Cheating has always gone hand in hand with Animal Crossing. Over the decades of the series' lifespan, players have rolled forward GameCube clocks; gamified the times of Wiis and DSes, and even overcome the systems in New Leaf that tried to discourage such trickery. Still, players press on. You cannot tell a cheater not to cheat. Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Switch is no different.
All weekend long, I hopped into my friends' towns, just as they visited mine. Some friends had sparse towns, as expected; they were just days into the game, where I've clocked more than 80 hours. But that didn't mean their towns were devoid of cool shit. One friend has a rock climbing wall that I'm particularly envious of. Others have become expert in-game designers in their own right, and I'm readily waiting for them to open up Able Sisters so that I can snatch their adorable dress and face paint designs. And then there are the other folks, the ones who have taken to manipulating the Switch's clock and jumping ahead in time to cheat the system and unlock shops and other milestones early.
The end result are museums fully constructed, with players not having had to wait the painful 48 hours for Blathers to open it up. (Which has resulted in some ridiculous bug and fish hoarding—as I too did in my home once upon a time in the review process.) Nook's Cranny, open for business. Recipes galore. More than five villagers, all moved in. K.K. Slider performing Saturday evenings prematurely, even. (The traveling dog musician made his first visit to my own town Saturday night, after triggering a very particular in-game event earlier last week.)
As a side note: All my loved ones with lying hearts apparently don't even have the decency to pick the weeds from their islands, which grow at an accelerated rate when you jump forward in time. But planting flowers everywhere without any rhyme or reason though to get their island's five-star star rating up? They have that in spades. It's a commonality I cannot ignore. No one cares about actually cultivating a community of adorable animals and sharing the wealth of their splendor with friends who visit. They just want to "win"—whatever that means in the world of Animal Crossing. It bums me out.
Animal Crossing has always been a superb routine game. It's something to check in on every day, run your errands or do some chores; maybe set a specific goal to accomplish that day. In New Horizons, there are even more goals to work toward, from crafting new recipes to earning NookMiles through every day tasks. More than ever, New Horizons rewards you for just playing. And yet, folks are still manipulating time to get things faster, for some reason.
Time traveling sucks the fun out of it. Since we're all staying home anyhow, what's the rush? Are you that impatient? As a kid I understand manipulating the very order that binds Animal Crossing, but as an adult? It's foolish. It's immature. It's revealing the true sides of everyone I know and love. For the better, and for the worse. And I'm not alone in this thought I've carried all weekend: All across social media, people have been echoing pretty much these same thoughts. Stop the cheaters.
The developers at Nintendo behind Animal Crossing have tried to discourage time traveling in multiple ways over the years. When you time travel, weeds pop up all across town because of you jumping forward in time, while turnips rot. In New Horizons, moving the Switch's clock forward or back is relatively easy. Still, according to a recent interview, the Animal Crossing development team don't necessarily consider time traveling cheating—even though it totally is. It's just a cowardly way to experience the world of Animal Crossing.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Director Aya Kyogoku said that playing without time traveling is the "ideal way" to play. To help sway players to play the intended fashion, seasonal events, like the upcoming Bunny Day in early April, are only accessible via downloadable updates. "Adding all the seasonal events by updates wasn't our way to shun away time travel by any means," Kyogoku told the paper. "But Animal Crossing is a game that users are able to play and enjoy throughout the year."
Playing dozens and dozens of hours of Animal Crossing: New Horizons over the past few weeks, one thing I've loved about playing it the right way is watching my town blossom over time. I've planted flowers. I've plotted buildings; I've crowdfunded stairs and bridges. When friends visit my town, they marvel not at how cool it is, but at the possibility of one day having a fully-developed island of their own. Nobody wants to see towns overgrown with weeds and sloppily placed flowers. Be better. Don't cheat at Animal Crossing. Because really: what is there to even win?