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Hosting A Penn State Graduation In Animal Crossing: New Horizons

As Penn State’s virtual commencement grows closer by the day, more and more soon-to-be graduates are coming to terms with the fact that they won’t get to walk the stage and receive their diploma in person.

Although Penn State’s academic colleges will host a myriad of virtual commencement ceremonies this weekend, watching your name pop up on a screen doesn’t really pack the same punch as a true graduation ceremony would.

To help give my graduating friends an experience that bears a small semblance of the commencement ceremony they dreamed of, I set out to host a Penn State graduation the only way quarantined college students know how: using Animal Crossing: New Horizons.


The Ambiance

As any good host knows, the key to entertaining is creating the perfect backdrop and atmosphere to bring your event to the next level. To do so, I headed over to Resident Services to overhaul my island’s appearance.

First, I designed Penn State’s academic logo in the game using Animal Crossing’s Custom Designs app. With an infinite number of colors and a 32 x 32 grid at my disposal, I got to work recreating the design that haunts every Penn State student when they open Canvas to check their grades or zone out in class by staring at a podium bearing the logo.

Suffice to say, I think I did pretty well.

Once the design was saved, I spoke to Isabelle in Resident Services to switch my island’s flag over. This put the iconic Nittany Lion logo on every flagpole in town, including Town Hall and the airport where guests will arrive.

I cranked the ambiance up another level but selecting a new island tune. No, not just any tune, folks. I selected Sir Edward Elgen’s “Pomp and Circumstance” (or the “graduation song,” for all you classical music newbies).

Animal Crossing: New Horizons gives players the ability to craft any tune using 16 notes. Restricted to transpose only in the key of C, I struggled to implement the tune’s full melody and opted to write a drawn-out version of the first measure.

Once you’ve selected a new island tune, you’ll hear versions of it whenever you walk into a building, talk to a villager, or wander throughout the island. In each location, you’ll hear it in a different timbre or using a different musical voice. Nifty!

The Setup

Once the mood was officially set, I knew it was time to begin setting up for commencement.

I walked over to the plaza outside Town Hall, which bears a very close resemblance to Old Main, and knew the lawn there would be the perfect place for a reception. I crafted a dozen wooden chairs and set them up in rows to recreate an iconic graduation arrangement.

A few days earlier, I’d planted a number of white pansies surrounding the designated area. Because these flowers bear the same blue and white colors Penn Staters hold dear, I figured they’d bring a nice touch of Happy Valley to the ceremony.

To complete the setup, I added a podium for delivering a pompous speech, a microphone and amp to read off names, a few ferns, and a cotton candy machine because I couldn’t find an ice cream machine and it was the next best thing. We’re making do with what we’ve got, folks.

The ‘Fit

Before I invited my soon-to-be graduate friends over, I headed back to my home to change into a cap and gown to play the part. Animal Crossing offers caps and gowns featuring red, green, yellow, and, of course, blue accents.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a quick shoutout to Reddit user /u/strawberryscar, who, out of the kindness of her heart, helped me find a blue cap and gown on such short notice! Once I’d obtained a set, I changed into my robes and purchased identical sets for my pals.

When you’re rocking this ‘fit, it’s only proper to strike a pose that rivals Zoolander’s “Blue Steel.”

I matched the outfit with a blue pair of knockoff Converse shoes and prepared to invite my friends over to celebrate.

The Ceremony

At last, the big day was finally here.

I invited senior Onward State staffers Mikey Mandarino and Matt Sniegowski, along with my best friend (and current sophomore staffer) Ryen Gailey, over to my island to simulate Penn State’s graduation.

Once they arrived, I gave everybody a set of caps and gowns and we made our way over to Town Hall to celebrate the big day.

We took turns accepting diplomas, snapping pictures for the ‘gram, and even delivering rousing speeches shouting out our favorite classes, professors, and, of course, everyone’s favorite university president.

The Animal Crossing gods blessed my island with bountiful sunshine and a picturesque blue-and-white sky, perfectly setting the scene by honoring Penn State’s iconic color palette.

Even over a video game, fears of graduating persist.

The ceremony didn’t take too long. In fact, we were in and out in just under a half-hour of goofing around. Soon enough, my friends made their way back to the airport, logged off, and returned to their remote learning routines now consisting of studying for finals and Zoom study sessions.


Although Animal Crossing could never match the pomp and circumstance (heh) of an in-person graduation, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride by hosting the festivities for my senior friends.

Hopefully, even just for those few minutes, their minds were taken off the impending doom that is graduation, allowing them to relax and enjoy the final hours of their college careers.


Did you enjoy some Penn State Animal Crossing content ™? Check out the Penn State wardrobe we designed in-game.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. His favorite shows include Community, Seinfeld, and Arrested Development, and he'll probably talk your ear off about them. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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