Animal Crossing players are building in-game memorials: ‘It’s kind of like she’s living on in the game’

TheThe day after her mom died, Steph Towler noticed a big yellow daffodil on her way to get breakfast — at a diner, because her mom loved diner food.

“It was a really dreary day, really overcast and raining a bit, and just seeing that big yellow flower ... it was just really significant,” Towler told Polygon. “There’s something about yellow flowers that just really makes me think of my mom.”

Towler and I — or, rather, our Animal Crossing: New Horizons avatars — were standing in a small field of yellow flowers when she told me this. She’d lined the western coastline of her island with yellow blooms: A wash of roses, cosmos, chrysanthemums, and tulips lined the cliffside, some even spilling into the sandy beach beside it. Towler had given me a tour of her meticulously designed island — she is an interior designer, after all — and this was our last stop. Through the field of flowers, which we were careful not to stomp and destroy, Towler showed me a private spot she’d designed for her mom after she passed away earlier in the year. She’d placed the memorial to her mother just below the cliffside where she put her home. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, her family had to cancel her mom’s planned memorial service. Instead, Towler created the spot on the beach — a few flowers, a headstone, and a candle — to honor her mother. That night, she captured a screenshot of a shooting star in the sky, right above the headstone. It felt significant, she said, like the yellow flower.

“Grief is interesting because it manifests itself in really strange ways,” Towler said. “Stepping outside the day after she passed and seeing the big, bright yellow flower was really significant — not like it was my mom in the flower, but you find signs and things I think you wouldn’t normally, like the shooting star going above your Animal Crossing memorial. These little moments that become so meaningful in ways that you just don’t realize, and they just hit a different way.”

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