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My Journey to 365 Days in Animal Crossing New Horizons — Part 1

My Journey to 365 Days in Animal Crossing New Horizons — Part 1

Disclaimer: due to personal reasons, I play on multiple toons but only one per day. The different houses and hairstyles aren’t a result of cheating but instead the different “accounts”.

On the 26th of November 2023, I decided to return to Animal Crossing: New Horizons after a very long hiatus from the mainline games; while I played the mobile edition — Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp — for years, I couldn't bring myself to return to any of the others. This is because my relationship with the franchise has been shaky at best: my loyalty to it has wavered constantly... until I had an epiphany. 

Throughout the last three years, I have matured and grown up more than I thought was possible in such a short amount of time. Thanks to COVID, my wife and I had to go outside of our comfort zones to survive financially, and this led to a myriad of experiences that matured me. This change snowballed past work and social relationships into becoming more self-aware and seeing things from a much more adult perspective — from more empathy for people to self-control. During one of my cravings to go back to my nemesis (Animal Crossing, of course), I realised perhaps it would be different this time; after all, the last time I started up an island was just before COVID hit. What could my newfound adulthood teach me about this beloved franchise?

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Self-control and patience. That's what Animal Crossing has notoriously tried to ingrain into its players by moving painfully slow day by day, but I think the reality is that the majority of its player base does the complete opposite. We either time jump, or we abandon it, and out of those who can manage to play it casually, I wonder if any can get to the year? That is the goal I set for myself: to return to the franchise and play it as Katsuya Eguchi and Hisashi Nogami, the creators of the franchise, intended.

As I said, my adventure began on the 26th of November, which was a huge bummer for me because autumn and winter are some of the best months, and I knew that my town would be empty for a long, long time. Still, this journey is all about learning further self-control and pacing; there's no reason to get everything right away. I figured that if I began now, by next year, I'd have a town worthy of a gorgeous Christmas! 

The first few days were difficult because playing until I felt satisfied was surprisingly short. I was very serious about stopping as soon as I didn't feel excited to play anymore or when I began thinking about other games. Once I had found all the fossils, planted the money tree, and checked the shops, I would call it a day unless there was something I genuinely wanted to do. I held steadfast in my discipline, no matter how short of a playtime I had. As the days went by, this became easier — almost freeing. Not forcing myself to farm for Bells or Nook Miles gave me a sense of peace, especially when I accidentally did something stupid like cover the money tree's hole before burying Bells and realised it was okay because I had a whole year ahead.

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The feeling of triumphing over my greed for grinding became almost addicting — the self-control in and of itself had become the reward for playing. This was especially true when I noticed that things that would take me a single day, such as building an incline or a bridge, took me over a week. I had never thought twice about how much more satisfying it feels to finish those projects when you didn't farm for them in a few hours within the same day of beginning them! Having to walk around the town without bridges or inclines for days on end really helped me appreciate finally having them. 

As the days went on, a natural daily cycle was born; I'd boot up the game in the morning when I was finally done with work and chores, and I'd go through a short to-do list. This consisted of finding and donating the fossils, picking up and planting the money tree, aiming to get some Nook Miles, and checking all the shops. Every few days, I'd try to hunt down my favourite villagers and chat with them to make sure they don't leave me, too! I even made sure to leave some money in my in-game bank to slowly gather enough Bells to pay the first house debt, but I prioritised any donations to further the town's development for ease of access.

...of course, any avid Animal Crossing fan may have noticed that I forgot a very important step: collecting bugs, deep-sea creatures, and fish. On the very last two days of November, it dawned on me that I would soon lose my opportunity to catch all the critters leaving in December. I immediately rushed to check for a guide, hoping to get them right before they left. Unfortunately, despite setting alarms to not miss their cycles and furiously bug hunting and fishing for the two days, I failed to catch all of them; in fact, I only missed one bug and one fish. With just two short days to achieve the goal, it was too hard for life not to get in the way, and I was busy during the cycles on the very last day. 

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Even then, just two catches shy away from acing November, I didn't cheat and go back; instead, I sat with my failure. Although this was disappointing because I couldn't complete the museum until a year from now, it was nice to face the repercussions of not planning ahead. It's part of the game — heck, it's part of life — and really sticking to my guns about no time-jumping felt even more rewarding.

This satisfaction has seeped into every aspect of the game. As December arrived, I woke up every day excited for the snow to finally arrive so I could begin dressing up in "real winter" outfits and enjoy the Christmas feeling. This patient expectation made it a hundred times more rewarding to experience the first flakes of snow and the slow changing of the environment; this was the very first time I had genuinely experienced winter in the franchise, so I really took it all in.

One of my favourite experiences with pacing the game has been the challenge to build a “perfect snowboy”, as I looked forward to trying it every day, only to fail hilariously for over a week. Whether I rolled it wrong and dropped the snowball into the river, smashed it on a tree, or accidentally put the head and body backwards (I highly recommend it because of the hilarious dialogue), it was failure after failure until I finally got it. That was only two days ago, and darn it, I still think about it proudly every day.

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It's humble, but it's home!

That's it for my first month in Animal Crossing New Horizons! I genuinely have enjoyed my journey so far, even more so than I originally assumed I would; I’ve been very serious about only playing until I want to, and so far, I’ve only clocked in 38 hours. As someone who is so terrified of growing old and dying, this new way of experiencing the franchise through the patience and discipline of an adult has really helped me come to terms with all the good that comes with adulthood! And if you’re looking for something that’ll teach you pacing, I highly recommend trying it; it gets easier as the days go on.

Thank you for reading, and here's to 11 more entries in this series. Fingers crossed!

Violet Plata

Violet Plata

Staff Writer

Liable to jump at her own shadow.

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