Things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons

I’ve always been a gamer girl. Growing up in the early noughties with an older brother by three years who has owned all the PlayStation consoles to date, and would play classics like Abe’s Odyssey, Tekken Tag and Grand Theft Auto, I always wanted to get in on the action. Likewise, I have owned many – if not almost all – the Nintendo consoles, including the Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS Lite and Nintendo Wii; even my mum possessed the very first Game Boy which my brother and I would continue to play Speedy Gonzales on for hours in our childhood years. For my 21st birthday back in 2018, then, it was only inherent that I wished for the Nintendo Switch. (Gamer Girl or Nintendo Nerd? Either is fine by me.)

When I gratefully received such, not only was it accompanied by the incredible The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (Ocarina of Time was one of my favourite Zelda franchises growing up!), but I also rushed to my local Game to acquire Mario Kart 8 (the Mario Kart series has also been a long-time favourite, of course) and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (who doesn’t love DK?). While I loved all three of these games, I spent hours of my summer following my 21st predominantly rekindling my driving, dashing and drifting skills on Mario Kart 8.

When Nintendo announced that they would be launching an Animal Crossing franchise for the Switch soon after I obtained the console, I was ecstatic to say the least. Animal Crossing: Wild World was my most cherished game on the DS Lite and, alongside my second-year university studies, I was glued to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp from the App Store. When Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) finally released on the Switch back in March this year, I purchased it on March’s much-anticipated payday and quickly became obsessed. It was also at the end of March that the UK quarantined as a result of the global situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic which, for us avid gamers who would be furloughed for the following three months, paradoxically enabled the gift of time to invest in such games.

My ACNH character

The graphics on ACNH are incomparable to any of the other Animal Crossing franchises; they are insane! I remember literally uttering “wow” under my breath as I roamed my brand-new island and glanced at the sea surrounding such. I remember thoroughly enjoying the way I had to accomplish a multitude of tasks before I could obtain the museum, the shop and the tailors on my island. I remember feeling a wave of nostalgia sweep over me as I encountered some of my favourite characters from the Wild World franchise. If you are a Nintendo lover or an Animal Crossing fan like me, you will understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Eventually, as you unlock the ability to terraform your island after reaching three stars and having K.K. play outside Resident Services, I went a little too far. Because I had so much time to play this game due to being in lockdown, I became a little terraform-happy and attempted to renovate my entire island. I had plans: I planned to create a more distinct town centre, a specified residential area, an orchard  – you know, the typical ACNH ideas you might have gathered from YouTube – and I was ready to make this island my own from scratch. Alas, once I’d relocated all my residents’ houses to one side (which costs THOUSANDS of bells, by the way *cries*), knocked down all my raised land and chopped down all the trees, I was lost. “Where the fuck do I begin now?”, I pondered. Basically, I’d fucked up. I realised that I’m not as innovative as the YouTubers I watch and I’d made a mistake as to wiping ev-er-y-thing. Then it dawned on me: “I have to start again”.

The contemplation to start all over again on ACNH is not an easy one. You can’t, for instance, select an option to “reset” your island or move to another new island; the only way to restart is to delete your save data from the Nintendo Switch menu and start from the very beginning like you do upon purchasing the game. By the time you reach said level, you’ve usually obtained a lot of furniture, clothing and perhaps some of your favourite characters, and – as my fellow ACNH lovers would know – this takes hella time. Nonetheless, I was not prepared to rebuild my entire island from scratch because – again, if you know, you know – terraforming is tedious af.

And so, I started my island again and, this time, I played logically. From the beginning, I placed my museum, shops, tailors, home and characters’ homes carefully. As I was experienced, I knew exactly what I had to do in order to reach three stars and unlock the ability to terraform. When I could terraform, I had every intention to not tamper with my island’s natural landscape but to instead use every inch of it to its advantage. Thus, I finally reached four stars and I was satisfied. Not elated, but satisfied. Nevertheless, as I attempted to follow the requirements to reach the esteemed five stars, I couldn’t do it. If I didn’t have enough flowers, I’d plant more flowers. If I didn’t have enough trees, I’d grow more trees. If I didn’t have enough fencing, I’d build more fences. I was doing everything I needed to and yet I could never achieve the five-star mark. I don’t know what I was lacking, but I was obviously lacking something.

