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Escapism and COVID-19: Why Animal Crossing: New Horizon Became the Game During Quarantine

You might click on this article and say, “Animal Crossing: New Horizon isn’t an esports game. I can’t competitively speedrun Animal Crossing or can’t compete with my friends.” And you’re right. But esports isn’t solely about the games played: it’s about community, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game that centers on community. So let’s take a break from fighting and gore and discuss the importance of a real-life simulator and its role during COVID-19.

Escapism and COVID-19: Why Animal Crossing: New Horizon Became the Game During Quarantine
Animal Crossing: New Horizon Artwork Design Courtesy of Nintendo

What Pandemic: A Look at COVID-19

First, it’s important to discuss the elephant in the room. The coronavirus has caused a large loss of life across the world. With over 180,000 American deaths as of the time of writing (182,965 as of August 30, 2020 according to The New York Times), it is heartbreaking to see the scale of innocent lives lost to this virus. Furthermore, millions of individuals lost jobs and a source of income due to the virus. The virus has ravished communities and cities across the globe.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many students across the world suffered losses of proms, graduations, and opportunities for high school, college and beyond. And for many, myself included, any opportunity to divert attention from the real world is a life changer. Enter Animal Crossing. 

The Financials of Nintendo and Animal Crossing

According to BBC, Animal Crossing made Nintendo 104.6billion yen (about $1 billion USD) as of August 6. This accumulates to over 22 million copies of the game since its release in March. That’s a lot of copies of a game about creating a real life island simulator. 

Furthermore, since its inception, the Switch itself has always been a topseller. It has been a gamechanger in the videogame world with its ability to switch from handheld to T.V. connectivity. With popular games such as Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Pokemon Sword and Shield and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, major hit after hit have not only made this system popular, they’ve made it almost difficult to find.

Why is Animal Crossing the Game of Quarantine?

For those who may not be familiar with Animal Crossing, it is a game about creating your own village. You become your island’s inhabitant, creating homes, stores and other parts of the village. In my case, my island of Hudsonland.

Island of the writer. Photo courtesy of Jay Silver via Nintendo

But again: why is this game the game that helps us escape the harshness of this pandemic? It alludes to the point I mentioned earlier. Animal Crossing is about community. It’s about sharing memories with friends and family. It’s about taking your mind off a pandemic and just letting creativity flow. It’s about connecting your islands to others and traveling to find your happy village. Animal Crossing gives a bit of hope in an era filled with darkness. That is the magic of this game, and that’s why if you need to reach me, you can find me on Hudsonland.

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