Let me start off by saying I’m not usually a gamer.
We’ve had a Nintendo Switch for more than a year, and I can maybe count on one hand the number of times I have picked up a controller to play along with the kids. But then Declan and Mara started playing a new game — “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” — and it has become a household obsession.
At first, I started out just to see what the kids were always talking about. And then, just like them, I was hooked. My husband, Peter, and Murray the cat are the only members of the family not caught up in this gaming whirlwind. And honestly, I’m glad, because that would just mean more people to have to share screen time with each day. Yep, that’s how bad I have it for this game.
Talk in the morning over breakfast and at the dinner table has turned into in-depth conversations on what is going on with each of us and our progress in “Animal Crossing.” We converse about what new fish or bug was caught, what new tool was unlocked and what new trick was discovered. It’s kind of crazy, but the kids and I have actually bonded over playing this game together.
Each of us has a different take on how we play the game.
Declan is a collector, which is just a polite way of saying “hoarder.” Much like his bedroom in real life, his small, one-room house is crammed full of all manner of fish, bugs and furniture. He is so focused on keeping every creature he captures that, after weeks of play, he still hasn’t paid off his original house loan.
Mara is a beautifier. Hers is the most homey of our island dwellings. It’s filled with interesting and artistic items, and a select assortment of fish and butterflies that she finds particularly pretty. She also has a cool chest full of clothes for her to look on point, no matter what the occasion.
And then there’s me. I’m a stone-cold fisher, bug hunter and crafter for profit. I’m in it for the bells (the island currency). If it swims, flaps or can be easily assembled at the trusty tool bench and fetches a bounty of 1,000 or more bells, I keep it and sell it at the Nook shack. Then I squirrel away the profits in my savings. These island home additions aren’t cheap, after all.
This game has come at a really interesting time, too. While so many people are staying home or staying distant from loved ones, this island adventure has created an escape from some of the real-world isolation.
I’m not usually a big pusher of screens to escape. Summer days of sunshine are for outside adventuring, but after catching fireflies or for those rainy days inside, a little virtual escape has turned into a lot of family fun.
And I have to say, there is something very soothing about getting out of the house — even virtually — to an island paradise where the calming waves of the ocean wash away in the background and the biggest decision of the day is which island to explore. For a family who may not have any exotic vacations on the books for the near future, this virtual getaway has been a happy diversion.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children and lives in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.