Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a game which has been making headlines the world over. It’s fair to say Nintendo knocked it out of the park with this cheerful life-sim set on a desert island in which you can live any kind of life you want to and spend time hanging out with quirky animal friends. Although most of the cute animal villagers mostly enjoy talking about island activities, Hamlet, a fit and sporty hamster, often seems to have other things on his mind. Here’s five times Hamlet ran up to me to discuss fracking.
1. The Time I Was Fishing For Water Eggs
I was minding my business enjoying the hunt for wet eggs which Zipper T. Bunny needed in order to offer me a mysterious present when Hamlet ran the full length of the beach to talk to me about fracking. He told me that fracking is when a villager injects high-pressure liquid into the island’s boreholes so as to force open fissures and extract oil or natural gas. To my knowledge, this is not a feature in Animal Crossing: New Horizons but none of the available dialogue options provided the chance to query this.
2. The Time I Was Talking Fossils With Blathers
Blathers the Owl is one of the most famous animals in Nintendo’s “Nintendo Presents: Animal Crossing: New Horizons”. He is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the big three: fish, bug, and bone. After a relaxing day of exploring my island and enjoying lighthearted interactions with some of my favourite villagers, my pockets were overflowing with fossils to share with Blathers the Owl. Heading towards the museum, I could have sworn I saw a round shadow dashing through the doors ahead of me but didn’t think much of it. No sooner had I generously offered to donate the Ankylo Torso I had unearthed to the museum of Blathers the Owl than an orange blob of fur came hurtling down the long museum staircase with a wild and frantic look plastered to its high-definition face. Blathers the Elderly Owl was knocked to the floor by Hamlet’s powerful entrance and our dialogue was cut short while Hamlet breathlessly explained the ways in which fracking has been misrepresented by the mainstream media. There was no option to skip this exchange.
3. The Time I Was Playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The Animal Crossing series created by Nintendo Entertainment Corporation has often been praised for the way in which it encourages you to play a little every day rather than spending endless hours grinding out bells. Having spent a busy holiday weekend gathering resources to improve my disgusting island in order to get the attention of a singing dog, I was ready to take a break for the rest of the day and decided to ‘drive’ on over to my favourite racing game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, to unwind. I picked my favourite track (Dolphin Shoals), selected my favourite racer (King Boo), and gulped down a glass of tap water to stimulate my internals for a real race to remember.
By the final lap, it was neck-and-neck between King Boo (controlled by me) and Baby Rosalina (controlled by Shigeru Miyamoto). The famous Dolphin Shoals ‘super sax’ was grunting and gurgling out its famous Dolphin Shoals ‘super sax solo’ at a blazing double-time tempo as I rounded the corner towards the attractive and nearby Finishing Line. Suddenly, with a loud splash, the beautifully-rendered water seemed to explode into a thick black mist. King Boo and I careered wildly from left to right, our movements becoming slower and slower as the previously pristine shallows became a glutinous muddy stew. As Boo’s ghostly eyes adjusted to the dark smog which had engulfed us, we noticed a twitching circle of ink-black fur skittering towards us, the unmistakable whites of a pair of large and panicked eyes fixed on the King’s speedy vehicle. Unable to drive through the gloop, I was forced to wait for almost a minute before Hamlet—his fur matted and slick, his breathing loud and laboured—finally managed to get close enough to initiate the whimsical dialogue box we all know and love. Instead of his usual upbeat account of “nature’s hippest energy source”, he merely whispered the URL of a Wikipedia page called “Fracking (disambiguation)” before collapsing into an oily heap. Baby Rosalina flew past with a Mushroom Boost and took the victory.
