‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Is Saving My Life
The popular game is a balm for my depression. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
This morning I woke up and left my house.
I gleefully checked my mailbox and found that I had received some packages I ordered, some letters of kindness from my neighbors, and a few unexpected presents from friends far away. I took in the morning sun as I left my house and walked the path to the middle of town; there were things I needed to buy, errands to run. New flowers bloomed from the day before, and the sound of morning crickets greeted me. To treat myself, I stopped by the local clothing store and bought a new jacket and glasses.
Except, the real me — the one behind the screen — laid in bed for two hours. With the real-world pandemic happening around me, I find that my morning routine exists only in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, on the fictional island that I’ve been grooming and maintaining for the past week and a half. Thanks to the popular Nintendo Switch game, I’ve made friends. I’ve planted trees and flowers and harvested fruit. I’ve invested in my community and traded gifts with my neighbors. I’ve done some fishing — a lot of fishing, actually — and I’ve spent time on tours in the local museum. Everything in Animal Crossing has become a new routine, a circadian rhythm that governs my day while my life, in reality, is currently nonexistent.
While most games contain complex systems, grotesque violence, or world-ending gods, ‘Animal Crossing’ instead provides solace with small, sweet moments.
Video games have been my preferred form of escapism my entire life. When I was a kid, this was frowned upon, even belligerently opposed by grownups. In my adulthood, video games have been a bastion, therapy for an adult who can’t afford health insurance. While most games contain complex systems, grotesque violence, or world-ending gods, Animal Crossing instead provides solace with small, sweet moments. This past week, someone compared playing the game to tending a bonsai: You work on it little by little until it grows healthy and strong.