“What did I do to remedy this?”, you ask. Well, I started again… again. I am now in the process of developing my third island from the beginning. And, again, I have plans. Big plans. What’s different this time is that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never achieve the perfect island (I mean, I do aim to reach five stars this time!), and that’s okay. I’m not a professional gamer who knows every nook and cranny to gaming (ha… ha…). I’m not YouTuber who is getting paid to create the “BEST FIVE-STAR ISLAND EVER!!!1!11!”. I’m not going to lose anything if I don’t achieve such an island. The only person I want to create such an island for is me. But, hey: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do it right!

In a way, I’m thankful for the time I had to experiment the game in all its glory. Now that I’m back to work and therefore don’t have as much time to play it as I did during lockdown, I’ve realised that there are some things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Whether you are new to ACNH, are contemplating restarting or have recently restarted your island like me, too, here are some tips I wish I could have shared with my pre-ACNH-obsessed self:

  • Choose an island layout that works for you. There are so many articles available on how to choose the best island layout from the start, and most of them recommend that you choose one that has Resident Services in the middle and an even spread of land surrounding such. To be fair, my latest island very much resonates this because – as I said – I am now on my third attempt and I thought I’d follow the advice (however, I did have to reroll multiple times until I was offered such a layout which was frustrating af), but my previous island differed from this and still worked nicely.
  • Keep everything that you obtain. In the beginning of the game, it’s tempting to sell any items you obtain that you don’t particularly like from other residents, balloons from the sky or visitors like Wisp in order to make more bells, but you can make use of all items available anywhere on your island. Already own something in a different colour? Use both; you gain more points for having unique items on your island. Unsure what to do with something? Keep it; you might just obtain more items that work with it to create a specific area. Don’t like something at all? Gift it to another resident; it enhances your friendship with them.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. Maybe the reason I’ve restarted ACNH so many times is because I’m a perfectionist, or maybe it’s because the game really is that frustrating when it comes to placing buildings accurately, designating a specific amount of space for a particular area or continually attempting to achieve those five stars. In any case, remember: it’s just a game! If, like me, you’re no professional gamer and aren’t trying to achieve an amazing island for anyone but yourself, don’t beat yourself up if your island doesn’t look like a YouTuber’s whose life revolves around filming themselves accomplishing the impossible in every game. Be patient and enjoy the wonder that it Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

To my fellow ACNH lovers, hmu with the reasons for your love-hate relationship with the game (and your Friend Codes while you’re at it, if you like)! To those who don’t own the game and are considering investing in it, prepare yourself for a whirlwind of fun, fondness and frustration!

Happy gaming!

Love,

Soph, Little Pav

My hair and me: An ever-changing relationship

Hair. It’s a funny thing. To some, it is merely an aspect of their existence; to others, it is a means of expressing their identity. Since my early teens, I’ve had an ever-changing relationship with my hair; I’ve dyed it several colours, cut it extremely short and let it grow extremely long (as it is now) to name a few.

Just a couple of weeks before lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had plans to chop off my current long locks to donate them to The Little Princess Trust. Although restriction measures were not yet in place in the UK, it was evident that the global situation was worsening and so – amongst many others – I decided to cancel my appointment. I was certainly disappointed at the time however, I am now so glad I made that decision as quarantining has not only provided me the opportunity to let it grow even longer, as there is a demand for longer hair donations, but also to take extra care of my hair. For instance, I used to dye my hair every three months and wash it every two days; now, I haven’t coloured my hair since New Year’s Day and have washed it just once a week since April. I still very much intend to donate my locks before my return to my regular position (I am currently working from home temporarily as I explain in my blog about returning to work after having been furloughed) as the notion of providing an individual who is unable to now the ability to embrace long hair is infallible.

