New2 Horizons

New Horizons: One Year Later

For a great many of us, video games have been a refuge to lean into over the past year, when isolation has become all too normal.

But one game series takes the idea of an imaginary refuge to the next level, and March 20 was the first anniversary of this series’ newest installment.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out almost exactly a year ago. Its release date unknowingly was aligned perfectly with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; just as it was setting in that isolation could be our new way of life, at least for a time.

To the uninitiated: Animal Crossing is a series of life simulator games renowned for allowing the player great flexibility in what they can accomplish.

But the main draw of Animal Crossing and its newest edition, in my opinion, is the villagers.

The player, a human, is dropped in the middle of a deserted island. Through developing the island into a veritable paradise, the player can coax a variety of adorable anthropomorphic animal friends (a big variety; over 400 villagers exist!) into living as their neighbor on their island.

What makes these villagers special is a combination of their unique attributes: each villager has a different temperament, different hobbies, different species, different designs, and even different décor in their little houses.

The endurance of this type of leisurely sim game has only been strengthened by people’s desire for interaction in our world which has been crippled by loneliness and sickness. New Horizons is a shining example of a game that can be picked up at any time, be enjoyed for any amount of time while likewise giving a sad heart a much-needed boost of unadulterated friendliness and cuteness.

The beauty of New Horizons lies in its relative simplicity: there truly is no “end” proper to this game.  The tasks go on for as long as you’re willing to keep completing them, and you are encouraged to play and explore at your own pace. Time moves by like it does in real life. But the escape to a tropical paradise that New Horizons offers up is so cathartic in the wake of a year under the yoke of coronavirus and its devastation.

It’s been a long 12 months. As of late, whenever I haven’t had a great day; whenever it’s rainy and gloomy outside; whenever I need a break from the bustle of real life and the stress of my responsibilities; I know, at least these days, that I can simply turn on my trusty Nintendo Switch and say “hey” to some of my deer friends.