When I started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons in April 2020, I had a clear vision: I wanted an island inspired by the Japanese zen gardens I dream of one day visiting. My island’s motif would be a soft pink and white, themed after cherry blossom trees I have yet to even see for myself in real life.
The designer/producer in me took on my island design just like any other freelance project, but I got to be my own client. I had a workback schedule, daily budgets, maps/blueprints, and lots of lists. And just like most freelance clients, I was pretty annoying (lol). For example, I moved Nook’s Cranny and Able Sisters three times each, one square backwards or forwards, just to get their storefronts to line up properly.
But it was all worth it and having a schedule and a budget really paid off. My island is exactly how I envisioned and I’m proud of getting it all done in under 600 hours. Now that my work is complete, I get to sit back and enjoy island life. I love hosting events and having my friends and Twitch viewers over for giveaways and general silly fun.
When I look back at screenshots from when I first got the game, it’s incredible to see the contrast in my island’s transformation. Here are some before and after shots:
THE RESIDENT SERVICES GLOW-UP
BEFORE: My island, Themyscira, is born on April 30, 2020. The Nooks, my two starter villagers (Ursala and Axel), and I brainstorm on a name for the island at our very basic town plaza with the Resident Services tent. It was such a memorable first night together. We had smoothies by the fire and Axel played the tamborine. Since I’m a Wonder Woman cosplayer, I named the island Themyscira after the island where Wonder Woman is from.
AFTER: My island’s town plaza is now a tranquil zen garden which leads to the Resident Services buildling in its final form.
FROM TENT TO SEVEN-ROOM HOUSE
BEFORE: Remember those cozy little tents? I was perfectly content with it until I needed more storage space and had to upgrade to a house.
AFTER: Look, ma, I’m a homeowner! Oceanside, seven rooms, and a toilet with automatic flush. Living the dream.
A WARM ISLAND WELCOME
BEFORE: My island entrance was once very simple. Some sakura trees, a park bench, a cherry blossom viewing lantern, and an axe murderer.
AFTER: Now a sexy robot hero greets you when you exit the Themyscira airport and enter the island.
BEAUTIFYING THE PLAZA’S SOUTH-EAST GARDEN
BEFORE: This spot was the first place I got wasp stung and certainly not the last.
AFTER: I reclaimed the site of the wasp-stinging hate crime and converted it into a highly manicured gradient garden of all my favourite flowers in the game. I thought it would be nice for shoppers to look out at and relax in when they exit the stores after a day of shopping.
THE ISLAND’S ONLY RESTAURANT UNDERGOES MAJOR RENOVATIONS
BEFORE: When my best friend Chad (C114D on Twitch) visited my island for the first time, I was pretty embarrassed I had nothing to feed him.
AFTER: So I turned my outdoor cafe into a full-blown sushi restaurant. Looks tres chic at night, too, eh? Now that I look at it, though, I think it needs more lighting than just the moon.
I think my friend Toni (RestlesssTrash on Twitch) had a fun dinner date with me at my restaurant! Also, isn’t the imperial dining table just epic?
FRUIT ORCHARD BECOMES AN ORCHARD OF STARS
BEFORE: I originally had rows and rows of fruit trees near the back of my island. Harvesting and selling fruit was my primary source of income before I discovered Turnip Exchange.
AFTER: Now this area is an outdoor space exhibit and an extension of my museum to the left of it (off-screen).
HYBRID NURSERY BLOSSOMS INTO MOONLIT PATH
BEFORE: This spot near my south-west beach was where I used to store extra resources and breed flowers. I would always hope visitors would disregard this more functional area of my island.
AFTER: But after tucking away the hybrid nursery near the back of my island to open up more space, I transformed the area into a moonlit path leading to my beachside music stage.
RESIDENTIAL AREA BECOMES CITYSCAPE
BEFORE: My villagers originally lived on the ground level of my island’s north-east quadrant. Here we are enjoying our first meteor shower together. In the background, my friend Travis reunites with Spike, whom he had sent to the void before he showed up on my island.
AFTER: I used that space to play with some forced perspective and recreate Godzilla in Shinjuku, battling it out with a Robot Hero!
LIKE A BRIDGE OVER TERRAFORMED WATER
BEFORE: When my island’s first bridge was completed, we had such a heartwarming little ceremony in the middle of the night. If I remember correctly, Tom Nook even woke up early-sleepers Stella and Axel for it, lol.
AFTER: When I unlocked terraforming, I ended up tearing down that bridge and filling in the river to use the space for something else. I later ended up paying for the bridge’s reconstruction and recreating the river in almost the exact same spot because that’s what you do when you have a specific vision, a bank account full of Bells, and a huge sense of entitlement.
TOUR MY ISLAND
Want to see the rest of my island? Check out my island tour video here:
Of course, you can always visit my island in a dream. Just punch in my Dream Address: DA-9996-7805-7720