Animal Crossing: New Horizons

2020 was a chaotic, miserable year. From devastating fires in Australia and the West Coast of the United States to a global pandemic, this year was filled with terrible surprises, and each month brought its own insurmountable challenges.

Right at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns, when many states were issuing stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the pandemic, Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched. It ended up being a fantastic lockdown activity, meaning that New Horizons was perfectly timed to be a phenomenon.

But more than just a sales behemoth that allowed us to while away long hours of seclusion, it also felt like a balm on the wounds that 2020 was leaving. In an unpredictable world, the gameplay loop of New Horizons becomes an addictive and pacifying rhythm. Once you get familiar with the basic patterns of life on your island, you’ll seldom be surprised, and in those rare moments when you are surprised by something, it’s something good.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The worst thing Animal Crossing: New Horizons will ever throw at you is a tarantula or a scorpion that managed to stay out of sight, perhaps behind a building or something. And even then, you’ll get stung and then continue whatever it was you were doing. It’s a pretty minor inconvenience.

In 2020, a lot of people lost their jobs, meaning money was hard to come by for a lot of folks. In New Horizons, all you have to do is catch some fish or dig up some seashells and you’ve got all the money you need. In 2020, debts were harder to pay than in other years. In New Horizons, there’s no deadline for paying off your debts at all. In 2020, getting out to see your friends could be difficult or even dangerous. In New Horizons, you can hang out with your friends all day long, and they’re always (or almost always) excited to see you.

This low-stakes gameplay creates a calming experience filled with joy — pretty much the opposite of the events of 2020. On a small scale, it was the positive that neutralized a negative. Sure, it’ didn’t put out any fires, but it did encourage people to stay inside when COVID-19 was rapidly spreading, so that’s not exactly nothing.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

2020 needed a big game that could steal a hundred hours or more from a player, and New Horizons was that. But 2020 also needed a game that was relaxing and predictable, and New Horizons was that as well.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect game for 2020 because its game world is pretty much the exact opposite of 2020. I can’t think of another game that came out this year that was better at 2020 escapism than New Horizons.

When the world needed Animal Crossing the most, New Horizons arrived like an adorable little superhero. Sure, say what you will about the greed of the Nook dynasty, or about how Violet is the most annoying villager of them all (she really is the worst), but Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the perfect game to take just a little bit of the sting out of 2020.

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