How Animal Crossing: New Horizons Helped Me Through Lockdown
Keeping an important friendship alive
I first met Jake when we were pre-teens, more than a decade ago, and we’ve been super close ever since. We have that kind of friendship where we can just sit in silence, happy to be in each others’ company. He puts up with my weirdness. When I’m back in my hometown, me and my boyfriend go and visit him and his boyfriend and chat. He’s a big Switch fan. Unfortunately for Jake, I both dress like a grandma and have the general technological knowledge of the average senior, too. I have no idea about technology. I probably would have kept my Nintendo DS and my plethora of cute games (Nintendogs, Dogz, Catz, Catz 2…there’s something of a theme emerging here…) if I hadn’t found out that a new Animal Crossing game was coming out on the Switch.
Animal Crossing was my childhood; and I began to appreciate the game even more when I became an adult. I didn’t really understand the grumpy villagers when I was a child. Now, suddenly it all made sense why Phyllis at the Post Office was moody as hell. Anyone would be when you’re working the nightshift and you have to deal with cranky villagers like Limberg, Octavian, and Rolf. Phyllis is the bird embodiment of anyone who’s ever had to work in customer service anywhere. The shifts are long, the pay is rubbish, and the customers are sometimes awful. I resented that capitalist mouthpiece Tom Nook even more when I realized renting = sometimes handing just as much money over as mortgage repayments, but being unable even to make your own home improvements.
Then, the lockdown happened. My boyfriend and I were stuck across the other side of the UK. I couldn’t get back to see Jake or my family. So I forked out the money for the Switch, and got Animal Crossing via the Nintendo eShop as soon as it was delivered. I ran around my flat excitedly while I waited for it to download. My boyfriend shook his head and sighed. I created Sloth Isle (I am the proud owner of more than 15 cuddly sloths, who I live with, alongside my long-suffering boyfriend). It’s such a cute place. Jake came to help me pull up the weeds on the north side of the island. He also lent me his ladder, so that I could traverse the steep areas of Sloth Isle and put Nook’s shop on a precarious cliff edge. Eat that, Tom Nook.
I went to visit Jake in Valyria. His place was lovely, and he had tons of cute little island dwellers (and Coco, widely considered to be the scariest islander of all time), he had fences and unique designs galore. He had the Able Sisters’ tailors shop. He even had a gym at the back of his house. I still had a rubbish camping bed. He helped me get some more furniture and clothes.
After we visited each others’ islands, we sent gifts to each other. I started to become excited to open the game up and see what Jake had sent me. I sent him stuff I found that I thought he’d look cute in. I felt more connected to other people. Even though I couldn’t see Jake face-to-face, we could see each other in the game. We even visited the museum together; something we had loved to do before lockdown. We once went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and almost got kicked out when, turning a corner, we suddenly came face-to-face with a large nude self-portrait of Stanley Spencer, and Jake started laughing hysterically.
In the Switch, we sat next to each other in the museum, looking at the different fossils. I missed my best friend. I hadn’t seen him in so long. But I felt like I was with him now.
We fished together, we chatted to islanders together, we irritated Tom Nook together…it was a dream come true. We chatted concurrently to playing the Switch; mainly Jake messaging me telling me to follow him because I was lagging behind. We tried on clothes together in the Able Sisters’ shop, and Jake’s reactions had me in stitches yet again. I still missed him, like a lot. But I had such a big smile on my face when I put down the Switch. I felt really happy. We’ve had countless little visits to each others’ islands since; and we’re planning another one in a few days.
Every time I play Animal Crossing now, I start updating my island so that when Jake comes to visit he’ll like it even more. I’ve built plots for new homes, for new islanders (Coco isn’t coming) that I want to introduce him to. The day after Jake visits, the islanders will talk about meeting him. That makes me happy. I would have really struggled to get through feelings of isolation during lockdown without New Horizons. I’m so glad I bought it; it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.