Never Have I Ever…Played ‘Animal Crossing’

Anyone else starting to get a little bored?

I had a full plan for working through my time at home – pack up all my stuff, deep-clean my flat, put down a deposit on a lovely new place I’d found and move, ready to start my new job on April 1st. Then we got quarantined (rightly so – I’m not complaining about that) and I had to rethink all my plans. 

With a much more distant and vague deadline for emptying out my current flat, my cleaning schedule started to spread itself out until I’d gone from deep-cleaning a room a day to feeling accomplished after wiping down the kitchen cupboard doors. I felt like I had more time for fun stuff – writing, crafting, and felt less need to power through all the packing and cleaning. By Sunday of last week, I’d reached a point where I spent almost a whole day playing through a video game from start to finish (the delightful ‘Pan-Pan’ on the Switch) and realised that I should (a) get back on top of my cleaning and packing, and (b) turn my down-time into something vaguely productive so I’d feel less anxious and guilty about it.

Which brings us to this week’s post.

I’ve written before about how I used to play video games all the time – from ‘80s arcade games and Spectrum ZX classics, to getting the original Playstation the year it was launched – but after graduating university and moving out into my own house, I somehow put that behind me. It was partly a need to behave more like a ‘proper’ grown-up and partly because I was aware of how much time I could lose to games if I wasn’t careful, often at the expense of stuff that needed to be done. At the time, I was working as a high school teacher, a job which didn’t allow for much of a work-life balance, and losing an entire weekend to a video game just wasn’t worth it when there were lessons to plan and marking to be done.

Hands up if this game made you want to throw your joystick at the TV.

Cut to several years later and I thankfully have a job which I don’t have to bring home with me. My personal time is mine alone, and just as I might spend a day reading or writing, so I also have the freedom to lose myself in video game worlds if I want to.

Except…I’m not sure where to start. 

At some point I became gamer-adjacent, vaguely aware of certain big titles via cultural osmosis. I’d played the very first Grand Theft Auto game on the Playstation, but pop culture tends to ignore that one. Likewise, the kind of point-and-click story-puzzles I enjoyed (like the Discworld games) weren’t what the cool gamer kids were into.

At some point, video games had turned in variations on the theme of ‘gun’. Not my thing, thank you very much. 

Hands up if you still feel guilty about getting this achievement.

Last year I decided to treat myself to a Switch Lite, initially so I could play ‘Untitled Goose Game’, but also with a view to picking up some gentle, fun games to play as relaxation. ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ was on my watch-list, but I’d decided not to buy it straight away as I was saving money to move house. But now my moving plans are delayed indefinitely, and since I won’t be travelling anywhere, going out for coffee a couple of times a week, or buying breakfast on the way to work for a while, I’ve decided I’m going to give the game a go.

Again, thanks to pop-culture osmosis, I know a few things about this franchise. I know it’s supposed to be a fun, relaxing game but also there are tarantulas that chase and bite you (not my idea of a fun time), and there is someone called Tom Nook who may be some sort of morally ambiguous business owner. I know that fishing is important but tricky, and I know the characters talk in some sort of cute Sim-like babble which is far too adorable to describe.

I am also painfully aware that I sound like a complete geriatric describing all of this – I feel like one of those grandparents who get introduced to the game and get really into it but can’t remember what anything’s called and end up in someone’s viral TikTok video.

That’s Tom Nook, right?

I’m going to tweet along as I dive into the game, so do remember to follow me @oldanimefan if you aren’t already. If you have any advice for a total newbie, feel free to share in the comments. 

Depending on how long I’m stuck at home (I won’t be returning to work any time soon as I’ve been furloughed for possibly two whole months until my employer decides we can re-open our shops), I might consider trying out a few other things I’ve Never Ever done before – you can give me suggestions for anime or movies to watch, or even more video games (if you want to recommend a video game, please consider buying me a coffee via the link below to help out!).

Update: you can read about my first day of play in this tweet thread.

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