In anticipation of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I’ve obsessively kept up with every new update, piece of footage, and the community itself. But I’ve been 1) a fan of this series, and 2) Extremely Online for much longer. And yet, there’s a phenomenon that, until recently, I was oblivious to.
That phenomenon is Roald the penguin.
Who even is Roald, you might ask? Well, he’s a jock penguin villager. He, like many other villagers, has appeared in every installment. His initial phrase that he says at the end of almost every sentence is “b-b-buddy,” an allusion to the cold. Penguins, they live in the cold, you know? He’s competitive and into his hobbies. He’s, for all intents and purposes, rather unextraordinary. He’s not a notable character like Tom Nook or Isabelle. He’s just a normal (penguin) dude.
But people, especially on Twitter and Reddit, are obsessed with this dude.
On Twitter, an unofficial account that serves as a shrine to him has over 10,000 followers. This post on Reddit had over 1,600 likes by the time I saw it, which was a mere eight hours after being posted. It’s just a picture of Roald with a meal at McDonald’s. McRoald’s, as you might infer from the title. Reddit user AidenFuj has started a series named, “Roald in different locations every day until New Horizons comes out.” As of the writing of this article, it is on day 24, and the most popular post was uploaded a day ago and has over 20,000 likes.
There is… an unbelievable amount of Roald memes. And the even more surprising part is that they’re all good.
This is a mood.
“So what are you going to do until Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out?”
— Roald from Animal Crossing (@AC_Roald) February 18, 2020
This is an even bigger mood.
— media (@JakeTh3Tank) March 8, 2020
Maybe it’s time the blue penguin gets his own movie instead of the blue hedgehog.
roald in different locations every day until new horizons comes out (DAY 14) from r/AnimalCrossing
Can Roald defeat Reggie in hand to hand combat? I don’t know.
roald in different locations every day until new horizons comes out (DAY 16) from r/AnimalCrossing
He had to do it to ’em.
roald in different locations every day until new horizons comes out (DAY 4) from r/AnimalCrossing
And this one might just be my favorite. There is understated chaos conveyed in this lone image.
✌️Roald only child Illinois Chicago ✌️ from r/AnimalCrossing
As I waded through the abundance of Roald content on the internet, I wondered: why? Why are so many people so attached to this random villager? There are few villagers in this iconic series who have risen to become superstars, but Roald has managed this feat with seemingly incredible ease.
It’s hard to pinpoint just one reason, but if I were to guess, I would think it’s how he speaks to modernity.
We’re receiving more information than humanity has ever received before, and at a pace we can barely keep up with. We are always Online, always taking in the latest news about one of many ongoing tragedies in the world; about the biggest celebrity feud; or about the most recent stupid thing Trump said. We’re watching Vine (RIP) compilations and TikToks that show how ridiculously dumb and genius human beings can be. We are constantly connected to each other through social media, rarely able to exist separately from the rest of the world for a little while. It’s overwhelming. And if you’re a remotely anxious person, chances are that it all gives you an existential crisis or two a month.
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Roald — and specifically Roald’s eyes — conveys that experience without needing any words. His eyes are enormous black holes; they are the abyss, ready to both suck in all information and block out everything from going inside. They are a weapon and a defense mechanism. They are everything and nothing all at once. You are Roald, and Roald is you — a small being in a gigantic world who is constantly overwhelmed; who is often forced to see even what you don’t wish to see, for that is how one lives in today’s world.
At the end of the day, sometimes all we want to do — and can afford to do — is just sit and stare at the world around us like Roald.
hes just sitting… with an orange on his head pic.twitter.com/zcUuiS9pkL
— Roald from Animal Crossing (@AC_Roald) February 20, 2020
At least until New Horizons comes out, after which we’ll just sit and stare at a Switch screen.