There’s nothing, in this world or the next, that makes me feel quite as good about myself as Snowboy, Animal Crossing: New Horizon‘s vastly under-appreciated holiday visitor.
Appearing on your island around the same time as your first festive flurry (or in the middle of June if you happen to live in the southern hemisphere), Snowboy is a snowman – my mistake; I mean snowboy – brought to life courtesy of your epic snow-sculpting skills.
It doesn’t take much to, ahem, get the ball rolling; kick about a snowball until it’s roughly the size of your chubby little body (your in-game one, of course). Then another until it’s almost – but not quite – the same size. Merge ’em together and thanks to the magic of video games that somehow means you don’t have to pop home to root around for a rotting carrot, you’ve got yourself your own livin’ breathin’ Snowboy.
Sometimes, you won’t quite get it right. Maybe it’s the petite Switch screen or the angle of your perspective, but sometimes, one of the balls won’t quite be the right size and you’ll craft something less than perfect. Very occasionally, you might mess it up entirely and kick your snowball into the side of a bloody fruit tree. That’s okay, though. The warm, fuzzy feelings you get when you do get it right is enough to balance out the few instances when you don’t.
As I’ve noted several times before right here, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is, on paper, the kind of game I usually despise. I don’t typically enjoy games that shove “oh dem emosh FEELS!” into my face because I think good games should be able to make your heart flutter without artificially tugging at your emotions. Snowboy? Snowboy gets an emotional response from me because he’s just… he just is. His brief three-day-long life is stuffed with unabashed love and adoration for you and as much as I hate the word “wholesome”… well, that’s what it is.
Ostensibly, making the perfect Snowboy helps your islander collect a frozen set of furniture recipes and the crafting ingredients you need to make them, but the shits I give about that kind of palaver can be jotted down on the back of a postal stamp. I don’t care about Snowboy’s recipe offerings any more than I care about completing my Critterpedia (sorry, completionists), but the stuff you can craft is super rare and unobtainable by any other means, which makes it a little more desirable than usual, I guess. Me, though? Me, I just wanna hang out with an army of my own adoring Snowboys.
The real reward of making the perfect Snowfolk doesn’t come from what they can physically give me. It comes from how they make me feel. Every time you make a new perfect specimen, he’ll spring to life and say something impossibly sweet to make you feel chest-poundingly proud of what is – let’s face it – an incredibly unimpressive feat. All you did was kick about some snow until it created a perfect little ball, but Snowboy wants you to know that your skills are oh-so-appreciated.
“YOU… YOU know how to build a snowperson. You’re looking at pure snowfolk perfection right here. But you know that. You made me!” he’ll say one day when he springs to life.
“Just point me in the direction of the nearest snow museum, and I’ll be on my way, ’cause that’s where I belong,” he’ll say another.
Season's greetings, everyone! Is it too early to say that? Toy Day IS right around the corner… We put up the plaza tree yesterday and decorated the cedar trees around the island with ornaments. Feel free to shake a few loose to use in DIY projects! pic.twitter.com/iEztwQjgs2
— Isabelle (@animalcrossing) December 16, 2021
“Even I can’t play it cool here. I’m practically melting with appreciation for you and your snow skills,” is my favourite line, though, guaranteed to make me grin like a fool from ear to ear no matter how many times I’ve heard him say it before or how badly my day is going. I mean, I’m looking at the screenshots I took to accompany this article and I’m, like, giddy. Actually, stupidly giddy. And I am not naturally a giddy kind of person, my friend.
It’s rare that stuff, isn’t it? To be so touched by something – a virtual something! – that it can make you smile on the other side of a video screen. To take pure, unaffected joy in something so sweet and unsophisticated. Something small, and maybe even a little bit silly. Video games and the people who make them can make us feel so many things – fear, disgust, satisfaction, frustration, revulsion, delight – and we focus a lot on that stuff; the important stuff, some might say.
I reckon all of us could do with a bit of sweet silliness in our lives every now or then, though… especially if that silliness comes courtesy of the beaming smile of an anatomically perfect snowman.
Vikki Blake is a video games journalist and regular contributor to NME.