The First Two Villagers

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons you begin on a deserted island in what Tom Nook calls a “getaway package.” When you arrive, it’s all weeds and overgrown trees, nothing but shells dotting the shoreline, and a tent where Tom Nook oversees “residential services.”

Honestly, it’s a disgusting place.

But fear not! Over the course of the game, you’ll be cleaning, pruning, building, and planning. One day, you’ll be able to make the island not only habitable, but you’ll build lasting friendships along the way.

When you arrive, two villagers arrive with you. For me, I had Renee and Cousteau. I found a place to put my tent, and Tom, the resourceful Raccoon that he is, encouraged me to help out the other villagers find a spot for their tents.

I found Renee first, nestled up against a curving river and some trees. She said that she had “too many options” and that she did not know what the right choice was. “I threw a stick,” she said, “and wherever that stick landed, that is where my tent would be.” She wanted to know if this was a good place for her to live, knowing full well that she could not throw sticks very far.

From critiquing her own throwing ability, to being unsure about choices, I could tell Renee was self-conscious about everything she did, and I felt sorry for her. I told her yes (even though I felt it was a little far off from “residential services”), her house was in just the right spot.

Cousteau on the other hand was very sure about where to place his tent. “I’m a body builder,” the french frog said, “And I need a place with a lot of fresh air, oui oui.” According to my calculations, this was not a place with a lot of “fresh air.” It was totally surrounded by trees, making the forest-like atmosphere earthy and dense. “No,” I told him, “I will find a place for you.” I went north, away from the coast, and found an open field where he could run and jump and…body-build.

Because this is a video game, both were thrilled with my answer.

But I was not so sure.

What even is the point of friendship then? On the one hand, we have this pink rhinoceros who needs direction from a friend, and instead I simply let her choices count. Yet here is another character who knows exactly where to put their tent, and I refused and gave advice instead?

It made me doubt whether or not I was a good friend in real life.

I had a discussion just like this with a friend earlier this week. I had told her all kinds of books to read, movies she should watch, and all the time I felt like I was taking over conversations. I was no longer listening.

We have been reading The Cuckoo’s Calling together, and in that series, Robyn and Strike grow as friends across several harrowing cases that test the limits of what friendship can do. But it’s the little things that make just as much a difference. Cormoran Strike marvels at how Robyn never tells him how to live his life, the first woman apparently to do so. He occasionally smokes, drinks, and has a bad diet. Yet Robyn is so democratic in her demeanor that she will not intervene. And this is something that Strike finds endearing.

Is friendship the passion to overthrow your other’s better judgment?

No, friendship is about letting go and experiencing the person that they are becoming, all the time, with each second. And the fun part is in taking in each change, being thrilled with new discoveries with them, and simply listening to how they share it.

And while I was right with Renee, I was wrong with Cousteau, even if Cousteau said he was happy with the decision.

Because it wasn’t really his decision.

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