Being part of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons craze in the midst of a global pandemic taught me something very important that I can’t believe I never realized before: people like to go fast.
For those who don’t know, Animal Crossing is a social simulation game in which you move to a new place, build a home, and interact with cute, anthropomorphic NPCs who encourage you to build up the community around you with certain tasks. The game is played in real time, meaning that the time and date and even the weather mirrors the gorgeous little world of Animal Crossing as you play. Players also have the ability to visit other players’ towns or islands via WiFi.
Which brings me back to my story. When I visited my friends’ islands or vice versa in ACNH, I quickly learned that I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with everyone in co-op play because I didn’t run around my island like my friends did. My husband also commented on this for the first few times he watched me play: “Why don’t you run?”
Why didn’t I run? Because it honestly didn’t occur to me to do so. I played the original Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Game Cube in the early 2000s and had a hell of a time picking weeds around my village. Years later, I didn’t run while playing New Horizons because I knew nothing would chase me (except, I would soon learn, the occasional tarantula) and, more importantly, nothing was prompting me to do anything incredibly important.
While there are ways to level up your home and community in Animal Crossing, they are certainly not required to enjoy the game. The game also doesn’t rush to set things up for you. It takes days for virtual flowers and trees to bloom after planting, and the same goes for moving villagers in and out of your town or upgrading buildings.
For example, if Tom Nook says to go talk to Timmy and Tommy at their tent to convince them to open a store on your island, it will take at least 24 hours for the store to be built. You don’t even have to ask them to do that because there aren’t any real consequences, except that you won’t be able to enjoy some of the benefits of a fully upgraded store. Either way, you can still do other things—breeding different colors of flowers, becoming friends with the villagers in your town, decorating your house, wishing on stars with IRL friends—and have a rich in-game experience. You choose what you want to do in whatever order you want to do, and you do it slowly because that’s how the game has it set up.
And this, for me, makes Animal Crossing a true, blue slice of life franchise. It’s a lovely little game set in real time with no true goals except to enjoy whatever activities please you—the best $60 I ever spent on a game that makes me want to go slow.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available for download here, and if there’s another slice of life game or other media you’d enjoy seeing in the column, @ me on Twitter (@frankiemilktea) to let me know. Until next time!
Frankie Martinez is a writer from California. Her work has appeared in 3 Moon Magazine and Poetically Magazine.