When Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched back on March 20th 2020, the world was in the throes of a crisis. I’m sure I don’t need to relay the facts to you, but for context, here in the UK we went into government sanctioned lockdown on March 23rd – due to health implications, my own lockdown began on March 17th.
I had no intentions of buying ACNH, but a combination of getting caught up in the hype and wanting something to fill my lockdown time really appealed, so I bought it. My current play time sits at around 160 hours, and with the game having been out for 75 days (at time of writing). Whilst it sounds a lot, that actually only equates to an average of just over 2 hours per day, nothing in comparison to some players I’m sure.
Initially, I really enjoyed playing ACNH. I loved meeting new villagers, building up my library, extending my house, all the things that are exciting and fresh once you start playing. Online there have been some people saying that ACNH doesn’t have enough to sustain it. Back over Easter, there was a lot said about the eggs that could be found throughout the game being too frequent and getting in the way of normal play. All of this is a stark reminder that the lockdown changed things. This isn’t a game that was designed to be played for 8 hours a day, we were supposed to be a lot more casual in our playing. I think now, some 75 days on, this is where I’m at with ACNH. I’m finally putting in the 1-2 hours a day playtime that the game developers probably had in mind when they made it.
Once I’d met the goal of having KK Slider perform on my island, terraforming brought with it it’s own anxieties. Where the game had been reasonably relaxing knowing I had no control over the environment other than decoration, being given carte blanche to tear down cliffs and stick water wherever I wanted was pretty overwhelming.
There’s been a lot of discourse on Twitter about not comparing yourself to other players, but in an age where everything is easily shared, it’s hard not to. I’ll admit I got myself trapped in a cycle of seeing things online and realising I would never come up with anything that creative for my own island, and found that any joy I’d got from ACNH had left, replaced by fear. What I was scared of I couldn’t exactly say, but I think part of it was having an image in my head that I couldn’t recreate.
Whilst my playtime on ACNH has reduced of late, I’m still playing a bit each day. I’ve found it helps with my daily routine. The daily ACNH tasks; collect fossils and have them assessed, check for recipes on the beach and in villager houses, all of these things keep some structure in my life which as been missing since coronavirus hit.
I have a few areas on my island I’m looking to develop, and that I have some ideas for, but after they are done I do wonder what the game will hold for me. I feel like I’ve definitely got my money out of ACNH, 160+ hours into any game is more than reasonable, but I also feel like the end of my time with ACNH is probably in sight.
When I started writing this piece, it was centred around how playing ACNH helped me cope with depression and anxiety during lockdown, and whilst it has, I can definitely tell that the end of the cycle is in sight. I’ll still play it, but it’ll be less of a coping mechanism for me now.