A LOVE LETTER TO ANIMAL CROSSING

(Originally written for, and published by, Grounded Zine)

 

Do you ever wish you could escape from reality? Run away to a utopian island where there is no violence, no hatred and no pandemics to ruin your plans? Well, your wish has just come true.

 

In 2008, when I was just seven years old, the Japanese video game ‘Animal Crossing: City Folk’ was released on the Wii and thus my love affair began. I was instantly captivated by this virtual world; I woke up early to sell my turnips, stayed up late to listen to KK Slider’s concerts and I probably would’ve sold my soul if it meant pleasing Tom Nook. Back in the day, my sister and I would play this game for hours on end purely for fun. We were blissfully unaware of the greater purpose it would serve later on in our lives.

 

12 years later, as the coronavirus shows little sign of letting up, I feel as though my life and love for Animal Crossing has come full circle. When the UK entered full lockdown, I know I’m not alone in saying that I was frightened. The thought of being locked away in my house for the foreseeable future was incredibly overwhelming, and I was in desperate need of a sweet escape. Much to my delight, on March 20th, I found out that ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ was available to download and play on Nintendo Switch. I wasted no time. I knew that if I was going to survive this vicious virus I would need all the help I could get. One week later, I was the proud owner of a brand-new Nintendo Switch, eager to delve into my very own wholesome world.

 

At its core, Animal Crossing is a pointless game. There are no end goals, no levels and no deadlines. But this simplicity is what makes it so perfect. During this incredibly stressful time, the opportunity to run away to a world where there are literally no responsibilities is what everyone needs. I spend my days fishing, hunting for rare butterflies, crafting furniture, customising clothes and making friends with my fellow residents. My mum, sister and a few friends are also hooked on this game, so I can also visit their islands, share my produce and bond with them through a new medium.

 

During this time, looking after your mind is extremely important. For me, playing Animal Crossing has undoubtedly become a form of meditation. There’s something very therapeutic about knowing that, when the real world is beginning to feel a bit too strange, I can step inside my Switch’s safe haven and feel content again. Animal Crossing has always been a source of happiness in my life, but right now it’s serving me in ways I would’ve never imagined a game could.

 

So, I’d like to say thank you to Nintendo and the creators behind Animal Crossing for putting together this perfect game for when we needed it most. God knows how I’d be coping without it.