How Animal Crossing New Horizons is Easing COVID-19 Anxieties

If you were anxious before COVID-19, this new felt anxiety is an entirely different type of the same feeling.

When talk of working from home and self-isolating first came up at work, I joked with the ELMNT team about how perfect it would be if we were asked to spend two weeks at home right as the latest Animal Crossing game came out. It was a week before it was due out on March 20, 2020.

Little did I know, this would nearly be the case. Several corporations asked people to keep it low-key at home beginning Monday, March 16, while others had to work out the loose ends, hoping to have people working from home as soon as possible. If you could do the bulk of your job from home though, you were asked to telecommute immediately.

For many of us working from home, this meant we would have additional time on our hands and things like streaming apps, video games and movie marathons were in the works.

Many millennials were already patiently awaiting Animal Crossing, because the initial installments of the game came out in the early 2000s when we were kids. I spent a whole summer in grade school staying up far too late playing the first game, simply titled Animal Crossing, which came out in 2001. However, in the present day, with worries of the coronavirus and massive changes to everyday life, New Horizons could not have come at a better moment. With a release at the end of the work week, this was the perfect opportunity to dive right in and forget our worries for a while.

So what is this game that everyone is raving about? 

By Nintendo, Fair use, Link

If you’ve never played or heard of the game, essentially you decide to move to a deserted island with a couple other folks. The objective is to turn the island from a campground to a thriving town. The kicker (and I guess the most conflicting element we’ll see in the game) is that you have bills to pay. As the game goes on, you work toward paying off your mortgage, moving and travel expenses on a timeline of your choosing.  And in order to do so, you forage for food and resources, fish, catch critters and build furniture and other items, as well as help your island neighbours with miscellaneous tasks. Life is pretty chill on the island, but you can work your tail off if you prefer and rack up Bells (the game’s currency) at whatever pace you like.

A relaxed, casual game can ease the mind

Animal Crossing is, for lack of a better term, a time killer, that fulfills players for hours on end without turning to game modes or levels that involve things like violence, horror or any dark twists and turns. It’s quite the opposite actually. It’s peaceful, wholesome and downright cute. Part of what makes it so peaceful is that the game moves with you as it takes place in real time. There’s no mistakes or re-dos in this game because there’s no going back in time so you can move at your own pace. It offers a relaxing escape where hope is always on the agenda. Whether you are upgrading a building on your island, tending to some flowers or helping a new neighbour set up camp, the future looks bright and welcoming – and endless. While most games have an ending, Animal Crossing can go on indefinitely.

Building community while practicing social distancing

For many, the game has become a safe haven on its own, but it goes beyond that. Self-isolation has turned our lives upside down. Seeing friends just for fun is discouraged. Several people have been using FaceTime and Skype to have virtual hangouts with their pals, but now Animal Crossing is another option for you to meet up with friends, explore each others’ islands and socialize without breaking any rules.

People are making new friends too. In less than a week, forums and communities dedicated to Animal Crossing New Horizons have become an added space for players to find likenesses. These groups are filled with a variety of postings, from memes making fun of the staple characters and their mannerisms to people sharing deep heart-felt stories about what the franchise has meant to them. But what has been the most fun is that people share their island access codes (called Dodo Codes) to open up their island to visitors. This allows people to drop in, share their resources, collect some foraged items from the other players island and perhaps become online friends through the console.

Its a great time to try something new or dive into a familiar hobby

With concerns about how things look moving forward, finding a relaxing hobby is encouraged, whether it is a video game, practicing yoga, reading a new or favourite book or otherwise. What has helped you relax and unwind as social distancing and self isolation are in effect? Comment below.

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