It’s now May and the lockdown continues for another month. Isolated from friends and colleagues, many people suffer from depression.
But for people who have a Nintendo Switch portable gaming console, you are not alone, because you have Animal Crossing: New Horizons and nearly 30,000 friends to talk to.
The virtual world keeps you busy
If you are on Facebook and happen to have a friend who owns a Switch, it’s a pretty safe bet that they are probably posting about this game.
But why is it so popular? Before getting into that, here’s how the game works.
You start off with creating your own character. Pick your gender, face, haircut and clothes. Make it look like yourself or your favorite K-pop idol.
You are then dropped on a remote island with barely anything. In order to survive and thrive, you have to work hard.
Cut down trees to build a village. Catch fish to earn money, which is called “bells” in the game. Charm your fellow villagers into loving you and rewarding you with gifts. There are so many things to do.
Doing errands with cute characters, that’s how many people are coping with the lockdown.
So addicting, because it’s so fulfilling
MJ is a fellow Animal Crossing lover. She has been playing since the game was released in late March, which was around the same time she started to work from home.
The game follows real world time, so it takes a certain level of dedication, which can easily turn into addiction.
“I think it’s because I would like to decorate my island the way I want, and to do that I need to complete so many missions to achieve it,” said MJ.
“I know that tarantulas appear from 1pm to 4am, so after I tucked my son in at 9pm, I started to hunt for spiders until 2am.”
“It’s worth it though, because I’ve earned enough ‘bells’ to add more stuff to my island.”
You’re not alone
Why is this game so popular among Switch players?
“I think it’s because of the social element of the game. The reason people play this game is because it gives you a chance to connect with others and proudly show your work,” said MJ.
Players can visit other people’s islands. They can even sell to or exchange items with each other.
There’s even a Facebook group of Thai Animal Crossing community with over 29,000 members. The group bustles with requests to exchange fruits or sell fish baits.
Another interesting aspect of the game is “trading turnips,” which is a surprisingly deep mechanic for a casual game. This is how it works:
Every island has a lady boar who visits once a week to sell turnips for varying prices. The player can buy those turnips, then later sell them to a pair of raccoons at the shop where price can fluctuate. Just like how stock trading works, the game even nicknamed it “stalk market.”
The twist is players can go to other people’s islands and sell turnips for a higher price. This has led to a practice where people in the Facebook group post updates as to when the turnips on their islands are at a premium price, so others can visit for a fee or for free.
Celebrities are on it too
Trading turnips is how MJ met Rose Sirintip, a singer who often topped the charts in 2010s.
“The other day, she posted in the group that she’s opening her island for people to sell turnips for free. So I went there and took an in-game selfie with her,” she said.
Where can you play this game?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is only available on Nintendo Switch. However, if you don’t already have the console device, it may be difficult to find at this time due to high demand globally.