In light of my realisation that I will soon be giving up my long locks, I evaluate my ever-changing relationship with my hair – in the form of a timeline – hereafter.

My hair last summer

2008. The beginning to my (unknowingly, then, dreadful) high school career. When I started high school, I had relatively long hair – it fell a couple of inches below my shoulders. In my first year of high school, I had not yet “discovered” my identity, so my natural ash-brown hair colour remained untouched.

2009. My first colour contemplation. As my mum was a hairdresser in her young adult years, her ability to dye hair in a professional manner continues. My first ever colour choice was a reddish brown (I would have loved a brighter red had it been allowed at school). Thus, my mum proceeded to dye my hair and simultaneously cut it to shoulder length for a fresh lewk.

2010. The “emo” phase. Yep, I was one of those who experienced the infamous “emo phase”. Though my favourite band at the time was The Jonas Brothers (judge all you like; bitches might not have liked them then but drool all over Nick now!), my music taste branched out to the likes of Paramore, You Me At Six, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Sum 41, and my hair was a reflection of this.

How, you ask? One: my mum – again, professionally – dyed it jet black. Two: my mum’s friend – who happens to be her hairdresser – styled it in the most emo way (as per my request). The layers. Oh, the layers. In retrospect, they were laughable. The shortest layer was about an inch long and every morning before school, I would not only straighten my hair, but I would also backcomb every bloody layer.

Funny side note: I was told by multiple people in my year group that I had the “best” hair and, rumour has it, a few girls showed their hairdressers a photo of me to have it cut in a similar style. LOL. #OGtrendsetter

2011. The sudden urge to chop it all off. I specifically remember showing a photo of, and explaining to my mum’s hairdresser friend that I wanted it cut like, Frankie from The Saturdays. Remember The Saturdays? Remember Frankie? Remember her extremely short hair? That’s how I wanted mine cut, and that’s how I got it cut. Again, in retrospect? Laughable. But, the maintenance? OH-SO EASY.

2012. After several cuts to maintain the oh-so short hairstyle (and dyes to upkeep its jet blackness), I decided to grow out my hair. The grow-out stage from such a style is the absolute worst. Not only was it shorter on one side than the other, but it was also impossible to tie up for a really long time; I followed the terrible trend at the time to input as many bobby pins in the back as possible.

2013-2015. Sixth form. The “bun” all day, every day period. By the time my hair had finally reached the “long bob” stage, I was able to tie it in a bun – and not just any bun, but the neatest bun. Fortunately for me, hair donuts were a real hairstyle staple at the time and thus allowed me to tie my hair in a neat bun. Oh, and dip-dye was a real trend at the time, too, so my mum dip-dyed my back-to-natural brown hair blonde.

2016. My first year of university. By this point, my hair finally looked nice enough to leave down after two years of growing it out. As I was already used to in my high school years, I would take the time to straighten my hair once it had dried after a wash and proceed to use my straighteners briefly in the mornings when getting ready so as to ensure it stayed straight throughout the day.

2017. By the time I reached my second year of university, I realised that my hair had become “long” again; it was becoming too much to maintain before, during and after every wash. My solution? Tying it in plaits every single night and untying the plaits in the morning for a “beach waves” look created from the plaits every single day. Eventually, this routine became almost as easy to maintain as my previously short hair.

2018-2020. My hair has become too long for me to cope with. I’m surprised I’ve got this far without mentioning how bloody thick my hair is; hence, when it’s long, it’s like trying to maintain a bloody lion’s mane (don’t get me wrong, I’m really appreciative that my hair is so healthy; my comparisons are meant for exaggeration!). Now, I have the urge to again chop it all off. Just not so short this time.

