Pierce Pioneer

Animal Crossing: Just a Kids’ Game or a Modern Coping Tool?

Matt Slater / Staff Photo 

Young or old, you have probably heard of the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Amidst the uncertainty that is global affairs in 2020, Animal Crossing’s cheery exterior and light-gameplay have been welcomed into the public light with open arms. 

But what about Animal Crossing: New Horizons has made it so successful? Could the raging popularity be accredited to individuals just searching for ways to escape their current situation, or is there a deeper benefit? 

The video-gaming industry as a whole has seen an increase in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the current global atmosphere being very tense and many individuals stressed about COVID-19, whether it be work or health-related, Animal Crossing has offered a type of peaceful sanctuary. 

Animal Crossing can be used as a daily escape from the frightening reality of life. It allows individuals to take control of anxiety-provoking situations and vent any frustrations or fears they have about the real world. 

This pursuit of an outlet to funnel attention to is called escapism. Escapism has historically been given a bad rap because it is associated with relief from an unpleasant situation, but it is not always negative. 

Animal Crossing offers a video-gaming experience that is often compared to soothing meditational practices. The franchise is not dominated by heavy story-telling and the narrative guidelines can be completed at your leisure. This self-pacing mechanism offers players many choices, and with it, control. 

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players can decide what their character does day-to-day in real-time; whether it be tending a garden, catching fish or bugs, decorating villager’s houses, or visiting friends from around the globe. Original music, characters, and dialogue make Animal Crossing quite unique in the gaming world. 

New Horizons launched on March 20, 2020; In record time, it exceeded the lifetime sales of each previous game in the Animal Crossing franchise. Also during March, the Nintendo Switch console, which is the only platform New Horizons is offered on, saw a sales increase of 150 percent. 

Individuals like Jeremy Bailenson have worked to investigate the connections between escapism and virtual enrichment. As he explores in his book, Experience on Demand, virtual reality, and social simulators can help individuals recover from trauma. 

Traumatic events, such as global pandemics, bring a degree of uncertainty, which can lead to serious psychological repercussions. 

A 2002 study of children in psychologically traumatic situations showed that playing with toys or art materials helped rebuild emotional stability. Having the opportunity to play comes with the notion that people are beginning to put their lives back together, and life is going back to normal.

In this way, Animal Crossing: New Horizons might be the relief that our modern generation needs. 

Anyone could make the argument that COVID-19 has been a traumatic experience. Life for many around the globe has completely changed. The loss of communities such as school, work, and religious gatherings, as well as the uncertainty when communities will be able to gather again, can lead to serious mental health repercussions.

Maybe the reason New Horizons has gotten so popular is that it is tending to the psychological human need to play in order to deal with trauma. 

New Horizons is fundamentally simple. It allows for easy repetition, which can soothe nerves or anxiety. Additionally, New Horizons is open to creative expression. As a player, you are not confined to a strict rule book. Almost every aspect of the game is moldable to your artistic vision. If players don’t have a specific vision in mind, the game inspires them to create one with the tools provided. 

Finally, New Horizons lets you build and nurture new relationships and communities. It has become a new resource for individuals to connect to one another. In a time when everyone is a little lonely, thousands of players congregate online to share resources and playthrough tips.  

Animal Crossing: New Horizons may pave the way for new, innovative virtual simulators, especially if quarantine persists. It will be interesting to see how different aspects of the media industry will cope with life restrictions or if more companies try to capitalize on stay-at-home requirements. Regardless, New Horizons will be written in the history books as a smashing success.

Kicking it with Q – First Week of Quarantine (The Quest for Guitar Hero)

Quintin tells his first-week quarantine experience and his quest to play Guitar Hero.

Host: Quintin Mattson-Howard

Editor: Quintin Mattson-Howard

Logo: Jesus Contreras

Pokémon Sword and Shield gives a fresh new take on a well used formula

The Pokemon Company / Courtesy Photo

Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, the newest members of the Pokémon video game franchise, are two fun, engaging games that will inspire both seasoned players, and curious newcomers to ‘catch em’ all’. These titles are the first ‘traditional’ Pokémon games being released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, and fans of the series will be delighted with what the games have to bring.

