When the new Animal Crossing was announced, I was honestly only half looking forward to it.
I hadn’t played since Animal Crossing New Leaf, and I bounced off that game hard. I adored Wild World, but it was mostly a single-player experience for me. My little DS was my favourite thing in the world back then. By the time I moved onto my 3DS, my chunky DS was battered to shit. But because I was 12 years old, I was still barely ever on the internet. Unless you count Habbo Hotel.
Fast forward to now and Animal Crossing New Horizons has hooked me. I wasn’t expecting to love it half as much as everyone else, but here I am, still playing it, daily, over a month since it was released. I can’t stop. Even when I’m not playing I’m seeing it everywhere: my friends are streaming it on Twitch, posting their favourite screenshots on Twitter; and nearly every Discord server I’m in has its own Animal Crossing room, where people discuss turnip prices, brag about bells, or stress about something they need or don’t have.
Why is Animal Crossing New Horizons so much more damn stressful and anxiety inducing than I ever thought it could be? Here are eight reasons Animal Crossing New Horizons makes me anxious.
Everyone plays their own way
Freedom is what makes games like this great, similar to my other love, The Sims. You might look like a chibi horror, but you can choose to recreate yourself in Animal Crossing or roleplay and live out some weird fantasy. Sometimes that fantasy is to create a creepy murder house, and sometimes it’s to make your front room look like it belongs in The Shining. Or you could just want to live somewhere that’s kawaii as heck.
It’s also this exact reason that I hate it. You’ve got some people being super chill, you’ve got others time travelling left right and centre, and then you’ve got me: not sure if I want to be chill or if I want to time travel so that damn house gets moved. I’m constantly worried that I’m not playing the game right, even though there is no right or wrong way to play it. That’s the whole point. That’s the best thing about it. Honestly, why does it make me so anxious? Why do I feel like I’ve abandoned a small child when I don’t log in? I never felt this bad about abandoning Tamagotchis in drawers.
Where’s Mr. Resetti when you need him? That little fucker used to scare the shit out of me when I accidentally turned my DS off without saving, because yes it was always accidental. I was a goodie two shoes and I would really rather not get told off by a pixel mole wearing a hard hat, thank you. Group detentions at school were bad enough. If Mr. Resetti were still telling no-good time travellers off, maybe I’d be less stressed. I’m kidding. I’m just jealous of the rule benders and breakers. I could never be that cool.
Everything takes a little bit too long
Everything in Animal Crossing New Horizons seems to take a little bit longer than it should. Crafting multiple items? Sorry, but you can only craft one at a time. This means making things like fences or whatever today’s hot items are an absolute nightmare. Something that usually wouldn’t take much time whatsoever suddenly takes up an entire day, and this makes me antsy. I wish it would just hurry up, I’ve got so much to do to perfect my island. But then, who am I perfecting my island for? I don’t mind it being a flowery mess, but bloody Isabelle is telling me I need to decorate more and add more fencing. Honestly, this is my island, not hers. Who does she think she is?
Every menu is a slog. Fancy popping to a friend’s island? Orville will make that process so very difficult for you. So very difficult. And why does Blathers give you back the fossils rather than letting you say, “Sure take ‘em,” if there’s more than one he doesn’t have? I mean, sure, there are valid reasons there: you might not care about your museum – poor Blathers – but wouldn’t it make sense to say, “Do you want to donate any?” and then take you back to the screen you were just on, rather than going through all the effort of selecting them again. A similar thing gets me when you’re at the Able Sisters’ too. Let me select more than one outfit at a time. I want to bulk buy. Please. I want every version of the flannel shirt, not just one. Please, I don’t want to leave this cubicle and enter it again. Please, Mabel.
And finally, the thing that stresses me out the most? The terraforming tools. There is no easy way to place this path how I want to place it. I keep accidentally deleting the wrong bit or turning something into a rounded corner when I want it to just go. Accidentally building a piece of higher ground in the wrong place, having to knock it down and move just a fraction to the side just to get it in the wrong place again makes everything take so much longer than it should. It’s excruciating. I have real life stuff to do too – how can I explain to my dogs that I fed them a bit later than usual because I’ve accidentally turned my river into a lake?
It’s way too easy to compare each other’s islands
I love seeing other people’s islands. Their designs are inspiring and exciting, and they make me want to sort my own “work in progress” shithole out. But I get far too nervous about having high turnip prices because I don’t want anyone to see the… mess. Please do not look. It is a trash heap.
It’s also nice to have people come over to your island, have them compliment it, only for you to go back to their island, see their house and wonder if it was just a pity “Mm, yeah, this is lovely…” rather than a genuine one. I get anxious enough out in the real world about my real house – not my real island. Don’t worry, I’m not Richard Branson. I’m not going to sue the NHS.
Whilst it’s so nice to be able to see what makes a five star island and take inspiration from it, it’s far too worrying to hear what other people think of yours. Even if they don’t say it out loud, everyone’s always judging you. Always. Judging.