In preparation for my chop (before I cancelled my appointment back in March), I researched everything I needed to know about donating hair to The Little Princess Trust. I am delighted to confirm that my hair is fit for donation according to their terms and conditions and, as mentioned previously, the demand for longer hair donations continues to grow. Hence, I intend to donate at least 14 inches of hair (I’m not quite sure how long my hair is at present in inches – I just know that I want to cut it to a long bob so, if my hair below my shoulders is actually longer than 14 inches right now, great!).

Your hair is a part of you. Just as you like to take care of your body by showering, moisturising and exercising, remember to take care of your hair. Do some research into its type to find the right shampoos and conditioners for you. Take the time to put a mask on it every now and then. Brush it gently. And, if you can, consider donating it to those who don’t have such an ability.

Take care of your hair – and take care.

Love,

Soph, Little Pav

Running out of ideas for your next virtual pub quiz? Here’s some inspiration

The virtual pub quiz has seemingly taken the world by storm amid the coronavirus pandemic. As families and friends across the globe have gone weeks – even months – without seeing each other to assist in stopping the spread of COVID-19, many – including my own – have turned to hosting and/or engaging in regular virtual pub quizzes over the likes of Zoom to keep in touch and spark a little joy during what is such an unprecedented time. While they might have become a cliché now, I for one can certainly say they’ve helped me to stay somewhat sane; they have provided opportunities to keep me occupied and have something to look forward to. Being an extrovert, I’ve confidently jumped at the chance to create and host a quiz on a few occasions now. The first few times I volunteered, I had many ideas for quiz rounds; the last time (a mere 24 hours ago), however, I admittedly had no more of my own. All my and others’ ideas had been executed already. Alas, for the first time, I turned to Google for the apparently highly-searched “virtual pub quiz ideas”. In light of my virtual pub quiz brain fart, I’ve amalgamated some ideas for quiz rounds from quizzes I’ve previously created, participated in and discovered amongst Google’s many responses for those who might be stuck for ideas for their next virtual pub quiz, too.

1.    “Name that musical”

In the first virtual pub quiz I hosted, my first round was inspired by a quiz I’d come across during one of my casual Facebook strolls; a “name that musical” quiz. Similarly to this quiz, my version merely included still images from 12 different classic musicals on one PowerPoint slide for everybody to examine and cry “argh, I know that one!” as they tried to jog their memories or inadvertently confuse Les Misérables with The Greatest Showman. A simple Google search will generate plentiful musical names and images to inspire this round. Or, if you want to make it a little more interactive, you could include or play clips from classic musical numbers and ask your participants to name the iconic musical, song and even artist for some extra points, too.

2.    Celebrity couples

One of the most fun rounds I’ve created for a virtual pub quiz is a “celebrity couples” round whereby I listed 10 celebrity couples, past and present, but eliminated the vowels from their names. For instance, for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, it appeared “brdptt & nglnjl”; for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman “tmcrs & nclkdmn”; and Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas “sphtrnr & jjns”. This can be really fun for your participants as they may be able to identify one name but struggle to remember the other half of the couple. It’s especially funny if you hear them muttering them to themselves, too, but that can actually help! (Say “brdptt” and “tmcrs” aloud and they ~ almost ~ sound like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, right?)

3.    The noughties

This idea for a round is a particularly fun one for both millennials and previous generations alike. It emits a sense of nostalgia for you as you gather the questions and your family and friends as they take themselves back to a time where the likes of Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Destiny’s Child were plastered all over MTV and playing on every radio station repeatedly. With questions like “Which Outkast song contains the lyrics Never meant to make your daughter cry // I apologize a trillion times?”, “Which female singer partnered with Nelly to release Dilemma in 2002?” and “In which year did Kylie Minogue release the single Can’t Get You Out of My Head?”, you’ll be sure to witness your participants scratching their heads.