For those who aren’t familiar with the popular franchise, Pokémon is set in a world where the massive wildlife population, collectively known as Pokémon, hence the series’ name, are traditionally caught and trained by individuals known as trainers. These trainers attempt to take their Pokémon team to the top, by means of battle between the creatures, in hopes of being the best of the best.

Pokémon Sword and Shield represents this well-worn formula well, while also adding its own new take on the traditional trainer’s journey. While players explore the newfound Galar region, they will not only encounter many Pokémon they know and love, but also an assortment of brand-new creatures native to the area.

Anyone who’s played previous Pokémon games will be relieved to know that Sword and Shield manages to maintain the traditional control and turn based battle schemes, unlike the Nintendo Switch’s first Pokémon title, “Pokémon Let’s Go”, which received much controversy upon its release.

Detail-wary players may notice the games’ newer art style, which differs slightly from the design in previous games. The graphics are presented in an attractive, colorful manga reminiscent style, seemingly blown up into the third dimension, but with much more clarity than previous games. This is perhaps due to the fact that the Nintendo Switch, the platform upon which the games are exclusive to, has a much better resolution than any previous hand-held consoles that housed older Pokémon games.

One of the most anticipated new features of Sword and Shield is the option to ‘dynamax’ one’s Pokémon during battle. This new feature allows Pokémon to grow to a massive size, greatly increasing both their power, and general awesomeness factor. During a battle where dynamaxing is permitted, a player may dynamax one Pokémon for the duration of three turns. This new tactic will certainly play a key role in players’ strategizing during battle, as Sword and Shield will soon be the newest official platform for competitive gameplay.

Pokémon Sword and Shield is a promising successor to the many other games in the franchise, with the perfect mix of both new and familiar content. Wandering the extensive Galar region, long-time fans of the franchise will be excited to see how the locals have refreshed the usual trainer’s journey, and players just picking up their first Pokéball will have a blast battling till they themselves become the champion.

Since this has been written, Nintendo has announced new DLCs to be released in June 2020 and in Autumn 2020.

One of the best-selling video game franchises returns

Activision announces ‘Black Ops III’ as the next ‘Call of Duty’ installment


Courtesy of Google

Players will again be taken into the future in the new “Black Ops III”

It is no secret that “Call of Duty” (COD) is one of the world’s best-selling videogame franchises around and that it has  hit some tough spots within its long and profitable history. “COD: Ghosts” was one such game which received mixed reception from both fans and critics with praise going towards it multiplayer, but receiving negative criticism for its story.

However, “COD: Advanced Warfare” fared better and reignited what little faith was lost within the franchise with reinvented gameplay mechanics and a more focused storyline even though sales were still slightly down from “Ghosts.” With a new three year cycle shared between developers Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer Games, each new “COD” has the potential to be better game with more development time.

This year, Treyarch is up to bat with their new “COD” installment, “Black Ops III” which will be a direct sequel to 2012’s “Black Ops II.” Teasers were released before the actual gameplay trailer was revealed on 26 April. It revealed new gameplay, characters, a brief glimpse of multiplayer, and the returning fan favorite Zombies mode.

The game’s campaign will take place in the year 2065; forty years after the events of “Black Ops II” and focuses on a group of advanced black op super soldiers who are part human and machine. The game will feature a new campaign that will support 4-player cooperative gameplay, a fully customizable soldier that can be either male or female and will be the first “COD” game to feature a leading female protagonist. The campaign will also have more open arena-like levels that allow objectives to be completed in more ways than one which increases replayability.

Multiplayer will feature a new moving system, a new class system called “Specialists” and a new “Gunsmith” feature that allows for weapon customizations that can be combined in a number of different ways.

The returning Zombies mode has also had a facelift with a new narrative that is separate from the campaign and features its own XP progression system for the first time in “COD” history. The game can be pre-ordered now with a Digital Deluxe Edition also available aside from the standard which includes the season pass unlike the standard edition.

The game is set for a 6 November release and will be available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.  Those that also pre-order the game will gain Beta access sometime in the future.

Playstation 4 Versus Xbox One: A review

Xbox one vs. PS4Austin Lewis Staff Writer

Both consoles offer a superior gaming and entertainment experience, but the slight differences between them are what give each one individuality

This Winter both Microsoft and Sony launched their newest consoles, officially beginning the next generation of console gaming. Microsoft launched the Xbox One, the third console in their Xbox line, and Sony launched the Playstation 4, the fourth console in their Playstation line. Both consoles are fairly similar tech-wise, but the differences lie in their game market, pricing, and operating systems.

