Some Floridians have escaped the coronavirus pandemic by traveling to an ultimate island getaway surrounded by kooky, colorful creatures.
With the recent release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch console, casual and avid gamers alike have used the video game to pass the time during the statewide stay-at-home order as well as to ease their worries associated with COVID-19.
The newest version has been so successful that its consoles – the original Nintendo Switch and the hybrid version – have experienced shortages at big box stores such as Best Buy and Target.
Brandon Bondie, 31, a pharmacy technician who lives in Florahome, Putnam County, said he went to five Walmart stores looking for a new Switch – after his wife “hijacked” his console to play Animal Crossing as she spent more time at home.
Although Amanda Bondie, 32, a mobile response team member for Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, had typically only played phone games like Candy Crush, her husband said, she became proficient at Animal Crossing quickly.
“I’m seriously impressed,” Brandon Bondie said.
Now with two Switches, the couple can play together and visit each other’s island.
“Everybody wants to be connected,” he said. “It kind of helps you escape all the chaos that’s going on in the world.”
The simplicity of Animal Crossing – in which the main objective is to pay off home loans by selling fish, fossils and insects – has generally appealed to an audience that doesn’t regularly play video games. In real-time, players can grow fruit trees and flowers, build tools and homes, invite or shoo away anthropomorphic neighbors, and buy clothing and furniture. Without a time limit or strict rules, villagers have free reign to work and play as they please.
Graphic designer Daisy Mason, 30, of Gainesville, has always worked from home, but she misses her outings with friends. Animal Crossing’s online multiplayer function allows them to play together.
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect,” Mason said of the new release. “You can live the life that you maybe wish you could right now.”
Coral Moon, 24, who makes stylized art and stickers from her home in Gainesville, started playing New Horizons having grown up with the Animal Crossing series. The Santa Fe High School graduate is also a fan of video games such as Mortal Kombat, Doom and RuneScape.
Now, Animal Crossing is her gaming priority. She said it helps to calm her nerves and keep her distracted from constant and unfortunate news about the coronavirus.
“My general stress is up a lot higher than it normally is as somebody who is generally a very anxious person,” Moon said.
Kristine Harris, 39, of Winter Garden, worried that her three children having to do their schoolwork and speech therapy at home would take away the fun of being in their safe space.
So while out grocery shopping, the stay-at-home mom decided to buy a Nintendo Switch and the Animal Crossing video game to make sheltering in place a little easier.
“This is kind of a new fun thing that counteracts the fact that there’s so much more negative,” she said.
Ryan King, 23, a Santa Fe College video production student from Titusville, said a couple of his friends bought Switch consoles just to play Animal Crossing with everybody. King said the game helped to take his mind off of his schoolwork, parents’ health and the economy.
“For me, it’s just really relaxing; it’s like a really chill game,” he said. “Plus, the graphics are just so cute.”
After a hectic day at work, Publix employee Katie Patterson, 29, of DeLand, said she loves spending the night unwinding with Animal Crossing.
“The colors are very pleasing to the eye, the sounds are very aesthetic to the ears, and it’s just very calming,” Patterson said.
She’s also been able to virtually connect with friends and made her own Animal Crossing-inspired TikTok videos.
“It’s just been so fun to be a part of the community and be contributing to that in a creative way,” she said.
Savannah King, 24, a University of Florida sport management graduate student who is not related to Ryan King, said “there’s a FOMO aspect” – that is, fear of missing out – with Animal Crossing. Savannah King said she prefers fast-paced shooter games such as Call of Duty and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and that Animal Crossing is her only nonviolent one.
“It’s kind of cathartic in that way,” she said.
Animal Crossing has helped Page Pattishall, 26, to momentarily escape reality about being furloughed from her job at Fracture, a photo finishing company in Gainesville.
“It is super stressful to think about that every day,” Pattishall said. “So having something mindless to do really helps.”
While she loves games that feature animals, she said what separates Animal Crossing from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Dark Souls is it doesn’t have a complicated plot.
“You don’t have to fight any bad guys; you don’t have to shoot anybody,” Pattishall said. “You could just do whatever you want.”