be.

Here are the QR codes for the “Spirit Jersey” designs! If you post please tag @just.vince.things and @erikaenchanted so Vince and I can reshare!