Animal Crossing: New Horizons Does A Bafflingly Stupid Thing
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been the perfect antidote to the chaos of our times. Odd, considering it's a game of chores -- from farming to building homes for soon-to-be neighbors unwilling to put in the work you're in the midst of yourself. The work is more interesting and reassuring than any of the real stuff we have to do as we're cooped up at home. I'd rather monotonously whack several rocks with a flimsy ax till it's bled of every last iron nugget and chunk of clay than wash the 50 dishes my wife and I go through in a self-quarantining. The work has always been the point of the game and the source of it's fun.
However, you don't gain access to that work in New Horizons if you were unfortunate enough to not be the first person to start playing it in a household where multiple people will be playing "separate" games, with different profiles, on the same Switch. Under those circumstances, it does one of the bafflingly stupid things you'll ever see a videogame do: it locks you out of large chunks of the game by forcing you to be the first player's underling, effectively giving you a real-life boss whose own in-game progress dictates what you can do and when.
One of the great console gaming innovations of the past decade was separate profiles that let multiple people play the same game at the same time. My wife and I took turns playing God of War and Breath of the Wild by simply handing off the controller and switching profiles. Its glorified save file was simple, elegant, easy. Then New Horizon comes along, needlessly merging the events of separate profiles so that everyone on one Switch is actually playing the same game.
My wife's in-game home is down the way from mine; If I plant a tree, she can harvest its oranges. I didn't think it was the worst idea on its own until I realized that the "First Resident" profile player gets exclusive access to important story points and missions. It's led to weird moments where the game gives me the option to celebrate milestones that I didn't accomplish myself but still affect my playthrough. My wife decided on the island's name and layout a day before I started playing, not realizing she was doing it. I attended the opening ceremony for a museum I didn't build and wouldn't have even had the option to if my wife hadn't played through that story point first.
The game never told me to start building homes for the NPCs I invited to live on my, I mean, our island. I found that out when it told me to ask the "Resident Representative" (aka the first profile player, aka my wife) what I can do to help. The first profile to start the game gets all the important stuff to do and the rest of the profiles (there can be up to 8) are reduced to being the little sibling playing with a controller that isn't plugged in.
The problem was borne from a fun idea that wasn't well-thought-out: what if players using multiple profiles on one Switch were all working toward the same goals? It would be a hippie commune run by series mainstay Tom Nook, the pleasantly tyrannical ultra-capitalist grifter raccoon who makes a fortune on the hard work everyone puts into building their utopia. It took him five entries in the series to find a way to do even less work than he already does. He found a way to offload his work of assigning missions to players onto a real-life, flesh-and-blood middle manager who tells me how to play the game while he basks in the warm tropical sun. That son of a bitch.
Luis can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Check out his regular contributions to Macaulay Culkin's BunnyEars.com and his "Meditation Minute" segments on the Bunny Ears podcast. And now you can listen to the first episode on Youtube!