Dreamer, wordsmith, mum of two - I enjoy the outdoors, good food and good company. Subscribe to my articles to follow what I've been up to, and like those articles you want to see more of so I can tailor what I write to my audience.
Are you stuck at home in the Sydney lockdown, going stir crazy indoors? Need something to jolt you out of the monotonous rut of the same four walls you see every day? Doesn't an island getaway sound fantastic? But also impossible?
I have a suggestion for how you can Switch it up despite lockdown!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, and it may be your answer.
If you're unfamiliar with the Nintendo Switch, or think gaming is only for kids and teens and people who want to race fast cars and blow stuff up, it's worth revisiting this form of entertainment, regardless of your age.
There is now a huge range of ''cozy" games available for people whose tastes don't run towards the fighting genre, which includes a range of creative puzzle-solving/ explorative adventure/ mystery games, with no violence of any kind. These range from simple search and find object-style "mystery" games all the way up to whole 3D landscapes you can explore and gallop across on horseback, if that's more your thing.
If you own a Nintendo Switch, you can download all these games from the Nintendo e-shop with just a click of a button and a credit card. The range is breathtakingly huge and varied - there is definitely something for all ages and preferences in their catalogue.
And if a vacation on a beautiful island is something that appeals, look no further than Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Museum display filled with fish you have caught and donated
In this game, you have just moved to a deserted tropical island, and your only mission is to slowly set up your tent, collect fruit, insects and fish, and gradually craft items until you are able to set up a house on the island while other "people" choose to move in and set up house/ shop, which includes an adorable knowledgeable owl called Blathers that is in charge of a museum that is filled with all the fish, insects and fossils you have donated, and who is eager to tell you interesting tidbits of information about your donations if you ask him.
The museum is huge on the inside (genuinely like a real museum) even though on the outside it looks like a tiny shack.
There are also two chipmunks who run a shop called "Nook's Cranny" and sell various items to decorate your house and island, and who will also buy the fruit, fish and insects you have foraged from the island, alongside a host of other incredibly cute characters, all of whom have their own character traits and personalities - and who just want to make friends with you.
This might sound incredibly dull and child-like, but it's extremely engaging and absorbing, and shouldn't be relegated to the realm of children, as anybody with too much time on their hands unable to leave their house can find some joy and meaning in developing their own little island. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a huge number of adult fans - just search on YouTube for videos of gamers giving island tours of their islands that they have created in the game. There are lots, and even an eighty-year old lady who has racked up hundreds of hours of game time developing her island.
It is very satisfying to see a little island campsite develop into your own beautifully crafted 2 storey house with wallpaper and flooring chosen just to your own tastes, and particular items of furniture you curate over several weeks of play.
It is so easy to sink hundreds of hours into playing this game - and I guarantee it will put a smile on your dial each time you fire the game up, as you wonder what new items you will get and what types of fish you might catch that day.
The object of the game is left up to you - you get rewarded with Nook miles for completing certain tasks, which you can then use to buy tickets or other items to decorate your island or yourself (focussing on fashion and designing new fabric prints is something you can concentrate on if you like in this game). You can earn nook miles for selling weeds, for catching fish, catching insects, smashing up rocks, etc. You can choose to try to catch a certain number of fish, or alternatively catch every fish that exists in the game catalogue. The choice is yours!
There are also numerous little "tricks" in the game, like the fact that once you have a shovel, you can dig up a bag of money every day from a particular spot on the island which changes every day, but you find it because there's a little flash of light escaping from the ground where this spot is. The trick part is that if, after digging this money up, instead of pocketing it, you put it back in the hole, that it will grow a money tree which triples your money after it grows to full size in a few days, sprouting 3 bags of money in its branches which you can shake off the tree once they are fully grown!
And being able to grow money trees is as satisfying as it sounds.
As is being able to dive for pearls, fish for all kinds of fish including the giant and elusive Coelacanth, and dig up T. rex and mammoth fossils to donate and display in your museum.
This is also a game that is capable of "cooperative play", which means that if you have kids, you can let them set up their own tent on your island, and you can all play together. This does unfortunately mean sharing the limited resources the island produces ever yday between you, which can lead to tensions - but honestly, being able to fish together and go for a night swim together is kind of cool.
We have owned the game for only a month or so, which coincided with the latest lockdown, and it's been the best money we've spent on entertainment in a long time.
If you are feeling shut in and constrained and have never thought of video games as being your kind of thing, I would encourage you to look at the Nintendo Switch and some of the cozy games available through it, like Animal Crossing, as a possible new hobby. Unlike a full-blown gaming PC, it's really easy to set up and play and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. You can frequently find them for around $400 or a little less when on special.
It's a lot cheaper and more accessible than real-life travel right now - and while games can't compete with a real holiday, when that reality is impossible - it's a welcome alternative that will salve the soreness of the conditions we're living with right now.
So if you have kids who have one, ask to borrow it (and watch the horror descend on their cute little faces), or if you don't, order one online.
There is something out there for everyone on the Nintendo Switch - and I'm almost certain Animal Crossing - New Horizons will probably suit you too.