4.    Warner Bros.

I won’t lie, I was quite proud of myself when I thought of this for a round. Rather than your typical Disney round which – don’t @ me – I’m not too much of a fan of myself (don’t get me wrong, many Disney films I love, but anything Disney Princess I’ve never particularly enjoyed), I thought: “why not Warner Bros. instead?”. Similarly to the “noughties” round, Warner Bros. can make you feel very nostalgic; questions like “Which 1996 hit single featured on the Space Jam soundtrack?” will remind you of easier days. Plus, it provided an opportunity for me to ask a Friends-related question which everybody was expecting from me in my first quiz: “What is the title of the famous Friends episode where Monica and Rachel lose their apartment to Chandler and Joey?” (if you know, you know).

My favourite episode! (Credit: giphy.com)

5.    “Finish the lyric”

Instead of the all too familiar “listen to this and name the song and artist”, you can switch up a music round by asking your participants to “finish the lyric”. This idea for a round when I was creating my second virtual pub quiz was inspired by a video that went viral of a lady being asked to “finish the lyric” by the videographer who sang a lyric from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Shallow. I provided 10 lyrics from 10 different songs in a list format, again on a PowerPoint slide, and asked them to simply provide the following lyric as an answer. You can make it even harder by merely reading the lyrics as opposed to singing them; your participants might recognise the lyric but forget the tune, making it more difficult for them to do as the round asks.

6.    Social media

In a world where virtual pub quizzes over Zoom have become the norm for occupying time as “non-essential” workers are imperatively staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s highly likely that your participants will be familiar with some facts on social media. To some, social media still sounds like a relatively new concept, but questions such as “In which year was Facebook launched?” and “Which early social network was bought by ITV in 2005 for £120m?” will soon make them realise that social media has been around for a lot longer than they might think. And, for those of us who have been using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the like since or soon after they launched, they will be a breeze.

7.    Catchphrase

During a Zoom catchup and virtual pub quiz with my linguigals (my group of friends who I talk about in this blog which, coincidentally, unfolds my pandemic experience), one of my linguigals was hosting and included a Catchphrase-like round (‘like’ referring to the Catchphrase TV show). It was quite different from your usual quiz round as, much like the TV show, we were shown a series of images which referenced common catchphrases, and the first to “buzz in” and shout it out earned the point. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I stole the idea for my next virtual pub quiz (thanks, G!). You could even, like my fiancé and I have also participated in, create a game show-themed quiz, including the likes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Price is Right and Family Fortunes as rounds.

8.    Logos

Does anybody else remember when an app called The Logo Quiz was all anybody could ever talk about circa 2010? Yes? No? If so, this one’s a bit like that. If not, this idea for a round essentially requires you to display images of an array of brands but excluding obvious details such as their name or an iconic symbol (you can find loads of photoshopped logo images on Google). Or, rather than asking your participants to merely identify the brands, you could also do a “this or that” and display two images of the same brand beside one another but, again, with minor details changed like the orientation of a symbol or the order of the colours (which is what I did). Since it’s been a good decade there or thereabouts since The Logo Quiz was prevalent, this one was fun for me to do.

9.    Album covers

Another friend of mine in their virtual pub quiz created a round which included a number of photoshopped images of famous album covers; similarly to the logos as explained above, obvious elements like the album or artist’s name were edited out. Admittedly, on her version, I didn’t recognise any of the album covers until they were revealed (~ obviously ~), making me question my music knowledge which is usually pretty good – or so I thought. Again, these images can quite easily be found on Google for you to include in your next virtual pub quiz. This idea for a round is a fun way to test your participants’ music knowledge (or lack of) and perhaps even decipher the kind of music they’re into, too.

10.   TV show sets

Another good idea for a virtual pub quiz round is to show your participants an abundance of images of the sets of popular – or, if you want to spice it up, more obscure – TV shows. With the likes of Netflix also having conquered many households across the globe over the last few years with their variety of television series, dramas and movies, this will – similarly to the album covers round – unveil how much (or how little) TV your participants watch. This round is again quite unusual; instead of the “identify the theme song” or “who said this quote in which television series?”, you can utilise the screen-sharing function on Zoom to display such images and get your participants thinking.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that you can’t go wrong with a “general knowledge” round (I usually leave this round till last). These rounds are always a success for both you and your participants as you can ask any burning questions that didn’t fit elsewhere in your quiz and it’s a fun way to test your family and friends’, well, general knowledge. If you’re unsure on what kind of questions to ask, there are millions – and that’s probably not an exaggeration – just waiting to be searched on Google.

