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Animal Crossing and Our Yearning for Paradise

From the moment I watched Tom Nook’s promotional video highlighting his new Deserted Island Getaway Package, I knew I was about to go into crushing Bell debt. There was no way I could resist the allure of enjoying a pristine island with my family and cultivating it into a paradise. The day after launch, my daughter and I moved to our new island home, lovingly dubbed “Unicornia.”

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (“Amiul Crossing” to my four-year-old) gave our family a welcome vacation from our COVID-19-mandated staycation. We dove into a world with no cabin fever and no social distancing. Instead, we found family, friendship, and community in Miranda the duck (my daughter’s favorite), Goose the chicken (my favorite), and Fuschia the… whatever animal she is. And we fell in love with the new horizons of the island itself, ripe for exploration.

Animal Crossing promises “a laid back, relaxing time in a haven of nature,” an image reminiscent of the zen garden with which the game shares its Japanese roots. It’s an escape from the noise and chaos of life, where one can experience harmony with nature and the world. This picture of a natural sanctuary transcends times and cultures, and now, with stay-at-home orders chaining us indoors, getting away to experience nature’s essence is all the more appealing. New Horizons provides these experiences simply and splendidly.

The joy of seeing fresh fruit on the trees. The babbling of rivers ambling by while the sun sets. Playing hide-and-seek with friends and family on a lazy afternoon. Discovering a new bug and learning more about it. Wishing on shooting stars with no other lights to diminish their splendor. That feeling of achievement when the island finally starts feeling… full. The delight when an animal friend runs up to say “hi” because they want to share something good with you. And the sheer absence of conflict. With anyone. Or anything. (Unless that thing is a fish or a bug.)

Animal Crossing’s island sanctuary provides a soothing Edenic balm, helping us feel what life would be like in the world as it should be.

While reflecting on this fruit-rich, stream-filled paradise where humanity lives in perfect harmony with nature and fills it with unique creativity, it was hard not to think about the Garden of Eden. Everything I just mentioned—sans the fish killing—could just as easily have described that very first natural sanctuary. Before COVID-19, before loneliness, before depression, before cruelty, before death, there was Eden.

The bad news is, we’ll never know what it felt like to live in an Edenic world and not a broken one, at least not in this lifetime. The good news is, Animal Crossing’s island sanctuary provides a soothing Edenic balm, helping us feel what life would be like in the world as it should be. The even better news is, there’s a promise of a new and better sanctuary that is coming soon. I, for one, am looking forward to that getaway.

David purportedly beat his dad at Super Mario Bros. at the age of 3. His dad wisely retired from games shortly thereafter, but David has continued enjoying games of all shapes and sizes, even as he studies for an M. Div. He has served as a media director, a CTO, and an entrepreneur, but his most prized role is that of husband to Amy. He is currently teaching his daughter to drift in Mario Kart.

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