By Hannah K.
ANIMAL CROSSING. Just those two words put together invoke a sugary taste in a lot of people’s mouths. It’s a very popular video game, the first installment being released in the US in 2001. The latest release, New Horizons, just came out this past March.
For those of you who aren’t really aware of how ANIMAL CROSSING works as a game, it’s often referred to by most reviewers as a “life simulation” game. You play a small human in a village/city/town/island populated by talking animals. The game relies on the console’s actual time clock, days passing in real time, and seasons changing just as they do in real life. You spend your days collecting bugs, fishing, finding fossils, talking to and getting to know your animal neighbors, and basically just enjoying living in your own little world.
Ever since the first ANIMAL CROSSING title came out, one of the most appealing things about it has been the opportunity to customize your world. The options were limited in the early games. You could choose where trees, bushes, and flowers went, plus wear what clothes you wanted and have your choice of furniture in your house; but as video games got more advanced, so did the options of customization available in-game.
Now, in New Horizons, there’s a ‘pro editor’ tool that lets you design everything from clothes to face paint to designs that you can share on the floors and walls of your house, as well as make paths outdoors. You can even terraform the actual cliffs and rivers in this installment, which is an incredible step up from past titles.
Most people that play this game choose to make things fairly wholesome. As for myself, my house is many shades of anything pink I can get my hands on, and I’m making myself a side art room full of musical instruments that play notes when you tap on them, with scattered music pages on the floor. A friend of mine has made the entire right side of her island into a Guy Fieri Flavortown tribute, complete with many eating areas, lots of cooking supplies, and a poster of the Mayor of Flavortown himself. I’ve seen some gorgeous islands from my friends and posted by the community, with areas like Zen gardens, hiking paths, rustic campsites, and beachside resorts. But when a game has customization options as wide as this one, you can bet your creepy little heart that players have found a way to make things in this saccharine little game a bit more spooky.
You might have heard of players mimicking Legend Of Zelda overworlds in ANIMAL CROSSING, but did you know there are people replicating Silent Hill, DOOM, Five Nights At Freddy’s, and even indie horror titles as well? New Horizons even provides you with an item called a “western-style stone.” When put out as decoration, it looks ominously like a headstone and grave, complete with tribute flowers. Another friend of mine used this furniture piece to create a touching memorial to his father that recently passed, an example of how spooky things can be sweet too!
When players discovered the black-and-white filter on the in-game camera, they also began to recreate images from the recent dark film release The Lighthouse, posing behind unsuspecting cute animal villagers on the beach with their axes in hand. I’ve seen basements covered in bloody handprints, face paint that looks like you haven’t done a good job cleaning up after your latest butchering, and lakes made to look like skulls carved into the landscape. There’s even been people recreating films like Midsommar and The Shining.
ANIMAL CROSSING offers you an in-game witch hat and cloak to wear, but clothing designers have taken things a step further with dark, gothy outfits and spooky sweaters. The best part is, if you display these designs in your tailor shop, some of your cutesy villagers may even wear them themselves. Players scatter scary fossils around the landscapes, hide ominous signs around the unassuming island, and keep entire walls of tarantulas in terrariums stacked to the ceilings of their houses. All of this isn’t even touching on the few slightly unnerving animal villagers that might become your new neighbors…one of them doesn’t even seem to have a face.
This creepy creativity isn’t a recent development either! In the last ANIMAL CROSSING installment, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you were able to visit other players’ towns in what was called the Dream Suite. There, you could see a town without actually having to visit via the internet, but you could still adventure around and meet the locals, see inside of buildings, and shop.
There were so many horror towns to be visited. One of my favorites had you actually donning a detective outfit and trying to figure out the mystery behind the strange things the villagers had been seeing. When you spoke to the cute little animal villagers, they would say things like, “I’ve seen her” and “Don’t go in the basement.” If you found places to dig, you would dig up bones and torn clothing. Behind a hidden wall in the last house in the village was a room full of dolls with bloody scrapes on the floor. If you weren’t lucky, you would meet the owner of the town, wearing a bridal gown and veil, and she would warn you to not come back!
Whether people are making islands entirely populated by cats, staging a Godzilla family reunion, covering their entire island in trash and tree stumps, or just doing some casual spider sacrifice in their back rooms, creativity abounds in ANIMAL CROSSING. Don’t let those sweet, innocent faces of the animal neighbors fool you. Things are definitely not always as they seem. When the reins are handed to this many people, we darkly inclined individuals always find a way to turn everything wholesome a little bit darker.