With everyone sheltering in place amidst an ever-changing pandemic, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a welcome escape. But it’s not just the friendly villagers (a respite from social distancing) or epic bug hunts (gotta catch ‘em all, especially tarantulas) that has warmed our hearts. Turns out, Tom Nook’s capitalist playground also comes with a hearty endorsement of repair culture.
Nintendo consoles have always rated highly in our repairability index, and the Switch is no different. Despite hardware problems plaguing Joy-Con joysticks, the fixes are pretty simple—provided you have the parts. Nintendo makes a point of making repairable devices and, it seems, instills its island villagers with a can-fix spirit.
New Horizons starts you out on a deserted island with limited resources and no experts; it expects a lot of self-reliance. While that may remind you a bit too much of your limited culinary options (or toilet paper supplies), it’s actually a pretty nice confidence booster, and an interesting change to the series. The last major Animal Crossing game, 2012’s New Leaf, positioned crafting as the sole domain of an experienced carpenter, Cyrus. New Horizons, however, immediately plops you in front of a workbench and some DIY projects. You gather resources, make your first tools, and your character delights in it, showing off finished projects and rejoicing in learning new recipes.
Unexpectedly, the introduction of smartphones to the Crossing-verse actually makes it even more repair-minded. Your character has a Nook Phone, which tracks all your apps and achievements, including completing DIY projects, fishing up trash—even breaking your tools! While your phone seems relatively indestructible—I’ve fainted from enough tarantula stings to feel confident saying so—phone repair is a prominent portion of the game. Gulliver the sailor gull regularly appears on shore with a busted phone. In a surprisingly right-to-repair-friendly turn of events, Gulliver immediately asks for help fixing the phone. There’s no moment he suggests sending his phone to the manufacturer, or asks where to buy a new one.
Gulliver doesn’t need a new phone, he just needs your help finding the parts. After your successful search, he reinstalls the parts (which were buried in sand and soaked in sea water!) and his communicator boots right up and he’s able to call his crew. While we wish real life repairs were this simple and free of manufacturer restrictions, it’s always a joy to help someone with a fix.
There are other smaller indicators of a repair mindset, too. You can find rusted parts (the same motherboard-looking items from Gulliver’s communicator) in the lost and found, not discarded in a recycling bin found in games-past. This not only advocates responsible e-waste storage, it also implies value and usefulness to these items. Love that.
That said, trash isn’t the end. You can fix up old boots fished from the river, turning them into fairly fashionable footwear. And if that doesn’t convince you at least someone at Nintendo loves repair, here’s the most iFixity-item we’ve seen yet. There’s an extremely detailed electronics workstation item complete with multimeter, soldering station, pliers, PCB, and a breadboard (all on a project mat).
Animal Crossing’s pervading atmosphere isn’t just that repair is good (we’d be happy enough with that), but that repair is something you can—and should—do. It’s exciting for both you and your character when you learn a new skill or gain a new tool. Making and fixing things is cheaper than buying them with money (or Miles). Crafting and fixing your world progresses the game, helps others, and makes your little island a better place.
In these uncertain times, lacking in clear answers and struggling to feel a semblance of control and security, it’s nice to know there are things we can do. Hospitals can fix the bum respirators they were sent, rather than wait for new ones that may never come. We can find the manuals those techs need to keep those machines running. We can share our #FixAtHome stories to spread inspiration and confidence.
You may be sitting at home, or working through an essential shift, feeling isolated. But we’re alone together, and we can make beautiful things happen. Even if it is just helping one goofy, digital bird fix his broken phone.