Animal Crossing Reminded Me To Take Care Of Myself
Heather talks Animal Crossing, and how this video game impacted her real-life activities for the better.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf had been out for for years before I decided I needed to own it.
Let’s Plays and walkthroughs of the game were popular, and during my senior year of college they became my must-see tv. Streamers had playlists with tons of episodes, each gamer playing it differently.
I was amazed at the “daily routines” people had in Animal Crossing. I loved watching people digitally keep up habitual playing, wishing I could build that kind of routine in my real life.
I suffer from depression and anxiety, and was in a very rough place that time. I yearned for routine, habits to keep up, and felt like I failed at the very basics of being human. I felt like I was always floundering. These videos I loved showed me other examples of things I could do everyday. I started to think maybe I could try it. Animal Crossing is a game you can play in thirty-minute chunks, leaving plenty of time for my actual responsibilities.
Before I could buy myself a 3DS and the game, watching the videos filled a lull in my life. Videos ran in the background while I got ready for class, going through all the grooming motions that were usually cast aside first when I was in a bad depressive phase. Shorter clips became my “brain breaks”, helping me time out a study schedule and have a motivating reward.
Saving enough for the system wonderfully coincided with my spring break. My anxiety kicked in, leaving me thinking I wouldn’t finish the mound of homework a senior student has towards the end of their college career. But I decided a break was needed; some fun and rest.
I bought a galaxy print Nintendo 3DS and a used copy of Animal Crossing New Leaf: Welcome Amiibo. Once I got through the forty-five-minute intro, I only played in thirty-minute chunks. In one week, I figured out my daily routine in the game: dig up fossils, check the stores, shake trees for furniture, pick fruit. I also wrote poems for my independent study, listened to songs for my Jazz literature class, and remembered to brush my teeth each day.
Playing the game helped me keep myself together during a time of immense stress. Everything around me was changing: I would soon be graduating, moving out of state, trying to find a real job. When those things felt too heavy, I’d turn on my game. Helping my villagers reminded me taking time for myself was important. Rearranging my house made me want to take better care of the space I inhabited in real life.
Animal Crossing: New Horizon, the latest update in this series, comes out in late March. My life is infinitely different than when I first played, mostly positive but some negatives. I still seek for cute things to focus on during downtime, to remind myself I don’t always need to be working. I’m hoping again this game can help me foster self-care for all parts of my life— real and digital.