My Animal Crossing journey began on December 24, 2002, when I received a GameCube for Christmas (packed in a beer box, hidden behind cans of beer, which I still maintain is one of my favorite gifts, ever). I remember plugging it in for the first time, hearing the disc spin, and stepping off the train into my snowy village for the very first time.
I don’t remember much about that first village – it was 18! years ago, after all. I remember people leaving comic books at each other’s houses, perhaps? The only memory that stands out is my one cranky pig villager, Boris, who was one of my least favorite villagers at first, but we grew to appreciate each other over time. (The opposite of real life! ha)
Since then, I dabbled in Wild World and City Folk, but neither of them grabbed my attention in the same way that the original did. Maybe it was where I was in my life – I had a lot more time to dedicate to video games at 10 years old than any point afterwards, really – or maybe they didn’t live up to the same initial hype. I stayed connected to the community through social media (read: memes), but didn’t itch to pay off my loans or complete my museum, like I did before.
When I heard that a new Animal Crossing game was coming out – on the day after my 27th birthday! – I was ecstatic! I finally had free time to dedicate to the game, and had purposely planned months in advance to celebrate my birthday by catching fish and expanding my house. Little did I know that it would be the only way for me to celebrate!
The first couple of weeks of Animal Crossing were truly a blessing, especially because they corresponded with the first couple of weeks of quarantine.
I would go to sleep thinking, “When I wake up, the museum will be ready!” and “I can’t wait for tomorrow so that I Can meet my new villager!” I’m not even embarrassed to admit this, like I am with other random confessions I’ve made on these posts, because, hey!, we all needed something to get us through those early days! For me, that thing was Animal Crossing!
As I sheepishly confessed to my therapist back then, the video game helped me a lot mentally because it actually gave me something nice to look forward to every day. This was especially important when I was stuck at home all day and it felt like nothing good was happening outside my door.
There were events – (the infamous) Bunny Day, Cherry Blossom season, Fishing Tournaments and Bug-Offs, villagers moving in and out, villagers having birthdays, etc. – that made the passage of time feel real, which was especially important when it felt like nothing else was happening in my life other than work. There were even points when I didn’t realize that a new month had started until I caught a new bug or fish!
In real life, I was wearing the same clothes every day, prioritizing comfort over style and repeating the same outfits over and over, since I wouldn’t be seeing anybody other than my boyfriend anyway.
In Animal Crossing, on the other hand, I wore gowns, baby onesies, sushi costumes, baseball uniforms, and everything in between. I was excited to run over to my wardrobe every day, first thing after logging in, and pick out something completely new to wear. If a friend invited me over to their island, I’d respond with a quick, “Be there in a second, just have to choose a cute outfit!” And they’d respond with the same!
Over time, I even formed real(-feeling) relationships with my villagers. In my past life, I was constantly surrounded by people – at work, in improv classes, with friends – and I completely lost that in quarantine. As a generally introverted person, this was both a blessing (no people!!!) and a curse (so boring!!!), so having new villagers to meet and get to know helped fill up my “social cup”, as cheesy and dystopian as that sounds.
I quickly fell in love with my first villagers, Canberra and Cobb. Canberra is a koala, my favorite animal, and seemed to me like a sign from the Nintendo gods that they wanted me to keep playing. Cobb is a pig who looks like he wears glasses and talks about working out all the time, so I immediately called him my boyfriend, because he reminds me of a certain someone (wink wink)!
I somehow managed to collect three more koalas (Sydney, Yuka, and Melba), with the eventual goal of having an entire village full of koalas! In the meantime, I have grown fond of my bro frogs, Tad and Huck, my other snobby pig, Chops, my spacey little bunny Cole, and my precious, sisterly baby bear Pekoe.
Weirdly, I even got a little emotional when other villagers decided to leave my island, like aspiring popstar Bianca, motherly hippo Norma, and the zebra-that-likes-wearing-a-striped-shirt-for-some-reason Savannah. They are gone, but never forgotten! (Except for that time I ran into Bianca while island hopping and she completely forgot who I was… sad!)
The one part of Animal Crossing that I haven’t gotten into as much as other people is design, like rearranging my home and my island. I’ve always been scared to take a big leap into either, whether because I don’t feel ready yet, or am worried that my ideas won’t pan out as expected, or will take too long to realize.
As the days get longer and hotter, however, I have been tempted to sink an entire afternoon into doing some terraforming in front of the air conditioner. Maybe today’s the day…