Brow Beat

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Is an Escape Into Comforting Boredom

Ten days of chopping wood, eating fruit, and paying debts to an all-powerful raccoon.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Good news—you’re on an island paradise! Bad news—there’s nothing to do. Screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons

As the pandemic rages, social distancers have immersed themselves in the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Nintendo Switch title is a cheerful, gentle game about building an island town and making friends. For many, it has served as a refuge and a substitute for getting outside as well as a way to virtually connect while apart. For others … well, read on.

Day 1

I have become trapped on a small, remote island; I know not how. My only companions are furries.

A raccoon informed me that I owed him a large amount of money in an unknown currency. When I told him I had no money he eventually relented, so now I owe him a different amount, in another unknown currency.

Regardless of the currency, I have no money.

I have been issued a tent, a camping lamp, a cardboard box, a cot, and a Nintendo Switch. There are some sticks on the ground. Surely these furries cannot expect me to build a new life out of sticks?

Day 2

I awoke to find the left half of my tattered clothes soaked to the skin. Unknowingly I must have brushed the side of the tent as I slept, allowing the dew that soaked the tent to soak my clothes in turn. A sheep gave me a denim cap, for which I thanked him, though in my heart I wished it had been a warm, dry shirt instead.

After some experimentation I managed to fashion a makeshift ax out of some sticks and a rock I found laying on the ground. I must toil unceasingly, chopping wood and pulling weeds, to repay my raccoon master.

The only thing to eat here is cherries.

I hate cherries.

Day 3

My raccoon master is pleased with me! I am a model prisoner, and I have even been awarded the title of prisoner representative. This means … more tasks. So many tasks.

Day 4

It has been raining all day. I am very wet and very cold. I attempted to fashion an umbrella from a leaf, which suggests my mental state may not be holding up as well as I had hoped.

Meanwhile, the contours of my raccoon master’s scheme are growing clearer. I was offered a house with walls and a proper roof to replace my cold, wet tent, but only if I agreed to place myself in yet more debt to this blighted raccoon. What deviousness, to arrange things such that it appears I chose this fate of my own free will! I was tempted to refuse, but after dithering for an hour or two I returned, reluctantly, and agreed to his terms. If I am to be a prisoner here, I can, at least, be dry.

I would write more, but I must save my energy for chopping wood. The wretched raccoon offspring of my master require wood. They say they want to build a store. Have they no arms to chop?

Day 5

I have been speaking more with my fellow prisoners, attempting to rouse them to throw off their chains and join me in rising up against our raccoon overlords. Alas, these simple souls seem not to recognize the deprivation and injustice that we face. They are content to roam about the island chasing after bugs and catching fish. I am caught between irritation at their uselessness and envy for the joy they seem to find in simple tasks.

Day 6

I found that the island has a small airport, run by dodos: I am saved! Through various schemes I’ve managed to amass enough currency to afford a ticket on one of their flights. Tonight I am far too tired from planting flower beds, breaking rocks, and chopping wood to make the trek down to the airport, but tomorrow when I awake I will fly from this island and be free at last.

Day 7

Perhaps I should have anticipated it; the dodos and their airport would turn out to be just one more scheme. I find I am almost too disheartened to make a diary entry today.

Instead of a city on the mainland, the dodos flew me to another near-deserted island. My only companion was a rhinoceros who was herself trapped. She was so distressed that even my island prison seemed preferable to her solitude.

It quickly became clear to me that the purpose of these “flights” is to induce me to chop yet more wood, harvest yet more fruit, and break yet more rocks for my diabolical raccoon master.

Oh, how I tire of chopping wood and picking fruit and breaking rocks.

Day 8

I took a second flight today, and I intend to take flights as often as I can afford to. In time I hope to find some means of overpowering the pilot and contriving my escape.

The dodo pilot is a military man and has affected to use the military alphabet when he speaks. There is one change, however, from the alphabet I remember from my own time in the service. When he speaks of returning me to my prison, he announces heartily that he will do it “November Oscar Whisker.”

I wish to God I had a whiskey.

Day 9

I have decorated my one-room hovel with whatever I could craft or find washed up on shore. I have a small wooden table, a bed made out of weeds, a backpack with the corporate logo of my raccoon overlord, and a free-standing anatomical model of the human digestive tract.

A letter came in the mail today, informing me that my home had been inventoried and then graded by some faceless authority (probably the damned raccoon again, although he won’t admit it).

I got a B.

Day 10

A rabbit, large of ears and terrifying to behold, appeared today. He has replaced much of my wood, my stone, and even some of my fish, with eggs. The others do not see him. He says he will reward me if I do what he commands.