Creativity isn’t hard to find in the Animal Crossing community. Since the game was first released, players have stunned us with their 5-star islands, amazing custom designs, and loads of creative ways to make entire buildings using panels and other items.
User-generated content has been keeping Animal Crossing New Horizons going since updates to the game ended after the final 2.0 update. While players would love to see Nintendo drop more content into the game, it’s clear that new content is not coming to New Horizons.
With the final version of the game, a big pain point for the community is the lack of minigames and things to do online together. Luckily, players have taken this issue into their own hands and have been making their own games to play with others.
I previously wrote about how content creators are using terraforming tools in Animal Crossing New Horizons to transform the multiplayer scene, but that only took me deeper into the rabbit hole of online gaming and the communities built around Animal Crossing.
Animal Crossing New Horizons Giving Tree is a group on Facebook dedicated to all things free and all things fun. As much as Animal Crossing’s popularity has dipped since its height during the early days of the pandemic, members of this group still post in-game giveaways on a daily basis.
This is where I met Dee, creator of two islands dedicated completely to minigames where players can compete for tons, and I mean TONS, of prizes. Everybody who visits her islands can expect to fill their pockets with goodies and their hearts with pure joy from the variety of games she’s designed.
Some of these games range from classics like Yahtzee and Connect Four to unique mazes and races she has designed. It really takes you back to the days of Tortimer’s Island in Animal Crossing New Leaf where you could play a variety of minigames with friends online. It’s a feature that’s truly missed.
Dee first started playing New Horizons in June 2020 and initially played the game with her nine-year-old to teach him how to read. She is retired due to Parkinson’s, but Animal Crossing became an opportunity to be involved in a community and give back in any way she could:
“Since I’m no longer able to work outside of the home, or even volunteer outside of the home, it gives me a sense of fulfilment that I’m able to help people even if it is virtual. Even bigger than that though is that especially over the last two years, there’s been a lot of people that have downtime, depression, mental health problems because of Covid and being locked up. People know that they can come, relax, they can have fun, they can laugh.”– Dee “A Dee Rainville”
The Giving Tree group on Facebook was the perfect platform for her to get involved and create things for a community from the comfort of her home. She joined in March of 2021 but made a big enough impression to be invited to join the mod team by the following month. Dee was quick to make friends and brought a fun and creative energy to the giveaways she would host on her island.
In the beginning, she invited players over to spin a wheel for a chance at different prizes, but she quickly grew tired of the simplicity and wanted to build more games around the idea. She started to transform Serenity into an island full of minigames and challenges to win prize after prize for anybody who visited.
She quickly got to work on a maze that would go through cute scenes and have prizes at the end when players finish. This game wasn’t enough though and she started filling her island with more and more games and creating more ways for players to earn prizes:
“It took me about 2 weeks, but that was with a lot of time travel to get it initially set up. That was only for about 5 games. As it progressed and I added more games, I’ve had to tear them down and rebuild them some place else and adjust the whole layout of the island. Initially it only took me about 2 weeks to rush through Tom Nook’s loans and upgrade everything.”– Dee “A Dee Rainville”
I got to spend time on Game Zone and try a lot of the available games alongside other members of The Giving Tree community. Immediately, it was easy to see what a tight-knit and loving group they had formed.
I was met with excited chatter, tales about hitting each other with nets, and some spur-of-the-moment singing of John Denver’s Leaving On A Jet Plane while we all flew over to the island to play together. As you can imagine, the fans of Animal Crossing are as charming as the game.
Game Zone features 20 games on the island and I got to try six of them during my visit. We played Musical Cubes, Tic Tac Toe, Connect Four, Master Meals, Light the Way, and what is being temporarily called Let’s Make A Deal.
Some of these games are familiar games that have been translated to Animal Crossing. Musical Cubes plays like Musical Chairs, and Tic Tac Toe and Connect Four play just like the games of the same name as well.
Master Meals and Light the Way are completely original ideas with fun challenges that encourage friendly competition amongst friends. These are really unique games that really had to take into account how games could be designed within New Horizons.
Master Meals challenges players to make four recipes and serve them on their table before the other three are able to complete that same task. Players pick one recipe at a time, run to the store room to gather the ingredients, then run to the kitchen to cook.
Each recipe uses a different amount of ingredients so players may get stuck waiting for some ingredients to free up while they are cooking. It is fast and hectic and players can truly feel the tension of being in the kitchen during the lunch rush.
Light the Way is a four-person race where players are awarded points for not only finishing the race the fastest but turning on their lights along the path for extra points. Everybody is assigned a color and there are light-up blocks throughout the course to keep lit.
Players rush to turn the other’s lights off while making sure to turn on their own lights. On top of that, they also have to grab a few gifts along the way in an attempt to get a special item that will award them additional points.
This game actually revealed some of New Horizons’ design quirks when they were testing. When players are seated on the cube lights, a player standing next to them cannot turn the light on or off. However, if both players are seated on cubes next to each other, they could turn the lights on and off while seated.
There were plenty of neat discoveries as these games were made and tested with the community that would have to be taken into account when playing with others. Another example included the new die items in the game.
When a die is rolled, it will show a number from one to six. When players would leave the die and come back, they would be reset to one for the player who left and returned. You had to be careful and make sure the judge was always within sight of the dice in order to confirm the numbers rolled.
We actually experienced this with the in-game spinning wheels. Players who walked away from the wheel didn’t see the correct color that was spun by the player because it was reset to the default starting color.
Dee has a natural knack for her inventions and it seems like she didn’t have too much issue building out the games that are on the island. After some rounds of testing, she’s able to quickly fine-tune the games and get them working for her audience.
It’s worth pointing out that the prizes are a big highlight of playing with a group. Everybody can expect to fill their pockets and come back with massive amounts of bells, rare crafting materials, and an assortment of great items that might be harder to find.
I actually had to ditch some of my crafting materials in my pockets just to bring back more of the prizes that were available. Luckily, bells could be deposited into the ABD so you could make more room for the other prizes you won, she explained:
“ABD’s (Automatic Bell Dispensers) actually helped a great deal because the amount of bells that players win when they come over to the games. I set ABDs around the island, both Game Zone and Serenity, I have them where players can easily deposit their bells and make their pockets a little lighter when they’re returning back to their island with their prizes.”– Dee “A Dee Rainville”
This brings us to the topic of updates. Dee noted that the update included a lot of great new items that not only made it convenient for players to deposit their bells, but also improved the games. The dice and cubes mentioned earlier were both added during the 2.0 update to New Horizons in Nov. 2021.
Originally, I had the musical stumps. Once the cubes came out, I was able to incorporate the cubes and make it a little bit more colorful and fun. Light the Way is a whole game basically geared around the cubes. As you see as you play, you have 11 cubes four players and each player has a different cube.– Dee “A Dee Rainville”
While this update did not include a built-in minigame island or online minigame mode for players, it was nice to hear that the update has provided more tools to make your island game dreams come true. Sadly, Nintendo announced major content updates have ended, so it really is up to the players to take these matters into their own hands.
It was wonderful to explore all of Dee’s creations and it was clear to see that her community really enjoys what she has been able to create in Animal Crossing New Horizons. It’s amazing to see that players continue to bring new experiences to New Horizons that even Nintendo hasn’t brought to the game.
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