How Animal Crossing: New Horizons cured the boredom pandemic

Kelly Rappaport, staff writer

It is hard to ignore the current state of affairs in the world: everyone on lockdown, COVID-19 spreading at a rapid pace, a surge in face masks and gloves. As Coronavirus spreads from country to country, more and more people are placed under quarantine in their homes. While the foremost problem facing the globe is clearly fighting this disease and issuing treatment, it brings with it another plague no one anticipated: boredom.

As schools, businesses, and public areas closed, people were suddenly confined to their homes all day with supposedly nothing to do. In the busy world, being able to relax all day was a dream, but now that everything had come to a screeching halt, boredom began to set in. 

This is where an unlikely hero came in. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the fifth installment in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, came out for the Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020. 

Already, this game had been highly anticipated since its release date was pushed back from its original 2019 projection. However, as it came out right at the beginning of the United States’ quarantine, the game was just what people needed to keep busy.

The Animal Crossing series is a social simulation game in which the player moves to a deserted island, builds a home, and pays for their lifestyle through fishing, catching bugs, and selling fruits and various materials. There is no high-tension conflict, and it is not a game that can cause frustration by being won or lost. 

The simple pleasure of the game caught on like wildfire, a relaxing escape from the issues of today. Slate Magazine called the game “an escape into comforting boredom” and CNN described it as “a friendly facsimile of an idyllic life on a modest little island”. 

“I’m living vicariously through the game because I can’t leave my house,” said Joliet West senior Anna Polacek.

The appeal of Animal Crossing is comfort in times of crisis, scaling problems down from the global pandemics of the real world to simply trying to catch a certain fish before it goes out of season or not getting bitten by a tarantula. The stakes are low, the characters are friendly, and players can still engage in social interaction through both local and online play. 

“It helps me escape from the current reality and has kept my family working together to decorate our island,” said Joliet West junior Abby Olson. 

Animal Crossing only allows one island per console, so users that share consoles must also share an island. In Olson’s case, she shares her island with her siblings and father, working with them to create themed areas on the island and trade resources. 

Some online players have even held social gatherings using the Nintendo Online feature in Animal Crossing. In the age of social distancing, players take flights to their friends’ islands and gather to chat, trade, and share strategies.

Although life may look bleak, the new Animal Crossing game offers a bright and happy escape from the 24/7 news stream of disease and fear. To some, it is just a video game, but to so many others, it is a cure to the plague of boredom and restlessness.