For most people, especially Buena students, staying home for long periods of time is a new normal. This means activities like parties, vacations, and hanging out with friends are out of the question at this time, at least physically you can’t do this. For a long time, social media and video games became a way for people to stay connected with distance friends, meet new people, or discover something new.
Now more than ever has these online escapes become a way for people to experience fun in life without actually doing it physically. Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released March 20 and has become exceedingly popular. “I think it creates a wonderful distraction, which is something that games are for,” Ariana Alvelo said, a Junior and a long time Animal Crossing fan of three years. “It’s for entertainment when times are boring or stressful.”
Animal Crossing is a life simulation game which means the player runs their own life. For example, players befriend villagers, customize their lifestyle, and discover things to improve their virtual community. In New Horizon, the player is sent to their own island to build their community from scrap, gradually transforming the empty island to a land that the player can call their own virtual paradise.
One major appeal of the game is its ability to bring people together. “The explosion of fandom content was all over my dashboard [on social media],” Katerina Wagner said, a junior and a new fan of Animal Crossing. “It was everywhere, it got to the point that I had to know why people were posting so much about it.”
However, this game has many new improvements. Some of these improvements include a full rotating camera to view your island at all angles, extra storage on your player, more customization options for your world like terraforming, and much more. “Some people are being super creative by creating these videos of hide and seek games [in the game],” Alvelo said, “you can get together with eight of your friends and you can just play hide and seek. It may sound little…[but] it’s something you can’t really do right now.”
Many people on the internet show off their islands and create new ways to connect with others in a fun way. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, for instance, used a replica of its museum to give viral tours to educate the viewers on ocean life and other factors of what it takes to run an aquarium. They also discuss bugs, fossils, and other scientific facts in these videos and livestreams. These videos are relaxing, fun, and educational, I highly recommend watching their videos when you get the chance.
Animal crossing: New Horizons are also bridging people together to create life significant events which were affected by the pandemic. On Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and other social media servers, many people would share pictures or videos of them getting together in the game to recreate graduation ceremonies. Although each of these ceremonies varies, people across the world would try to make the best of their situation and make what is a special moment even more special.
Other events include International Museum Day. This is a day celebrated in the game to collect stamps in your own in-game museum. These stamps are then turned into rewards, for example plaques, from the game for completing these stamp collecting activities. There are also people connecting with friends just for fun. “I’ve been playing with my cousin that I can’t really go and meet because she lives on the other side of the coast,” Alvelo said, “I visit her island and she visits my island. It’s just this fun thing where we get to see how many things we’ve collected.”
It’s a wonderful thing that games like Animal Crossing exist, which exists not only to have a relaxing game for uncertain times but it also brings many people together to simply enjoy something fun and happy. “You can’t really invite [friends] over in real life during quarantine, [but] it is doing some sort of bridging of gaps where you can play with friends.” Alvelo said.