Finding peace in a chaotic world with Animal Crossing

It’s been repeated ad nauseam — 2020 is an all-time tumultuous year. We are all living through a dark period of world history. On a daily basis, we wake up to a splash of ice water from an endlessly deep bucket of bad news. It took nationwide large-scale protests against police brutality to usurp the coronavirus as the top national news story.

Yes, the world is on fire, and you do have good reason to believe we are finally doomed. But as it burns at an alarmingly accelerating rate, there’s a nice bundle of electronic comfort many turn to — “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

It’s a simple game about farming, gardening, crafting, bug collecting, fishing and tending to cute, anthropomorphic animal islanders. But there’s something about its tranquil music, consistently low-pressure gameplay and the amount of control given to the player that seems to get the brain’s dopamine and serotonin machine guns firing at full speed in an otherwise hopeless world that we have absolutely no control over.

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is the latest entry in a long-running video game franchise created by Nintendo in the early-’00s. It debuted in Japan on the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and made its way to the United States in 2001 when it appeared on the Nintendo GameCube. Always a successful franchise, with each entry eclipsing sales figures in the millions, “New Horizons” has breached meteoric heights. According to industry reports, it has sold 13 million copies and turned the Nintendo Switch, which already had a difficult time staying on store shelves, into the must-have gadget of the coronavirus quarantine season.

I predicted that people would flock to Target and Best Buy to purchase a Switch once the boredom of lockdown set in and purchased one for myself in early March. That prediction was spot on. Demand for the Switch, and the handheld-only Switch Lite, has driven people to overpay by as much as double on sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Is it worth it? No, not at all. Don’t get taken advantage of by grifters, just be patient and wait for a restock.

I’ve played my fair share of “New Horizons,” and while I can confirm that the game is a blast and a much-needed low anxiety time killer, it is not worth being a victim of price gouging. And while the Switch Lite can only be played as a handheld — it does not connect to your television — I find it to be a worthy console with very solid construction. It feels nice and sturdy in your hands.

Lansing resident Bess Bardy considers herself a casual gamer and is a big fan of the Animal Crossing franchise. She preordered the game and followed it in the news throughout its development cycle. She had it downloaded on her Switch on day-one of its release. She loves “New Horizons” in particular for its calming and cute aesthetic. “When I play games, I want something calming and not hard. I like simple games, so it really appeals to me in that sense,” Bardy said.

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