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How Animal Crossing Is Keeping Us Connected During Quarantine

Or, how Tom Nook built a paradise.

playing animal crossing during quarantine

It's no secret that streaming services, books, and the Internet in general have done a large part in lifting everyone's morale during quarantine.  

But the most popular diversion of them all just might be Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the new Nintendo Switch game that recently broke a record for most digital copies sold in one month—5 million copies of the game were downloaded in March, according to Nielsen's SuperData. 

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest in a series of Animal Crossing games. The first AC came out in 2001, and fans of the original game and its earlier iterations were already likely to drive sales of the game.

But the release of New Horizons on March 20—right around the time most areas began quarantining—encouraged a lot of people who otherwise would have never bought the game to do so. Including me.

About a week after my friends downloaded the game and filled our group chat with comments about crafting furniture, making clothes, and getting an owl named Blathers to come to their islands, I decided to go ahead and download the game. After all, evening plans had suddenly come to a standstill.

It didn't take long before I was hooked. A lot like The Sims, minus the stress (and plus the ability to hang out with your friends), Animal Crossing is mesmerizing. 

Animal Crossing 101

For those who are still unclear on what exactly Animal Crossing IS, here's a quick primer: You start by meeting Timmy and Tommy, two small tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) who help you set up your game—creating your character, choosing an island layout, and naming your island. 

From there you'll meet Tom Nook, the mastermind of this game and your landlord/overlord. You'll learn how to build a few simple tools, pick fruit, and fish—and then the game begins to expand into whatever you make of it. 

In fact, there's a whole companion guide to Animal Crossing, which can be very helpful for new players who want to know all the AC-specific tips and tricks right off the bat, or for those of us who may not be familiar with common video game mechanics. (I don't want to say how long it took me to realize I could run instead of walking everywhere.) 

Animal Crossing is completely open-ended, with options for you to fill your museum with fish, fossils, and bugs; become a DIY master with a perfectly decorated island; or practice your interior design skills—and then ask Queer Eye designer Bobby Berk for his feedback

As you move along in the game, you'll also unlock custom designs, terraforming options, and the ability to move buildings, which means you can turn your island into pretty much whatever you want. 

Enjoying Animal Crossing With Friends (Even During Social Distancing)

Technically you never need to interact with another soul to enjoy Animal Crossing, but the game is clearly meant to be social. You get awards (Nook Miles) for traveling to friends' islands and inviting them to yours, you can 'mail' letters and items to your friends, and you can even upload your designs to be downloaded by anyone else to use in the game.

Plus, it's just a lot of fun to see what your friends are doing with their own islands—and a nice change of pace from planning a virtual streaming party or having another Zoom call. 

The game even makes it easy to safely invite people you meet online to your island. While the developers probably assumed such a feature would be useful for people who wanted to expand their trading circles to online forums, it's also become a way to invite celebrities to your island. 

Recently, Elijah Wood made headlines when he asked to visit someone's island in order to take advantage of someone's turnip prices (another facet of Animal Crossing is the "stalk market"). Though personally, I'd rather see how Danny Trejo has decorated his island.

Featured still from "Animal Crossing" via Nintendo.