Anyone who has been following my twitter account the past couple of months will have seen that I’ve gone bonkers for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. My partner, Thor, will gleefully recount how, when the game was first released and we were deciding to buy it, I spent a lot of time “ummm-ing” and “ehhhh-ing” over whether or not it’s something I would enjoy, or whether I’d really get my money’s worth. More than 600 hours later and I think we can safely say I got a good bang for my buck.
It’s an easy game for me to like. My character is super cute, I get to play dress-ups with her, there are butterflies! fishing is fun, there are seasons (I get to build snowpeople in the snow!) the villagers are adorable and they sing and dance! And I get to be a bit creative trying to make my island look nice. It’s very calming and has been a real mental break for me during lockdown.
But there’s a thorn.
There are plenty of YouTube videos out there from people with a big wish list of things they’d like to have added in to the game – the ability to lay rugs on the ground outside of our houses; being able to batch craft items; and please can I buy more than one item of each type at the Able store changeroom? I spend nearly half an hour in there doing the hokey pokey. And Isabelle, PLEASE tell me something actually useful in the morning announcements! I’ll happily come visit you
But the biggest gripe I have is the process of removing a villager from your island. (For those unfamiliar with the game, you can only have 10 villagers on your island at a time, and you may wish to swap someone out for a different “type” of villager.) You see, there isn’t just some quick and easy way of doing this. In fact, the whole process was, for at least a little while, a bit of a mystery, with some wild theories about hitting villagers with your net being common (and false).
There are two options for getting a villager to move out…
- Use an amiibo card to invite a replacement villager
- Bully them off the island
You read that right – I need to bully someone until they decide they’ve had enough and want to leave.
Yes, I could get an amiibo card to get a different villager in, but I won’t do that for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s bloody stupid to make me pay for a crummy in-game mechanic, especially given one of the villagers I would like to get is a “dream” villager, so the cards are quite expensive.
The second reason the amiibo card is stupid is because it actually takes away from one of the core elements of New Horizons. One of the fun things we can do in game is fly to mystery islands. On these islands we can fish, catch bugs, chop down trees for woods. Some mystery islands even have stones filled with bells (the in-game currency). Relevant to this discussion, though, is that when you have a vacant plot of land on your own island, potential residents will appear on the mystery islands, and you can invite them to move to your place. Using the amiibo card takes away from that whole concept. Sure, the mystery islands are completely RNG, and you may spend a ridiculous amount of time and nook miles trying to find the villager you want… but to me that’s part of the fun.
Which brings me back to getting my Mean Girl on to shun a villager.
To me, there’s something really awful about the concept. I know it’s just pixels, but the whole point of this game is to make a beautiful home for us all to share, so you kind of get attached to your fellow occupants. We share gifts, chat with each other, go fishing – it’s actually a very interactive game. So for me to have to treat one of these little creatures poorly in order to get them to move out just feels so wrong.
The victim of my abuse (and it really is abuse) is Renee. She’s a perfectly lovely villager – a female rhino with the sisterly trait. She likes music and has loads of interesting knowledge of flowers. I’m wanting her to leave as I am missing two villager types, and she is a double trait and species of other villagers that I prefer more. So she’s unfortunately drawn the short straw.
The main approach to the tactic to get a villager to leave is, genuinely, to get them to not like you anymore. Each villager has a hidden friendship level, and that level apparently needs to drop to encourage them to leave. There are a few methods to making the villager dislike you, the main one being to completely ignore them and not interact with them at all. Ever. Don’t talk to them, don’t give them gifts, don’t send them letters, don’t visit their house – none of it.
So I’m now going around my island, deliberately shunning this poor darling. I’m showering all other villagers with gifts on a daily basis (side note: the only perk to this whole process is that I’ve managed to cap out friendships with 5 other villagers and gotten their portraits!). I’m even going so far as to make these exchanges with the other villagers right in front of her. And it’s awful.
One website even suggested cutting the villager off from all the other villagers as well, and so I set up fencing all around Renee’s house so that she couldn’t interact with anyone. It broke my heart, especially on day two when I stopped by to see if she was ready to leave, only to have her run towards me, stopping at the fence to call out ” ‘Sup Cinder!” multiple times… until she just gave up and turned away. It was brutal. (Note the fence has been taken down. Somehow she got out (no idea how) and I just couldn’t bear to make her be in it again.)
And to make matters worse, she has shown no inclination of wanting to leave at all (whilst others, who I am more friendly with, have asked to leave). I have been actively ignoring her now for at least 2 weeks.
The worst part now is that I resent Renee. I resent her for not just leaving after a day of me not talking to her. I resent her for “making” me behave this way – how absolutely revolting is that?! For a game that’s supposed to be sweet, it’s actually got some extremely insidious undertones. I am actively looking for ways to make Renee’s “life” horrible enough to make her leave. It’s definitely putting a dampener on my enjoyment of the game.
Sure, I have a choice – I could not get rid of her. I could get someone else to leave. Or I could just not make anyone leave at all. But that then begs the question of what the point of playing such a customisable game is, if I can’t actually do what I want to do in it?
If it were up to me, I would make sure there was a way to ask villagers to leave that doesn’t require this awful, negative behaviour. Maybe I could spend my excessive number of Nook Miles to buy the villager a holiday somewhere else. Or give me the ability to issue eviction notices. Sure that might also be harsh, but it’s quick and not drawn out, unlike this slow motion decaying of Renee’s self worth.
But maybe the real problem at the end of all this is me- I care too much. They are just pixels, after all. 😦 I just… this has been a really helpful mental escape, and I don’t want to lose that.