2023 Is The Year I Finally Stick With Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been out for three years and while it was the Animal Crossing to finally sell me on the series, I’ve never played it for longer than a month or two. I pick an island, name it something silly I immediately regret, place down my house, invite villagers over, get into an enormous amount of debt, and then get overwhelmed trying to make it look good. Usually, my home is a mess of furniture to get a high rating, and my island ends up with a lighthouse and some rickety wooden bridges. It’s hardly paradise.

I want to change that. I keep seeing gothic TikToks of spooky year-round islands that have walkways adorned with skulls and blood, and lavish Addams Family-style mansions that modernise old Victorian aesthetics. I’ve spent the past three years trying to make things pretty, going for typical Animal Crossing vibes, which is why I’ve bounced off – it’s just not me.

Knowing that, I’ve got an island called Gallifrey and a clear-cut goal – gothic, with a sprinkle of nerdy. I’m thinking a TARDIS by the beach, like when the 4th Doctor and Romana 2 took a little vacation that definitely didn’t end up as misadventure; dark red wallpaper with candles and macabre decor, and to top it all off, dressing up my villager like one of the Doctors. I could go for Richard E. Grant’s Shada, given he was more gothic, or take a lighter route and try to recreate six’s rainbow coat. Whatever the case, I actually have plans – something I’ve never been armed with.

Animal Crossing might be the most competitive casual game I’ve played, in the most passive-aggressive way. You can invite your friends over to your island and there’s an unspoken rivalry – I’ve popped by my mates’ islands, walked down meticulous streets laid out perfectly, connecting every bit of land and giving each spot a purpose. There are outdoor bars, pools, little music hangouts, gaming rooms, and all sorts of other intricate creations that require a ton of props and decorations to get working. It’s amazing to see, but it’s intimidating for someone who just stuck a path down and plopped a house at the end of it.

It certainly makes me jealous, but rather than motivating me to bother trying to reach similar heights, it puts me off. I can’t be bothered to reach that level, and I don’t believe for a second my island will be anywhere near as good, so why try? That’s where my plan comes in. For the past three years, I’ve been aimlessly slapping stuff together in a hope that it would turn out okay, never having one theme or any visual idea in my head of what it could all look like. Having that has finally given me motivation, since now there’s an endgame.

A lot of sandbox-style games like Animal Crossing, The Sims, and Minecraft, are all about you creating your own goals and objectives, and it’s by not treating AC the same as those other two that’s failed me. This time next year, I want an island that screams me, a bottled up expression of all my favourite things, and maybe I’ll even splice together whatever flavour of the month I’m obsessing over, like my short-lived Sylvester Stallone stint I had earlier this month. That’s what Animal Crossing is about – expressing yourself. The island is a canvas for you to paint however you want, and I’ve been playing it like a chore checklist. So bring on 2023, because I swear this is the year I’ll finally see what Halloween is like in Animal Crossing.

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