4. The Time I Was Already Talking To Hamlet About Something Else
I had long since decided to avoid Hamlet where possible because his unsettling and incongruous babbling about dangerous and environmentally-damaging forms of energy was disturbing the carefully curated island vibe I had been striving for. When one of my favourite villagers, a green mouse named Bree, told me that she had taken receipt of a parcel meant for Hamlet and asked if I would give it to him on her behalf, I’m not afraid to say that I wept. It was several days before I was able to complete the lazy Bree’s delivery mission because I had cleverly moved Hamlet’s house to a section of the island which was only accessible via a complicated series of bridges and inclines which I had long since removed in the hope that the now trapped hamster would wither away when cut off from the island’s bountiful supply of pears. I liaised with Thomas Nook about the construction process, and having donated several hundred-thousand of my hard-earned bells to an awful wooden cactus with a badly-fitting hat, I could do nothing but wait for it to be completed.
When the final bridge was in place, I put the parcel into my inventory and set off on my journey making sure to leave all the rest of my possessions behind in case Hamlet’s extended period of forced isolation had addled his already rotten mind and inspired him to physical violence. Arriving at his obnoxious and tastelessly decorated mansion, I caught my first glimpse of Hamlet since the Mario Kart incident and felt a shiver run down my spine as my quivering villager did the Be Sick reaction all over the floor. The inscrutable creature was tending a bed of mismatched flowers with a wide, serene smile on his fat-cheeked face. Was it an act? I approached cautiously and entered into dialogue.
Minutes passed and so did my fears. Hamlet seemed like a regular villager again, chatting about how much fun Bunny Day had been and how he was looking forward to working-out in the hot and long summer evenings. Hamlet and I were discussing my outfit choice for the day when the scrolling text froze in place and his hamster’s pixel mouth ceased moving. Instead of the cutesy vocoder voice I was used to, the deep, blank tones of a damaged human man dribbled out of Hamlet’s frozen lips to inform me that “Fracking has upended the American energy system. It has brought substantial benefits to the nation in terms of lower energy prices, greater energy security, reduced air pollution, and fewer carbon emissions.” After trying every button combination imaginable, I resorted to putting the Switch at the back of my wardrobe, burying it in jumpers and blankets to muffle the terrible chanting, and waiting until the battery died.
5. The Time I Lent My Switch To My Girlfriend So That She Could Play Animal Crossing
There’s no doubt about it in my mind: Animal Crossing: The New Horizons is the crown jewel in one of the most beloved gaming series of all time. Nintendo really knocked it out of the park with this one, no question. Whether it’s the attention to detail and variety in the myriad fun and desirable items which the designers have crafted for us to collect or the almost meditative quality of a few hours spent fishing, catching bugs, and planting flowers, the game truly has something for everybody.
To that end, I decided to lend my Switch to my girlfriend for the weekend so that she could see what all the fuss was about. Although I was busy doing my important and emotionally fulfilling work, she regularly texted me tiresome updates as she naively staggered through the island-establishment process which I had already aced with aplomb. It was easy to ignore these as none of them was interesting to me, but I was taken aback when minutes after texting me a JPEG of her new villager Hippeaux, an amphibious member of the 1%, my phone started to ring. When I answered, well prepared to admonish her for the needless and insensitive distraction, she had an unmistakably distant tone as if having just witnessed one of the terrible shooting incidents. “Are you enjoying the game?” I asked, kindly. “Yes,” she replied, “but there’s someone who wants to talk to you.”
“What do you mean?” I said, unable to hide the trembling in my voice. “What do you mean? Who wants to–”
The unmistakable sound of small rodent claws on hard iPhone glass clack-clack-clacked their way down my fearful ear canals, echoing off the pink-flesh walls as they bore ever deeper into my frightened skull. “It’s you, isn’t it,” I said. “I knew it would be.”
“Look, whatever you want, whatever this is about, it’s between you and me, Hamlet. Just you and me. Leave her out of it, you hear?”
“Hamlet, talk to me”. I was pleading now. The ugly high-pitched strains of desperation squeaking out of my closed-up throat.
“Hydraulic fracturing (also called fracking or hydrofracturing) is a well-stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by a pressurised liquid,” he chuckled.
And the line went dead.