Playing ACNH… With Friends!

(Author’s narration)

Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) on the Nintendo Switch has become a big part of my life, since falling ill with M.E.

When the game first came out it provided me with a positive focus; taking my mind off my symptoms and giving me a sense of achievement, at a time my normal life had come to an unexpected and abrupt end. For the first year, I played the game by myself, with just the other residents on my Island for company. I made a couple of trips to other Islands to swap fruit supplies, and I visited a number of Dream Islands, but, other than that, I guess you could say I was a bit of an ACNH loner. I simply didn’t know anyone else who played ACNH, and I sometimes wondered what it would be like to play the game with friends…

A person in a duck pond waves at the camera
It’s not as much fun playing hide and seek on your own…

These days, however, I wonder no more! Reaching out to the M.E. Community on social media has enabled me to start making connections with all sorts of wonderful people – and, to my absolute delight, some of them even play ACNH! It’s been so much fun visiting people on their Islands and seeing so much creativity in the game. I love running around exploring, and being able to interact with people – by chatting on the NookLink app and using the reactions in the game.

Two people sitting on a bench, smiling
ACNH Friends: Luisa (Left) and Lisa (Right) sitting on a bench in Aysa-Thoon

Although I thoroughly enjoyed playing ACNH before, I’ve discovered that Island life is even more fun when you have friends!

Luisa’s Story

A rabbit and a person looking towards the camera

Aysa-Thoon Dream Code: DA-3051-7338-2630

Reflecting on my experience of playing ACNH led me to wonder what the game means for other people with M.E. who play it… Meet one of my lovely new ACNH friends, Luisa, the talented creator of the beautiful Island, Aysa-Thoon.

I started by asking Luisa to tell me about her experience of falling ill with M.E.

A girl sits at a birthday party table looking sad
Luisa fell ill with a flu-like virus in 2017, on a family member’s birthday

Luisa explains, “I came down with a flu-like virus on the 23rd of January 2017 which I can remember because it was a family member’s birthday. (If it wasn’t a birthday I would totally take advantage of having a specific date and demand sickaversary cake! I’m yet to convince my parents that this is a good idea).”

Person sitting in a school room looking tired
“I was using all my energy to go to college and had nothing left for trivial things like…revision.”

“At first it just seemed I was taking a little longer to recover than normal so I ignored the very mild symptoms for a few months before they started to build up. My GP diagnosed post-viral fatigue and shortly after I passed the six month mark she referred me to an ME/CFS clinic. At the time I was still a full time student studying A-levels and by the time exams came it was starting to have an impact on my studies in that I was using all my energy to go to college and had nothing left for trivial things like…revision. I was able to take a longer than normal summer holiday by essentially just skipping the last two weeks and by the end I felt like I had almost completely recovered!

This illusion was promptly shattered within a week of returning to college. By October I realised I wasn’t going to make it to the end of the academic year but I didn’t admit this to my tutors until January, mostly because I wasn’t ready to quit having a meaningful routine and seeing my friends every day. From then my health continued to gradually deteriorate.”

Luisa’s Experience of Moderate to Severe M.E. And ACNH

A person sitting under a tree
“I do try and get out into the garden most days”

Where my M.E. symptoms are mild, Luisa’s M.E. is moderate to severe. She explains, “I’m pretty much housebound although I do try and get out into the garden most days and I have to be very careful to not bring on the brain fog, or worse, sensory overload. Although I am very limited I do count myself very lucky to not have too many symptoms other than fatigue to deal with regularly such as pain so I consider my quality of life to not be as terrible as it could be, at least most of the time.”

I wondered if playing ACNH had helped Luisa with her M.E. as much as it’s helped me?

“I think a big thing that ACNH has helped with is that it’s a fun activity but not at all demanding, to have been able to do something every day for over a year is a rare thing for me. Even on a very bad day I can usually manage to hop on, even if it’s only for a while in the dead of night, and as a result I’ve actually been able to achieve things in the game that I’m genuinely really proud of!”

Two people sitting at a table laughing
Making social connections on Aysa-Thoon

“The main thing though has definitely been the social connections that I’ve made through the game. I’ve been able to play with current friends, make new friends and also reconnect with old friends! This has made this last year where almost everyone else has been struggling with pandemic lockdowns the best one for me for a while! Even as most of my friends start to move on from the game and get back into normal life I think I’ll always treasure this time.”

Let’s Talk Animal Crossing

A person and a lion standing on the beach
Introducing… Leopold!

1) When did you first start playing Animal Crossing?
My first Animal Crossing game was Animal Crossing Wild World which came out when I was in primary school, I remember having lots of fun playing with friends and family. I rediscovered my love for the series relatively recently and picked up New Leaf for a while before New Horizons came out.

2) How many hours have you played ACNH for?
I’m currently on 925 hours of playtime, I’ve played every day since the game released and I have no plans to stop now!

An anteater and a person standing at a work bench
Crafting with Pango!

3) What do you enjoy most about the game?
I think the main thing I enjoy is the creativity that it allows you to have to make the island your own without having so many options that it becomes overwhelming. The relaxed nature of the game is definitely a big factor too, you really can do things at your own pace, even if that means you’re out terraforming your island at 2am! My villagers must really love when I do that.

A person and a rabbit
Luisa with her favourite villager, Coco

4) Do you have a favourite villager?
I love all my villagers for different reasons, Leopold fits my island theme really well, Pango’s colourful, bushy tail makes me happy, but I think I’d have to say Coco. I got most of my villagers through Amiibo cards that I bought specifically for this game but when I came across Coco on a random Mystery Island tour I realised my island would never be complete without her! I think I like her slightly spooky appearance, I never really found it disturbing so it amuses me when other people do. Of course she is also just a genuine sweetheart who deserves all the good things!

5) Are there any other games you like to play/would recommend for fans of ACNH?
Looking through my games library I definitely tend to go for open-world adventure games, I like to explore new worlds, discover their stories and make friends much like I do in Animal Crossing!

Most recently I picked up Alba: a wildlife adventure which I would absolutely recommend. It’s a cute little game set on a Spanish Island where you play as a young girl called Alba who skips around helping and taking pictures of the wildlife. While it’s not a long or complex game it really nails the atmosphere and is really very lovely. I especially liked how they included the real life bird calls, it really made it feel like I was on a mini holiday myself!

Playing ACNH With Friends: Part Two – Coming Soon!

A person stuck in the ground, while another person stands over them with a shovel, laughing
Beware the Pitfall!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little about Luisa and what ACNH means to her. I recently felt very honoured to receive an invitation from Luisa, asking me if I would do some testing for her, ahead of a special party she was organising for some of her friends on her ACNH Island. In Playing ACNH With Friends: Part Two, I’ll be telling you all about what happened on that particular visit. But, for now, I’m going to leave you with an air of mystery… and hopefully all will be revealed soon, as long as I manage to escape from the pitfall that I got trapped in on my last visit to Aysa-Thoon…!

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