Your accomplishments being shattered by your friends
When you first start playing Animal Crossing, it’s easy to appreciate your own tiny little landmarks: growing your first money tree, catching your first bugs, upgrading parts of your island. But then, when you talk and discuss what’s going on with your friends, or see what’s going on online, you realise you’re late to the party. Even if you felt like you were getting somewhere super fast – news flash: most people got there way before you.
I was finding out about various new things coming to my island before I was close enough to get them myself, just by seeing it online. It makes you lose some of the amazing sense of discovery for yourself. I wasn’t even looking for anything, ‘s just there on my feed. Taunting me. People were talking about the K.K Slider concert before Isabelle even showed up. Honestly, I just wanted to pootle along at my own pace throughout the entire game, but I kept, and keep on, comparing myself to everyone else. No pootling, more sprinting. The nice, chill game I thought I was buying has somehow turned me into some kind of competitive monster with an unhealthy obsession for turnips.
It’s distracting me from doing IRL chores
There’s a whole list of things you “should” be doing daily in Animal Crossing. From shaking trees, talking to villagers, whacking rocks, to chopping wood, watering flowers, and fishing fish. I do not have time to shake all of my trees. I barely have time to check out the Able Sister’s clothing options on a day to day basis. You need to be logging into the Nook Stop daily or else you’ll lose your streak, and even when I’m sure I’ve done it consistently for over seven days, I always get a sinking feeling when I lose that streak. When did I forget? Well, yesterday obviously.
There’s also a whole list of things I “should” be doing daily in real life. I have a whole real life house to look after, dogs to walk, cats to feed, real flowers to water, and relationships to maintain. But for some reason my Animal Crossing life takes priority. My partner’s not going to want to leave our home if I’ve not spoken to him for a few days or gifted him a knitted vest top. I mean, he might actually leave if I’ve not spoken to him, I suppose. But he’s got his own island to sort out too, so we often spend time together, sitting in silence, together in our virtual worlds. Sometimes we visit each other’s islands, but mostly we don’t. I’m sure it’s because he’s jealous of mine.
I’d rather get my island looking sharp and appease the overlord Isabelle than empty the dishwasher. I’d rather have fake flower hybrids than a flourishing IRL garden. Luckily it’s been raining pretty regularly recently so it’s like the big man upstairs has my back and my actual real garden is doing alright. But if it weren’t for the rain, who knows what my garden would look like.
I’ve played it every day since release
For someone who was so sure they were not that into Animal Crossing, and wouldn’t take it too seriously, I’ve not left it alone for a day – apart from that time I lost my Nook terminal streak that I still don’t completely understand. Even when I don’t want to play it, I do. I don’t have that motivation to do anything else in my life. The reason I do it? So I don’t get left behind all of my friends or internet mutuals and wind up having an embarrassment of an island.
This is taking “house proud” to a whole new level and I’m just not sure why I care so much. I have, on average, around one visitor a week. I work a full-time job, have pretty busy evenings, yet I really want my island to look the same as those who spend most of their time on Animal Crossing. It’s never going to happen, but for some reason I think it might. An hour a day is not the same as eight hours a day plus some time travelling. It never was, and it never will be.
Turnips. Turnips are something I’ve overlooked in life – and I say that as a raging vegan – even in previous Animal Crossing games. But everyone takes the Animal Crossing New Horizons turnips very seriously. Turnips, in case you didn’t know, are only purchasable before noon on Sunday, from a cute, snotty nosed boar called Daisy Mae. The price of turnips will vary from island to island, so you might get a better deal at a friend’s. If they’re awake before midday on a Sunday. Which not too many people are. I can’t believe a video game expects this from gamers.
You can then try to sell these turnips for a profit. Every day from Monday to Saturday you can ask the lil Nook boys for their turnip prices. There is a different price before midday, and a different price after, and again – this varies from island to island. Stressed yet? If you don’t sell your turnips by the following Sunday they’ll go off, and the only thing they’ll be good for is attracting ants.
There are websites out there that will predict your turnip prices for the week, or at least try to, and you can discuss with friends what your prices are for the day, or you can search Twitter for a kind person letting you know their prices, with a Dodo code in hand. Or, of course, you can go to the turnip exchange website, where people will ask for a whole host of entry fees to sell your turnips at their well-priced shops. Even then there’s no guarantee that they won’t just boot you off as soon as you reach their island and hand over the fee. I’m stressed just thinking about it.
Best friends are as stressful as top friends on MySpace
The best friends mechanic makes sense – it allows you to choose who from your friend list you will allow to dig or chop trees on your island. Basically, a best friend can be a destructive bastard – so you have to choose wisely. It also allows you to share messages with them in the app on your Nook phone, see when they’re online, or just open your seaport gates to best friends only.
Though, there may have been a better way to phrase it. Sure, the demographic is children, and that’s language they understand, but for adults playing, “best friends” just brings back haunting reminders of days gone by where you’d have a top friends list on MySpace. It used to be a huge point of contention for most people, and would often cause a lot of real life arguments. You’d have to try and be fair with it, unless you wanted enemies and scowls across the classroom. I suppose, at least with this system, other people don’t know who your best friends are, only the two people involved do. If you can trust them to keep a secret.
I suppose I just get flashbacks about tier-ing friendships. It’s never ended well.