Since 2016, when the Trump administration took over, there has been a growing trend in the media produced and presented to us on our phones and TVs, on Netflix, and in the games we play. Is this simply a coincidence or a product of this harrowing political landscape? Either way, it has a name… Nicecore. A term coined by writer David Ehlrich, it defines the shows and entertainment produced in the last two years which have become defined by their focus on altruistic relationships and an optimistic view of the world, such as The Good Place and Queer Eye. So, after six years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the last console game in the Animal Crossing series, it’s new instalment on the Nintendo Switch, which will be released in 2019, couldn’t be coming at a better time.
Animal Crossing is a video game series that has been developed and published by Nintendo since its debut for the Nintendo 64 in 2001, with later games on the Nintendo DS and Wii, as well as several spin off games such as the mobile app Pocket Camp. In the game, you play the only human in a village populated by anthropomorphic animals, with different personalities and endearing quirks, who go about their day in a virtual utopia where most of your time will be spent harvesting fruit, searching for fossils and fishing. It simulates the real passage of time and with no rush to ‘complete’ the game, which itself has no real end; you’re free to live your virtual life however you please, without the seriousness of ominous real-world responsibilities. Even the so-called ‘debt’ you owe to the town’s entrepreneurial raccoon Tom Nook has no time constraints and is interest free.
Perhaps the most comforting aspects of the game are its grounding real-world elements, such as its simulation of ‘real time’. While you can spend your entire day catching bugs and saving all your ‘bells’ (the game’s currency), you’re still limited by the village shops’ opening times and the four seasons in each year. It still gets darker in winter when the snow starts to fall, and lighter in the summer when the cicadas are out. It is rare that a game operates like this, even similar ‘real life’ games such as The Sims allow for you to speed things up to an unnatural degree. And, right now, it feels nice and very much needed, to be able to slow things down when every other part of your life can feel chaotic and overwhelming. The game’s focus on creating wholesome, positive moments in a virtual world that contrasts so drastically from our own real one contributes to this reactionary moment in media, and we deserve it.