By Reece Roth 

In the age of the COVID-19 virus, many people wonder what they can do to keep themselves occupied as they stay in quarantine and practice social distancing. With most buildings closed and laws in place preventing a good majority of social outings, it has led people to find alternatives to keep themselves entertained and remain in contact with their friends.

Luckily, for fans of video games, the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons has come to the rescue, providing a new form of entertainment and communication.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest installment in Nintendo’s long running Animal Crossing video game franchise. First introduced in North America on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, the series revolves around the player, a human villager, moving to a town full of anthropomorphic animals. They are given the opportunity to befriend the villagers, build a house and collect all kinds of fruit, bugs and fish. New Horizons is the fifth main title in the series and an exclusive game for the Nintendo Switch.

Fans of the series have been anticipating this game’s release since it was first announced in September of 2018. Originally slated for a 2019 launch, the release date was moved to March 20th, 2020, so that the developers of the game could have more time to work on the game without feeling the need to rush anything. The premise of New Horizons revolves around the player starting a new life on a deserted island, and they have the freedom to set their island up any way they would like.

Animal Crossing has always been viewed as a calm and relaxing series. The gameplay is very slow-paced compared to other games, so it won’t be overwhelming to new players. What’s interesting enough is that New Horizons was released on the same day as Doom Eternal, the latest installment in the long-running Doom video game franchise. Doom Eternal is a fast paced and gory first-person shooter game, pretty much the exact opposite of New Horizons’ laid-back simulation style. Fans of Doom and Animal Crossing thought it was funny how these two very different games were released on the same day, but both groups were able to bond over how Doom Eternal and New Horizons are helping to provide relief and entertainment during these difficult times.

A feature included in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the use of online multiplayer. The game allows players to invite friends to their islands, and up to eight people can be on one island at a time. While this system makes it easy for friends to trade items in game, the most important aspect of online multiplayer has been how it’s allowing communication for those in quarantine during the current pandemic. Many players have been sharing their own Animal Crossing experiences and how the game has had a positive effect on them.

“While most faced with such an issue have generally turned to classic workplace services like Zoom, at least one company in Japan wanted to try a slightly different medium, Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, states an article from the website Nintendo Enthusiast, which discusses how one Japanese company is using the game as a work from home method. Employees would meet on an island and discuss topics in relation to their jobs. Although the employees couldn’t share documents or chat privately, they did say that New Horizons was a very fun communication system to use.

Another Animal Crossing story comes from New Jersey couple Sharmin Asha and Nazmul Ahmed. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were forced to reschedule their wedding until next year. Asha and Ahmed began to play New Horizons together after a friend recommended the game to them. After logging hours and hours into the game, Ahmed decided to surprise Asha with something special.

“The arrows led Asha through the town, where she picked up flowers Ahmed had left along the path, and up to the beach where their friends were waiting with their own Animal Crossing characters. Ahmed had planned a surprise beach wedding within the game” states an article from The Washington Post. The couple hosted their own wedding within New Horizons, allowing six of their friends to join using the online multiplayer function. Complete with flowers and their own custom chapel, the couple were able to celebrate their relationship in Animal Crossing when the pandemic prevented them from doing it in real life.

Times are tough now, however some people can find comfort in the little things. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has helped people come together and experience relief, exploring a virtual world when they can’t go out and explore the real one.