By Daniela Alvarez
In 2001, Nintendo released the first installment of the Animal Crossing video game series on the GameCube. The premise of the game was relatively simple: players arrive in a town filled with animal villagers and begin living amongst them. From there, players interact with their town and their villagers in any way they want.
Almost two decades later, the relatively simple idea behind the Animal Crossing games remains unchanged. With better graphics and more features than any installment that has come before it, Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows players to truly immerse themselves in a peaceful world of their own creation.
In particularly stressful times, a game like Animal Crossing can do wonders for individuals who need a way to entertain themselves or to distract themselves from the obstacles occurring within their own lives. More specifically, Animal Crossing enables players to escape heavy topics that appear on the news and instead focus on creating an island that they will truly love, a characteristic of the game that many have described as being therapeutic.
Feelings of depression and anxiety are running at an all-time high due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the release of Animal Crossing has given many individuals a much-needed distraction away from the grim state of the world. Additionally, it gives many people the opportunity to engage with their virtual islands at their own pace, without worrying about completing missions or following a storyline that is common with other video games.
“When we’re in this pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty and not much to do, the brain can kind of wreak havoc. We like giving it something to do,” CEO of Light On Anxiety Dr. Debra Kissen said, according to Newsweek.
Because of the nature of the game, Animal Crossing gives players something to look forward to as the days go on. There are various in-game events that come and go depending on the month, such as the recent Bunny Day and Nature Day events. Not to mention, expansions to the players’ houses and the introduction of well-known characters from past installments as the player progresses through the game, such as Redd and Celeste, also gives players incentives to return.
Furthermore, Animal Crossing allows players to reconnect with their friends, classmates, and family members during a time where this is not possible. In doing so, it gives the players a significant dose of social interaction that has proven vital to the human psyche. Whether by inviting friends to visit one’s island or simply interacting with the various NPC villagers that can be found wandering throughout the game, the player can engage in social interactions that feel real all the same.
For example, some students who are graduating high school and college this year took it upon themselves to create their own graduation ceremonies within Animal Crossing.
Of course, there are a few obstacles that can be tedious as you play Animal Crossing. For one, the player remains continuously in debt to Tom Nook as a result of the various housing expansions they receive as the game goes on. Not to mention, tools can be broken after prolonged use, which was not a feature present in past Animal Crossing games. Collecting crafting materials, such as wood and clay, to make furniture can also be a difficult job.
Even still, Animal Crossing gives the players an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing island world in which they can play at their own pace. Without the typical video game stressors that force players to play a certain way, Animal Crossing allows them to roam free in the worlds that they create. In these circumstances, that is a good thing. During a time of so much stress, Animal Crossing allows individuals to break away from reality and enjoy the simpler things in life, including the things many cannot enjoy now as a result of the quarantine.