In a recent Instagram post, Nicole Cuddihy told her audience that creating more inclusive patterns for Animal Crossing: New Horizons characters has helped her accept her own skin, including “spots, blemishes and stretch marks.”
Cuddihy is a New Horizons pattern designer who collaborated with Gillette Venus to create the Skinclusive Summer Line. Cuddihy and the Gillette team created patterns for character’s faces and bodies with vitiligo, psoriasis, cesarean scarring and bigger curves than default avatars have. Cuddihy, who has been playing Animal Crossing since the original U.S. Gamecube release, has grown a following for her work and is one of a few creators trying to bridge gaps in features and designs the game hasn’t already created.
In a previous Nintendo Life video, our very own Alex Olney confessed he hadn’t played Animal Crossing in a month but was coming back to the game after the summer update that included diving, Pascal and fireworks shows. Based on the comments under the video and opinions in similar reviews, some players have burned out a bit on the game or feel it wasn’t complete at launch.
In this Crossing Channel video, players wrote in “unpopular opinions” about the game, including that interactions with villagers are repetitive and don’t have enough text variation and that diving update only adds a “few minutes of gameplay.” One player complained about terraforming causing players to “get sick of the game easily.” Other common complaints include a lack of NPCs from previous games, like Harriet and Brewster.
While many players hope for additional updates that return favourite characters or fix gameplay issues – like having to craft items one at a time, even when you want multiples – artists and fans like Cuddihy are creating solutions that address some of the missing features.
Cuddihy said fan responses to the Skinclusive line have been incredibly positive and said she has heard from players who felt included and reflected in the game for the first time. When asked if she felt the project was especially timely given its wide array of skin tones, Cuddihy said she thinks it’s been released at a crucial moment for players and hopes to see more skin tone representation in gaming generally. "This project hopefully allows people to still relax on their digital island, without having to put their identity on pause," Cuddihy said.
Animal Crossing character design has certainly come a long way – never forget the iconic and mandatory pointy, triangular hats – but that doesn’t mean it’s complete. In the original GameCube version, facial features were determined by a short quiz and were not changeable unless a player started a new game. Later, players could tan on the beach to darken their skin but never looked anything other than white. Skin tone changes by using a Mii mask were added to later games, but New Horizons is the first Animal Crossing game to truly support a range of skin colours.
Cuddihy said adding features that more closely reflect what players look like in real life has been one of the most meaningful projects of her life, and has helped her become more confident. "Seeing a character that I related to surprisingly filled me with a sense of confidence and self-acceptance. I wanted to share that feeling with others," she said. "I’m so grateful to Gillette Venus."
Cuddihy isn’t the only creator working to fill gaps in New Horizons; Ben of the Crossing Channel recently built a new dream island feature that was included in New Leaf but not released in New Horizons. With the recent summer update, players could once again visit other islands in their dreams, assisted by the NPC Luna. Players lie down on the special bed gifted by Luna, go to sleep, and wake up on another island – provided they have the code to visit.
Ben’s Dream Code Randomiser Tool allows players to visit random islands by collecting dream codes submitted by players around the world. Ben, who films Animal Crossing reviews, tours and gameplay tips, said he worked alongside two other developers to create the project. "The tool is a replacement for the feature that was in New Leaf, but got taken out in New Horizons. I honestly don’t know why they took it out," Ben said.
Ben said some fans have asked if he was frustrated he had to create the feature himself, but told Nintendo Life the process was fun. He said he’ll be looking for features left out of future updates and find creative ways to adapt. He’s also going to continue creating content and videos for New Horizons players since he feels this helps them overcome boredom or burnout.
"I’m trying to make content that will hopefully help people who are maybe feeling a little bored or burnt out with the game at the moment, and I think that’s working," Ben said. "I’m so happy people still care about what I do after all of this time, especially given how much content there is for the game now!"
With the growing popularity of DLC, creators may continue to fill holes in unfinished games, bring back missing features or simply bridge the gaps until an update is released. While that hasn’t always been necessary for the Animal Crossing series, things are changing. Ben said he fully expects to produce more content for the game.
"This wouldn’t be the first time fans have made a tool to complement the game, and it won’t be the last," he said.