Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct focussed on Animal Crossing: New Horizons and left me in a trembling state of anticipation for a slew of activities that, under the icy light and drizzle of a London day, I have no yearning to pursue. This is one of the many merits of Animal Crossing. Its power, fuelled by consumerist urges and dressed in cute clothing, predates that of Marie Kondo and her minimalist surge and offers a similar shade of mental peace by proposing the opposite idea: that clutter isn’t something to be cut through but, rather, amassed and cocooned in—safe in the knowledge that all can be snapped shut, put to sleep, or turned off should it brim to overwhelming proportions. Looking at New Horizons, I have compiled a number of things I look forward to not having to have.
1. A desert island
Of the bounty of temptations rolled out for us in the video address, first and foremost is the chance to escape to a desert island, to a “wild new life surrounded by nature.” Nothing, as Nintendo has it, could be sweeter. To see these capering holidaymakers surrounded by a getaway of enticing green is enough to make you leap from the quicksand of your sofa, frothing wallet in hand. But I can’t help noticing how little such a prospect appeals in real life. I can think of few things worse than sweating beneath a broiling sun, sand in your shoes and scratching at your patience, while the instant gratifications of modern life shrink on the horizon. And what’s so “new” about it? Living in tents and scraping by with axes and shovels sounds like a retreat to the distant days of early man.
2. The airport
My encounters with Luton, Stansted, and Heathrow airports are, in some sense, spiritual. They resemble purgatory—a procession of gates that guard the crisp airways leading to your chosen haven; meanwhile, you must face the numbing attrition of baggage claim, the vacant feeling during check-in while the soul checks out. Not so in New Horizons, in which the airport is no larger than a garden shed and squats modestly on a jetty next to a snub-nosed seaplane. What’s more, the place is staffed by a single eager dodo with aqua-coloured plumage, who clearly missed the memo of his own extinction and whose wide eyes suggest that the irony of his skybound profession has soared cleanly over his beak. I wish to know him, to shake his inadequate wing and hear his stories.
The term “outdoor pursuits,” when applied to fishing, has the flavour of an oxymoron. There is nothing to pursue; any Melvillian visions of man versus beast—plunging through a storm of obsession, harpoon raised for the kill—soon wither. Instead, you just wait, preferably with a can of beer crammed into the mesh cup holder of your collapsible nylon chair. Few things seem as tedious to me, and if you live in London, God knows what you’re liable to prise up from the toxic slime of the Thames—some poor, three-eyed creature ten minutes from sprouting legs and making its own way out. But one glimpse of those alluring streams of blue in New Horizons, and there is nothing I’d rather be doing. (For one thing, I can sit at home, on a seat not woven from weatherproof canvas.
DIY has always sounded hostile to me—“do it yourself” is the sort of thing an exasperated tradesman might shout before downing tools and tramping off site. For most of us, DIY is an exercise in boredom tinged with despair, and not, as the narrator in the video informs us, a way to “enrich your life with your own hands.” The extent of most people’s experience with DIY will come courtesy of IKEA, whose flat-packed approach to living surely appeals to players of Animal Crossing, who have folded an awful lot of furniture between the twin screens of the Nintendo DS. And I have no desire to take my experience with it any further; however, when, during the video, we are ushered into Resident Services and shown the panoply of joys that await the handy—namely, those of custom-designed upholstery—I could scarcely contain myself.
5. Bug collecting
There aren’t many hobbies I would associate with homicide. The thrills of philately lend themselves, perhaps unfairly, to the stuffy and the sequestered. Leaf peeping, despite what it actually involves, has always sounded like it could bloom into mischief at any moment. But something about bug collecting has always unnerved: pinning and preserving the poor critters behind glass for, well, for what? Study? Kicks? Or preparation for human prey… ? Either way, trust Animal Crossing to dust away the webs of menace from the activity and present it as practice of pure, naive wonder. Still, I’ll be swinging a net, jar at the ready, with the best of them come March. Hopefully, it won’t turn my villager to thoughts of violence, leading me to one day power up my Nintendo Switch and discover, to my horror, that I have made a monster.
6. Have a chimp as a neighbour
The obvious anxiety involved in sharing one’s neighbourhood with the hairy whims of chimps soon gives way to the desire, no less instinctual, to see them in floral-print dresses—a promise that New Horizons seeks to fulfill.