The Xbox one is priced at $500. It comes packaged with the console, a controller and headset, and the new version of Microsoft’s popular motion sensor called the Kinect. The operating system is similar to Windows 8, and it allows the user to operate it with only hand movement thanks to the Kinect.

The Playstation 4 is priced at $400. It comes with the console, and a controller and headset. The operating system of the Playstation has a minimalistic feel and bears resemblance to Sony’s previous system, the Playstation 3.

While the Xbox One is $100 more expensive than the Playstation 4, it’s important to note that the Xbox One comes with the new Kinect, whereas the Playstation 4 comes with only the console and a controller.

Another factor to consider when thinking about purchasing either one is the game market. Playstation 4 has started out with a strong online store, offering popular indie games at lower prices than the third party AAA titles such as Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. The Xbox One also has an online game store, but it hasn’t been being updated as fast as the Playstation’s, so it focuses more on the larger AAA titles.

Both systems offer online multiplayer experiences, but these can only be used if you subscribe to each system’s online service. A year of PSN, Playstation’s online service, will run $50, and a year of Xbox Live, the Xbox one’s online service, will run $60. These services are also nice because both Sony and Microsoft give away free games each month to the subscribers of their service. However, Sony seems to be giving away more games to their customer’s for each month of service.

Both systems also offer entertainment experiences as well. Both systems allow you to connect to popular Entertainment sites such as Netflix, and Hulu Plus, but the Xbox One offers a greater experience with it’s ability to connect with your TV Box and control it through the Xbox.

Overall, the Playstation is focused more on games and providing games to customers and offers a fairly basic entertainment system, Where the Xbox tries to offer a higher entertainment experience along with their gaming experience. Both systems offer a quality gaming and entertainment experience, and while they specialize in different aspects, they are both worth taking a look at.


For a perspective and advice on choosing a gaming computer, go here


Gaming computers an attractive alternative to new consoles

Daniel Konicek Staff Writer

It is an exciting time for console gamers with the new consoles hitting the shelves, but more than ever gaming computers are becoming a more viable option for the committed gamer. Computers are compatible with any console controller, online vendors offer games for a much smaller price and, unlike new consoles, computers have the largest game library of any machine.

Steam is the current leader in PC gaming, and for good reason. They offer sales every week, with new games like Tomb Raider or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance up to 75 percent off. Steam has also unveiled a series of pre-built computers called Steam Machines manufactured by over a dozen different tech companies at different power and price ranges, included with their operating system and a Steam controller. For those looking to have more control, one can purchase and put together their own computer from parts, with countless guides and tutorials online on how to do it.

A gaming computer consists of only a few specific components, and in terms of price for quality this is a good time to buy them. Newer games require a good processor and graphics card, and for $150 each one can run most new games at the max graphical settings, and for a bit more the computer should be set for several years. The hard drive, case, disc drive, and power source will vary on an individual user’s needs, but prices shouldn’t reach above 200 for everything with a rugged setup. A windows operating system usually runs about $100, but one can run on Linux for free until you can afford something else, and as long as a TV has an HDMI port one can use that instead of a monitor.

So when looking at entering into the gaming world, a gaming PC is becoming a better option every day. With the new consoles only having a handful of games released so far, gamers lacking in an old console and game library would be foolish to ignore a gaming PC.

When franchises change mediums

Kristoffer Hayward A&E Editor

Sometimes a series holds our interest so well we need to see the story expanded, though sometimes there’s not always a good outcome.

A good example of a series bridging media gaps and expanding their setting comes from video games. Almost every triple A title has a book series either re-telling the story covered in the games or filling the gaps in with situation before their beginnings.

Visually striking games with an action movie style such as Uncharted won’t offer a fleshed out and immersive read. Everything that makes the genre appealing rests with visual effects and snappy one-liners, not the plot.

Story rich games with an RPG (role playing game) feel to it, like Warcraft, would stand a better chance at a novelization. The elements of world lore and society would translate into depth in the story, easily immersing a reader.

When a game is very good, it’s natural to want to see more of what made it great. For Mass Effect, the books tie in tightly with the trilogy of video games to create an expansive setting with remarkable depth.