As per, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Stay safe, stay home and enjoy your next virtual pub quiz!

Love,

Soph, Little Pav

“This is a pandemic, not a productivity contest”

I came across this quote on a post shared by Glamour UK on Instagram during my evening social media scroll one day last week and, damn, did it hit home. Just a couple of days before, my linguigals (the name I’ve assigned to my gal friends with whom I studied linguistics at university with; original, right?) and I were discussing this very topic on our group chat: how we’ve kept ourselves occupied during lockdown. One bravely revealed before-and-after photos upon completing a 30-day workout challenge (in which she looked INCREDIBLE), two painfully cried that they have predominantly been swamped in master’s assignments (I know that feeling, girls) and another proudly declared that she has managed to consume a whole can of Pringles to herself (this one clearly wins). While us linguigals always intend to empower one another, this conversation had the opposite – and unintentional on their behalf, I know – effect on me: it made me feel useless. While most of my friends have been working their arses off to keep fit or submit assignments displaying the best of their abilities (or eat as many snacks as possible, in one’s case), what have I been doing? As I mentioned briefly in my previous blog: playing Animal Crossing. A lot of it, for that matter. “For over 205 hours or more”, my Nintendo Switch profile confidently tells me. Call me mad. Call me crazy. Call me nuts. I am all those things.

Credit: @glamouruk on Instagram

Of course, that isn’t all I’ve been doing (though, undoubtedly, it has taken up a lot of my time). I’ve ensured that I take my dog (my sweet, sweet Diesel) for a long walk at least once a day, be it alone or with my mum, dad and/or fiancé Dan, for both mine and Diesel’s good. I’ve been playing ball in the garden with Diesel when the weather has been too nice to stay in my bedroom glued to the Switch. I’ve emptied my (and Dan’s) entire wardrobe and chest of drawers out only to place our clothes back in, but more neatly. But, is that enough? Should I be doing more? If so, what should I be doing? These are just a few of the many questions that began to occur to me following the aforementioned conversation with my friends. Beforehand, I believed that everything that I was doing was fine; it didn’t even cross my mind that I “should” be doing anything else or differently. In fact, from the onset, I perceived this time as an opportunity for me to rest and recuperate after a few full-on years of studying (“half a decade”, almost, as one of my linguigals pointed out when reassuring me that how I’ve spent my time is O.K. also). After completing my A levels in July 2015, I went straight on to study for my bachelor’s from September 2015. After completing my bachelor’s in May 2018, I went straight on to study for my master’s from September 2018. After completing my master’s in September 2019, I went straight into full-time work that same month. I’ve never taken a break, like a gap year or simply “time off” to give my mind and body a rest. Up until that conversation, I counted myself lucky that I didn’t have any assignments to complete for once; I counted myself lucky that I had so much time to spend on the wonder that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

My baby Diesel

Upon expressing how I began to feel a little bummed to my linguigals after seeing their successes, each and every one of them reminded me that there is no “right or wrong” way to spend our time in quarantine (don’t they sound amazing? That, they are!). In sum, our conversation – and, subsequently, that Glamour UK post – made me realise that the pandemic experience is different for everyone, and it most certainly isn’t a competition as to who has achieved the most during this time we have imperatively stayed at home to protect ourselves and each other. To some, it has provided an opportunity to learn new or pick up old hobbies such as exercising, cooking and reading; to others, it has provided a break for their mental and physical health. The latter is most certainly what I relate to the most, and however you have spent your time is O.K., too.

To all our NHS and key workers, thank you so much for what you do. To those who, like me, have stayed at home to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19, how have you been spending your time at home? I’d love to know!

Love,

Soph, Little Pav