As we approach week 726 of quarantine on our little island in the Atlantic, it feels like we should look back and reflect on how our self-imposed isolation has affected us and the greater world. Many unfortunate things have occured due to our current situation, of course, but like in every time of misfortune, there always seems to be a few sparks of good in an astray of bad. Pollution is down all over the world, people have taken more time to appreciate their communities, their health, and their families, and the Internet has created one of the strangest and slightly confusing friendships between two fictional characters ever seen…let me explain.
A little more than one month ago, just when most people had started their quarantine, two highly beloved and highly anticipated video games were released on the same day: DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Aside from an identical release date (March 20), both games had virtually nothing in common. DOOM Eternal is a game about a dark future where humanity accidentally opened a portal to the underworld, causing millions of demons to flood the earth, leaving but a single space marine named the Doom Slayer (or Doomguy as most players tend to call him) to save the last of humanity from destruction.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, however, centers around the adventures of the single human living on a deserted island of adorable, anthropomorphic, talking animals. As sole human, the player is responsible for exploring the island, building houses, and becoming friends with the island’s animal inhabitants. All this in an effort to encourage more animals to move to the island so you can build a thriving community. One of these inhabitants, a talking dog named Isabelle, is a fan favorite, and is a recurring character in the Animal Crossing game series.
With the world temporarily shut down, and most people stuck in their homes with little to do, both DOOM and Animal Crossing couldn’t have asked for a better release date. As expected, both games have been massive successes, receiving very positive reviews and having millions of copies sold. For example, Animal Crossing has become a fan favorite likely because “there’s no nastiness. There’s no violence that exists. [Users] get absorbed into the day-to-day things without the real world consequences,” according to Romana Ramzan of Glasgow Caledonian University in a New York Times article. It’s understandable that people want to play a game that is rather simple and comforting during times of uncertainty. But along with the success and the love, a strange and unlikely friendship emerged from the Internet; a friendship between Isabelle and Doomguy.
Even stranger, however, is the fact that this fan-created friendship (frandship?), started months before the games’ release. In July of last year, a joke known as the Doom Dad meme began to surface all over the web, the concept of the joke was simple: Doomguy, the tough as nails, indestructible, fearless space marine, would be drawn teaching cute cartoon characters how to protect themselves, along with having tea parties, and catching bugs. This joke would go on to feature many popular characters (including Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled), but none became more popular then when Isabelle was featured with the hardened warrior. Though attention dwindled in the following months, the release of both DOOM and Animal Crossing reinvigorated the odd frandship (I will now use this as a real word) and in fact made it more popular than ever! Now, even the creators of DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons (id Software and Nintendo respectively) have come out in support of them (news of Doomguy’s acceptance into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is yet to be announced).
In the end, many may ask if there is a moral to Isabelle and Doomguy’s frandship. Maybe a lesson on how a burly soldier, who at times can blur the line between man and beast, and a tiny creature that LITERALLY blurs the line between man and beast, can put aside their differences and become the best of friends? Probably not, but it’s cute, funny, and gives us something to do as we pass the time in quarantine.