Animal Crossing - New Horizons (ACNH) is a game for Nintendo Switch. At its core, the game is about transforming a deserted island to a thriving destination. Players use the natural resources like shells, stone, and wood to build and trade items, and interact with animated animal characters who "move" to the island, or visit to sell goods. There is a lot of potential for creativity, and the game has a lot of concepts that translate to the real world.
Process Skills Students can Learn from ACNH
Players have to be able to read to engage with many aspects of the game. There are some actions that don't require reading, but villager interactions and early game challenges and "recipes" for building things require players to read to make in-game decisions.
Players have to manage money (called "bells" in the game), and make decisions about how to save or spend it. Villagers (in-game characters) also invite players to play a game called High Card, Low Card, which is good probability practice; with a scale of 1-9 in that game-within-the-game, even young students can play successfully. Players can also choose when and where to sell some items, so that they earn more or fewer bells, depending on the time or the buyer.
There are a ton of things to collect in this game! Fish, shells, bugs, fossils, artwork, recipes, flowers, music, furniture, natural resources, and villager photos are some of the categories, and there are a lot of different options within those groups. Players can keep track of these collections, and although they don't necessarily sort all the objects, they are working with groups of objects with clear commonalities. For example, players can collect fossils, sea creatures, art, and insects to put in a museum on the island. Each item is automatically sent to the correct museum wing and put on display with a placard of information, and players can tour each wing and see the different items together. Players can decorate by classifying with themed furniture, or designate island areas for different purposes, like amusement park rides or food courts or botanical gardens.
Players have a lot of choices about where to put buildings, furniture, plants, and decorations on the island, and also within their in-game homes. Further, they can also customize furniture and clothing objects - designing with patterns and colors that can show up on floors, walls, tables, chairs, and outfits. There are so many different items in the game that players can create themed spaces, from cute and cuddly to sleek and sophisticated. Spatial sense comes in to play, as size and shape and angle factor in to the placement of objects. The design aspect will appeal to creative minds - you can recreate realistic places, shape mountains and waterfalls and roads, or even the island theme song to your liking.
Players can experience seasons that match their hemisphere, and the seasons affect the plants, animals, weather, and bonus items that appear in the game. There is also a sunrise and sunset, and some in-game businesses (a clothing shop, the gift shop) close at night, so players can't access them if they are playing late or early. Plants mature over time, and buildings require time to be constructed, so delayed gratification is a factor.
Concepts Students Can Learn from ACNH
Sea Creatures, Insects, Art, and Fossils
As players find the first of each type, they can deliver specimens to the museum, curated by an owl named Blathers. He offers to share information about each item when a player donates it, whether it's a tiger beetle, a snow crab, or the fossil of a dinosaur tail.
Players can buy turnips from a visiting vendor and then sell them at a higher - or lower - price the following week. This feature introduces students to the stock market in a simple form, as they can decide how many turnips to buy at a given price, and decide when to sell as the price changes throughout the week.
The rarest colors of flowers cannot be discovered or bought in the game - they have to be bred from red, yellow, or white varieties of different species. Like the stalk market, this is an optional game element, but it offers a foundational understanding of genetics as players place flowers and offspring populate - either in the wild, or through controlled planning for specific results. Highly coveted blue roses require several generations to produce.
Social and Emotional Concepts
Of course a video game can't replace a club or a friend group, but Animal Crossing does include some social and emotional concepts. Other villagers teach the player's character dozens of reactions, which include body language and naming emotions like distress, joy, and frustration. Players can use these reactions in different contexts within the game.
Additionally, players interact with visitors by doing favors or exchanging gifts. While we may not want to teach students that they give gifts in order to get something in return, it does illustrate some reciprocity - that it is nice to give a gift to someone who gives one to you. Further, if players treat villagers with kindness (talking to them, retrieving lost items for them), or with rudeness (hitting them with nets or ignoring them), the villagers respond accordingly, so there is a direct connection between player actions and friendship with villagers, and while it's simplistic, that direct connection between types of social interactions and friendship outcomes may be a helpful illustration for some students.
Animal Crossing is a family-friendly game, and a great jumping off point for some fun lessons and creative writing.
Read more about how to manage Animal Crossing as a beginning player.
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