‘Animal Crossing NH’ brings family together

Sadie burst into my office in tears.

“I’ve… ruined… the whole… thing,” she cried, her words broken by gasps for air.

“There are cockroaches in my house and no one on the island remembers me.”

About a month ago, I bought “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” for the Nintendo Switch. It was a big purchase as video game prices go.

But this is a pandemic and I’m on the hunt for things we can do together as a family. Cooped up in the house on crappy weather days? No problem. Flip on the Switch and craft tools and furniture, build homes and stores and make new animal friends on our family island.

We didn’t know much about the game before we played it. We knew it was a huge hit by the posts we saw on Twitter. It was the No. 1 best-selling game in March, and second in April.

“Finally,” I thought. “Something that doesn’t require killing zombies.”

Sadie was the first to play the game. What we didn’t know at the time was that the first person to play the game would become the island representative.

She named the island “Apple” and set some decisions in motion that impacted play for the rest of us. She invited a curator to locate his museum on the island. She built Nook’s Cranny (a kind of trading post) and the first bridge. She sold land to new villagers.

All was well on Apple until Sadie made some risky choices this past week.

In an effort to advance the game for the rest of us, she went to YouTube to watch seasoned players show off some strategies for “cheating” the game on their own islands. One of her favorite tricks is time traveling.

The Nintendo Switch doesn’t know what the actual date and time is without some adjustments to the game console settings.

So players can easily adjust times forward and backward to their advantage. Well, usually to their advantage.

Here’s how it works. Want to plant some trees but don’t want to wait around for them to grow? No problem.

Time travel back a few days, plant your trees, then travel back to current day and voila, fully grown trees, all with a few changes to the day and time.

Where it went off the rails for Sadie was when she set the game back several years. A not-so-bright YouTuber taught our fearless leader that she could earn millions of extra bells (e.g., the island currency) if she adjusted the day and time for a massive time jump.

She didn’t get millions of bells. Instead we all ended up with cockroaches and a lot of villagers who welcomed us back after being away for so long.

What Sadie didn’t know is that dear old Dad had a trick up his sleeve, too. I searched YouTube for a “How to kill cockroaches in Animal Crossing” video and literally stamped out the problem (apparently you have to squash them; gross).

I showed Sadie the solution, and her tears turned into a bright smile.

In the end, my big splurge on an overpriced game did exactly what I hoped it would do. It brought us a little closer. I got to be the hero, even if it was only by stepping on a few fake cockroaches.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.85/week.

Subscribe Today