Imagine escaping to an island paradise where bags of money fall from trees and talking raccoons can approve you for a mortgage.
With the world in the grip of a pandemic, that’s the kind of escape that has captivated so many people – not in their fantasies, but in the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This is the latest series that has been around since 2001, but New Horizons is the first console release to be built in 19 years. This is also part of the imagination that is suitable for gamers – and has become a phenomenon.
In Animal Crossing, the player acts as a single human on an island full of fat anthropomorphic animals. The players are tasked with building a thriving community, filling it with shops, bridges and other accommodations for the residents. There are no high scores, Nazi vampires or final bosses. The game is played at a relaxed pace, where players can do as much or as little as they want on a certain day. Optimistic acoustic jams or sultry bossa nova synths playing in the background.
It’s morning sales figures from Japan and the United Kingdom suggested that this was the strongest launch for the game Animal Crossing in history. (US figures will be released later this month.) And the game has expanded its reach beyond its main platform, with users sharing screenshots on social media from their home inspired by Japan, special T-shirt designs, and perfectly arranged flower gardens. It became the No.1 trending game on the platform, with Japan, the US, Korea, France and Spain on top.
“Now this is the most talked about game in the world No. 1, overthrow people like Fate / Grand Order – who hold the title for almost two years – and Fortnite, “said Rishi Chadha, global head of game partnerships on Twitter. “The growth in conversation is extraordinary. The volume of conversations since launch has grown by more than 1,000 percent and the number of people who tweeted about the game has grown by more than 400 percent. “
Indeed, there have been more than 38 million tweets about the game since it was released, many celebrating its ability to provide comfort and social connections in times of isolation and struggle.
“There is no nastiness. There is no violence. They are absorbed into everyday things without real world consequences, “said Romana Ramzan, a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland who teaches game narratives. “Looks like you have been transferred to a parallel universe. This is the universe you always wanted, but you can’t get. “
Ramzan believes that the Animal Crossing opportunity gives players a contribution to their broad appeal. For children, being able to do work like adults, like building and decorating homes, gives them strength that is often unaffordable. For adults, especially Millennials who have lived through the Great Recession and the economic pressures caused by the current coronavirus, it offers an eucalyptus fence often associated with an increasingly elusive American dream. Debts, which can accumulate quickly in Animal Crossing, can also be paid off easily. The goal feels achievable and within reach.
Although the game’s aesthetics might make some believers adjusted for children, he found a dedicated audience for the millennium, some of which grew up with franchises, and with younger audiences experiencing it for the first time. It is all the more intensive for those who struggle with isolation and addiction.
Joseph Gorordo, 35, is vice president of outreach Restore revoked, alcohol chain and music-based drug treatment center. He and his client have used Animal Crossing as a way to connect while practicing social distance.
“On Sunday evening, I arrived on my island, I opened it, within an hour I had four friends, two colleagues and two clients in recovery who all hung out on this island and held a mini support meeting,” said Mr Gorordo, a former heroin addicts.
He understood much of the anxiety felt by the millennium, especially those who turned to drugs and alcohol. Animal Crossing offers a shelter and can give players a feeling of empowerment and community, especially when many people are told to stay at home.
“So much recovery from addictions or mental health problems is a connection,” Gorordo said. “With so many of us trapped in our homes now, meeting almost makes us support each other in this game in ways we haven’t, isolated ourselves and quarantined.”
Animal Crossing follows a real-time clock and calendar, meaning one minute in a game is one minute in the real world. The game changes every day, with new fish, insects, and other surprises only appearing during certain seasons or months. Animal Crossing has no purpose and can be played indefinitely – which is mainly determined when there is no deadline for the current crisis. This speed gives the game a level of calm, which gives the player total control over progress.
“Animal Crossing makes work soothing – we call it gentle development,” said Jennifer Scheurle, 31, a leading game designer at Arena Net in Seattle, the developer behind the Guild Wars franchise. Ms Scheurle said the Animal Crossing move – players cutting wood or building bridges at their own pace, for example – made it feel private and predictable.
Bears wearing sweaters or squirrels are obsessed with optimistic and positive cardio. And the whole aesthetic of warm hugs gives the game a universal appeal.
“I don’t want to be stereotyped here, but women don’t mind doing small task-based games,” said Gwen Reilly, 24, a freelance illustrator from Pasadena, California. “They enjoy the process of building goods slowly. “
For Ms. Reilly, there are parallels between hobbies that are popular with women, such as sewing or gardening, and deliberate game speed. “Watching Animal Crossing slowly pile up is part of the catharsis factor, seeing your creations improve every day.”
Animal Crossing may be an endless game that ends the journey, but the user will eventually stop playing it. Years from now, when the coronavirus has passed and the economy has recovered, players can still log back in and see how their island is doing. Naturally, it will be covered in weeds, certain occupants may have moved, and cockroaches will hide under furniture.
But when players meet other residents, their old animal friends will be happy to see that they are fine.
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