At a time where social distancing is being recommended globally, the world has rarely before been this on edge about anyone displaying symptomatic behaviours of any kind. That’s probably why Animal Crossing: New Horizons players are having such strong reactions to a sneezing emote.
In Nintendo’s new Switch exclusive, players can learn how to use emote animations from NPC villagers. These cute humanoid animals will randomly approach the player to teach them how to look happy, sad, or how to dance. Another emote they’ll teach—without any warning or concern for the player’s personal space—is sneezing. The interaction usually plays out thus: a villager runs up to the player, tells the player to “watch this”, and then sneezes directly into the player’s face.
Given the current climate brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, this otherwise innocuous (though definitely rude) emote has elicited an extreme response in players. Many are posting videos of this random interaction with shock and terror.
Many have taken to having their Animal Crossing avatars wear face masks, perhaps in response to this absolutely uncalled-for behaviour. Others have put up signs in their village, asking visiting players to avoid sneezing on each other. One has even gone as far as to gate off their island’s entrance, barring other players from visiting.
Readers should be aware that sneezing is not currently a known symptom of the coronavirus, though it is always best to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm. It also should be noted that, if you are feeling sick, you should definitely stay home for at least fourteen days. In any case, visiting other Animal Crossing players’ villages is perfectly safe, seeing as Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a video game and not a vehicle for spreading the coronavirus or any other illnesses. It is, however, a fantastic life simulator that “does an incredible job of giving the players a lot to do in a game that is essentially about doing nothing,” and is a great way to pass the time if you are currently quarantined or generally practicing social distancing. If you’re looking for any other multiplayer games to play during these trying times, check out Tabletop Simulator, an incredible game that bridges the gap of social distancing with a playful physics system and a robust library of board game mods.