Other times, the books don’t make so much sense when paired with the video game they come from. The Gears of War franchise offers a visceral and bloody war with a rather grim and base setting. The books take most of this, though without the eye-candy to keep the story from being the focal point, the novels leave a lot to be desired.

Be discerning with the game origin books, stay away from the flashy over the top styled games. Try and choose between the series you know has a deep base story to work from. Mass Effect, Warhammer 40,000, and Dungeons and Dragons are deep examples to pick. Resident Evil, Uncharted and Gears of War are shallower examples and may not have the punch the original titles had.

Quality online game offers free fun

Kristoffer Hayward
Staff Writer

“Warframe” breaks away from the crowd of the usual ‘free to play’ games and traditional MMOs [Massively Multiplayer Online games] in general, thanks to its third person shooter gameplay.

From the development team of “The Darkness” and the new “Star Trek” game comes “Warframe.” The game is set in the far future where humanity, known as “the grineer,” plays the part of a horribly oppressive dictatorship. The players take control of armored soldiers known only as “the Tenno.”

Rather than the cooldowns, raids and cries of ‘OOM’ [Out of mana, or a character’s energy] that usually come with this type of game, the gameplay is styled over a fast-paced third person shooter.

Instead of wide-open areas and hours of travel time between quests, the players are able to choose a mission and play through in a manner similar to a traditional “PvE” dungeon used in games like “World of Warcraft.” Experience points are also shared via proximity and coordination, instead of the more common kill stealing.

Aside from the open-ended and readily shaped storyline, the gameplay is classed as free to play. Usually games that call themselves free to play like to gut their game and make the players pay micro transactions to make up for a lack of monthly dues.

Though these transactions still exist, the developers allow the free players to earn the same equipment in a more roundabout fashion. The money route exists in “Warframe” as an easy way rather than the only way.

From longarms and pistols to gauntlets and warhammers, the players are able to customize their gear and even buy armor more suited to their play style. “Warframe” is an example of a free to play MMO doing things right and there haven’t been many games able to pull off the free model without having to cut corners.

“World of Warcraft” lets members play free to level twenty, though the level cap has been increased to eighty. “World of Tanks” lets members play for free, though the party system and some special tanks are available through real money trade.

Either a game has to cut content or has to give the paying customer stronger equipment to get the money they lose by allowing a free option. It’s a good sign to see someone try to win a player over before expecting their due.

‘Wreck-it Ralph’ breaks box office on its opening weekend

Disney’s current hit inspires nostalgia with an innovative take on video game classics

Tamara Kelly
Staff Writer 

An animated adventure movie proves to audiences that cartoons aren’t just for kids in Disney’s current enterprise “Wreck-it Ralph”.

A throwback to classic arcade games, the film is set almost entirely within the digital world. When Ralph, played by John C. Reilly, is conflicted by his role as the bad guy in the game “Fix-It Felix”, he decides to find a way to become the hero.

Ralph jumps into the action story “Hero’s Duty” in the hopes of winning a metal and proving himself as more than a simple villain. Here Ralph encounters a take-charge character named Sergeant Calhoun, voiced by Jane Lynch.

During his escape from “Hero’s Duty”, Ralph crash lands in a candy-themed racing game called “Sugar Rush”. There he meets Sarah Silverman’s character, Vanellope von Schweetz, and as the interaction between the two of them plays out, an impressive comic rapport develops.

An unexpected alliance is formed between Vanellope and Ralph as the two misfits are forced to work together to win the “Sugar Rush” race and defeat King Candy, played by Alan Tudyk.

In the meantime, the hero of Ralph’s game of origin, Felix [voiced by Jack McBrayer], enlists the help of Sergeant Calhoun and goes searching for Ralph in order to stop his own realm from being unplugged. Calhoun must help keep “Sugar Rush” from being destroyed by a game invader.

This animation movie is a treat for children and adults alike, bringing an even blend of bitter but sweet storylines with just the right mix of comedy and sarcasm.

Despite its excitement and unique plot twists, the movie offers limited nostalgia, only touching lightly on the video game forum. Ultimately, the setup used mostly as a backdrop to the story’s underlying and family-friendly theme of acceptance and discovering self-identity.

Whether you’re an informed gamer or just a movie-going parent, this story proves to be delightfully entertaining for both the young and old alike.

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