When I was anticipating the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons at the beginning of March, there was no way I could have expected what was going to happen to everyone’s’ lives within a few short weeks. By the time we got to the release date, we were unknowingly only three days away from the country going into lockdown, so even as I was talking to dear old Tom Nook after arriving on my island, I had no idea what was to come. 

Ever since its debut on the Gamecube, the Animal Crossing series has provided players with a whole new world to explore and escape into, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that New Horizons couldn’t have been released at a better time. 

It’s taken the internet by storm; after its release, a wave of peace just seemed to spread across the web. Worries seemed to fade, talk shifted from fears of the current climate, to what fruits everyone had on their island. People weren’t bashing others anymore, they were taking out their anger on ugly villagers they got by mistake that they want to evict.

The game has spread this wonderful feeling of togetherness, bringing friends and strangers alike closer and spreading joy in its wake. Meeting up on a friend’s island is a great way to keep up with them during the lockdown. Me and my boyfriend love meeting up on Animal Crossing to take cute pictures and catch fish together, and it’s helping us cope with our separation and feel like we’re together even when we aren’t.

But it’s not just the distraction it provides, but the routine that New Horizons has given me that’s helped. Routine and motivation is something I *need* to remain decently functional throughout long periods indoors, or I fall into a lethargic slug-like state. It’s not fun. Thanks to Animal Crossing though, I’m waking up at a consistent time to check on all my villagers in the morning and see what’s new on the island. You best believe I’m not missing buying my turnips on a Sunday morning. 

I can motivate myself with little tasks throughout the day like collecting the seashells off the beach and making sure to give all my villagers a gift every day to make them happy. I’ll check in at different times of day to see what all of the animals are doing; watch them do their cute little dances together or their attempts to catch butterflies. Even if I’m not doing anything productive in real life, it helps me feel like I’ve done something good with my time, and generally keep my spirits up. 

Most importantly though, it’s given me something to look forward to every day. It’s so important, especially in times like this, to be optimistic and be able to find a positive in each day, and for me, Animal Crossing has helped immensely. Whether it be anticipating a new villager moving in, seeing if there’s a new visitor in my campsite, or something so simple as seeing what clothing is being sold every morning, the game keeps me constantly looking ahead for positive reasons. 

It might seem silly that my reason for getting up every morning is to say hello to my little group of animal islanders and listen to them talk about the upcoming Bunny Day event relentlessly, but every day it’s provided me with just the break I needed from everything happening in the real world. Whenever I’m listening to Louie the gorilla go on about how crazy it is that he found an egg in a rock, I’m not listening to constant talk about the pandemic. While it’s important to keep up to date with the latest updates, I do also think it’s important to not be constantly swamped in it. 

At the end of the day, it provides a well-needed escape from the real world. Your island is yours to do with what you want, and that’s the magic of it. Even when the real world is completely out of control, you can feel calm and in control of another world where there are no problems other than trying to find that one rare fish or kick out a creepy villager who keeps being rude to your favourite one.

I may be a million Bells in debt to a rotund tanuki, but I’d have it no other way, and I hope that others can find the same simple joy in their island life as I have.

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