Cien Años de New Horizons

I’ve racked up over 200 hours on Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I was late to this party. Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d even like the game or find it engaging. At first, I didn’t. Lots of waiting for the next day for things to be done, seeing how much more fun everyone else was having, and waiting (like…waiting? Gimme Breath of the Wild, screw your waiting!) The idea that Tom Nook saw an opportunity to capitalize on some folks getting tired of urban life and moving to an island that has been free of human infrastructure and then imposing capitalism onto that space…isn’t something I like. But, AC:NH became a way for my family to stay in touch, as well as a space for me to consider the ways progressive political movements and ideologies can sustain themselves within a capitalist infrastructure.

But that’s not exactly what I’m here to talk about. Rather, something interesting has happened on my island. Something absolutely inane happened and suddenly, the disparate characters on my island wove themselves together into a familiar story. And now, I’ll tell you the story. And if folks like this tale, there’s plenty more to say.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I’m ironing out the details on my beachfront turnip farm. For the last three weeks, like clockwork, I join an ACNH Exchange line before (at-home) church on Sunday morning to buy turnips, and I join an ACNH line on the following Thursday to sell for the big bucks. So from Sunday to Thursday, my turnips fill up the beachfront just south of my house, untouched—like the field of sweet onions from the end of Holes and I’m Stanley Yelnats IV waking up from a dead slumber just to eat another onion and laughingly cry, “I think I’m gonna die.” My corner of the island’s beach sits quietly during the week before and after the turnip exchange. But my villagers are out and about, especially when I’m not.

We’ve got three human villagers on our island, and none of us are particularly active. A story has spun itself together without our notice.

 

So I’m laying out turnips on my beach. As I’m dropping my nth turnip bundle, Mott walks up. Mott had only just moved here and, admittedly, I have no idea how he got here. He just showed up the day after Goose packed up his house and left the island to join the circus. No idea what happened there. Anyway, Mott is this real regal type. He tends to walk around in a cape looking like King John from Robin Hood. So he comes up and strikes up conversation, marveling at how long Frita the Ram has lived on the island. He’s not sure how long she’s been there. Come to think of it, neither am I.

I was the first one of the human villagers to come to the island and when I got there, Frita and Goose had already been there, camping. They didn’t say how long they’d been there. Now that Goose joined the circus and Mott took over his old house—I mean really, Goose was gone for 12 hours tops before Mott rolled in—it’s just me and Frita. We don’t get along much, though. She’s positive I’m ignoring her, I’m positive she disappears from the island during the day and only reappears on the wooden bridge outside my house late at night to croon at the moon. I’m not interrupting whatever that is. So we don’t talk much, and I have no idea how long she’s been here. And, her house is isolated from everyone else’s. The villagers tend to live in a rural beachside area north of my house, but Frita built her house right where her tent used to sit, on the southern side of the island, between the airport and the island’s small businesses.

She reminds me of the old woman whose age was unknown and had lived with the Buendías for an unknown amount of time in Marquez’s Cien años de soledad. And then, I dropped all my turnips. Hold up, what? Is my island Macondo? Does that make me Buendía?

Map of my island. Villagers live in a cluster in the northeast corner of the island, with a handful of houses isolated in other areas. Rivers divide the island, which is mostly extensive woods.

Of the three human villagers, I have fronted and led most of the construction. I’ve got a huge house I’ve turned into a boarding house for anti-racists, but I live pretty close to the village. The other human villagers don’t. One house sits almost entirely empty, out by Frita’s house. Another, a hermit’s hideaway in the mountains, inaccessible without climbing gear. All the villagers in their indecision ask me for guidance about things from the decorations and stylings of their home to the placement of communal objects and landmarks on the island. For whatever reason everyone, even Mott, has something they need from me or something to say.

But I don’t want to be Buendía. But…someone else is already Melquíades:

The hermit in the mountains comes down from their home to give the villagers gifts and guide them through the island’s extensive forests. They have also become my resource for new ideas for island and village development. Exactly as Melquíades was for Buendía. According to our resident manager Isabelle, the folks from the village tend to get lost on their way to the markets, fearing for the worst as they get lost in the woods. Most disconcertingly, when they return from their misadventure, they rarely have any recollection of getting lost and can only remember when pressed by Isabelle. Either way, we already have a path to the sea. We won’t be chopping down any forests.

But, I am working on getting a room full of chamber pots.

Janelle Malagon

I am a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the English department’s Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies plan. My research in media is multifaceted, ranging from platform studies to game studies, but above all I am always interested in the relationship between media and the climate crisis.

One Comment

  1. This is a really great read Janelle! I don’t have much comments on the story and connection to One Hundred Years of Solitude (sorry!) but it’s been interesting to see how many people are staying in contact with friends/family through the mediated interface of AC:NH that would otherwise not connect through games. My wife and her sisters play together a few times a week, and get together whenever there is a meteor shower, but really as an excuse just to talk. It’s interesting how virtual events can replace physical ones during a pandemic, even though the three sisters I’m referring to are in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Florida, so it’s not like they would have been seeing each other much anyway! I feel like everything good about Animal Crossing is in the user’s head, and the programming is just a space for the imagination to let loose, like you’ve done here.

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