I'm a Nerd About ... Animal Crossing

During the pandemic, Marykathryn Charles found comfort and connection in her favorite game.

By Emma Korsmo

Villager named Deena in Animal Crossing Game
Favorite villager: Deena

Marykathryn Charles ’22 is a mayor. Not of her hometown, but of an island called Waldton with the cutest residents you’ll ever see. Charles has been playing the Nintendo game Animal Crossing since 2008 and has owned every release since then. You could definitely call her an avid fan. But what is Animal Crossing? “It’s a simulation game where you can just vibe,” says Charles. “It’s got something for everyone.”

Deena wearing scarf and overalls in front of fountain
Favorite Outfit: scarf and overalls

Originally released on the Nintendo 64 and subsequently released on the GameCube, Nintendo DS, Wii and most recently Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossing is a life simulation game where the player can interact with animal-inspired residents and design their own town or island, while enjoying side tasks such as fishing, catching bugs, digging up fossils, designing clothes and much more. By completing activities, talking to residents often and decorating the island top to bottom, the player can increase the rating of their island from one star to five. The launch of the most recent version, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, during the COVID-19 pandemic helped Charles and 32 million other gamers find comfort in building their island.

Deena on beach using fishing pole
Favorite tool: fishing pole

“It helped me connect with other people. … It was a good way to do something that almost seemed like it was in person, but still be separate,” explains Charles. With the help of Nintendo Online, players from around the world can visit each other’s islands — the perfect activity for 2020. Not only can you play with friends, says Charles, but the game provides daily tasks for players to complete. “It’s kind of like a schedule. I would get on Animal Crossing every day in the morning to check in and then play for a couple hours in the afternoon.”

Deena holding bug in front of fountain
Favorite bug: leaf bug

We have all felt the pandemic blues, but to Charles, Animal Crossing is more than just a way to pass the time. “It’s very close to my heart. It is nice to have this thing that makes me feel at home. I know what to expect, and it is relaxing to escape into this world for a little bit.” Players build relationships with their residents and a pride for the island, encouraging them to continue to log on once the guided play is complete. Charles still plays every day — not because she needs an escape, but for her love of the game.