I’m Returning To Animal Crossing As A Force Of Ecological Destruction

According to Biskit, my favourite dog-shaped plushie villager, I’ve been away from my island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons for a good ten months, and he has since been whispering to his bug friends about my prolonged absence. And in a heart-wrenching display of affection, he told me that he has been hoping to catch a glimpse of me in my empty, cockroach-infested house every once in a while, only to be greeted by abject disappointment that I haven’t been around for a while.

Well, no longer. After getting over that seismic amount of guilt for abandoning my virtual friends to the digital abyss, I’ve decided to make a triumphant return to the island following the recent massive 2.0 update. I mean, Brewster the barista is setting up his cafe in the local museum. There are new villagers to collect and trade on the black market. I can now cook up a dizzying variety of dishes, complete with new ingredients to excessively farm. There are undiscovered flora and plants to discover in far flung mystery islands. And then there are sentient furniture called Gyroids—which are actual clay figurines that are buried with the dead to protect their souls in real life—that can be dug up from these mystery islands and reanimated to sing for you with a sprinkle of water. Such is the joy of nature! There are a gazillion more pieces of busywork to immerse myself in, and it’s the perfect time to dive right back in.

Related: Animal Crossing: Isabelle Sucks, Lottie RulesOne of the most effective ways to hoard all these resources, very rapidly, is to embark on Kapp’n’s boat tours, courtesy of its kappa helmsman Kapp’n. Like the Dodo Airlines brothers, Kapp’n takes you to random islands that are home to a veritable cornucopia of resources, except these islands are infinitely more expandable than the Nook Mile islands. The lovely Kapp’n will even sing a merry little ditty on your trip—he’s an astoundingly steadfast singer, and doesn’t mind at all if you’re clapping along to his tune in a horrendously off-beat manner. What type of island you dock on depends on sheer luck, but I’ve landed on islands that are filled with acorns, pinecones and mushrooms; trees sprouting Bell bags; crops crucial for cooking such as tomatoes and wheat; and those filled with plants that are non-native to your island.

Regardless of what these are, I quickly got to work with my tools, plucking the island clean of its flora, bringing home bushels of glowing moss and vines, hacking away at cedar trees for their precious hardwood, and prowling the island for any X-shaped cracks, which would house a fragmented gyroid. And despite almost completing my collections in the museum, I also took the opportunity to hunt for as many fish and sea creatures as possible, since these can inspire me into discovering new cooking recipes. Despite the game’s epithet as a largely tranquil game, it possesses the insidious capacity to transform me—and countless others, I believe—into a force of ecological destruction. Animal Crossing is indifferent to the contempt I wrought on these islands—in fact, rampant resource consumption has always felt particularly integral to the experience, even if the game isn’t marked by traditional win states.

But no one comes to Animal Crossing lamenting the loss of ecological balance of our virtual islands. Instead, the game does a great job in removing you from the moral culpability of committing these excesses, even as you transform your island into a metropolis filled with smoke-belching houses and towering skyscrapers. I’ve returned to this game only to exploit its landscapes mercilessly—and I can’t even muster the same regret and guilt I had for not visiting my favourite puppy villager for a few mere months.

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