I have never been into video games. For one, we never had them growing up. We were more of a books, board games, make-believe kind of family. We had a giant box television much longer than most, had a landline up until about three years ago, and never owned any sort of gaming console until my brother got one for cheap from one of his friends several years back.
The closest we ever came to video games was Just Dance 4 at my best friend’s house or the Barbie Fashion Show CD game that we either inherited from a friend or got at a garage sale. Both, admittedly, were phenomenal. But they were never “real” games.
By the time I became a teenager, the age when most kids build up their gaming repertoire, I was a bookworm and had no interest in them. It stayed that way for a long time. Even when I started dating my boyfriend two years ago and he tried to get me to play games with him, I struggled to find something that I enjoyed enough to stay focused.
Until, of course, the pandemic. Back in March, when spring break was extended into eternity and my roommate and I found out our international trips were cancelled and we had no idea what the future would look like, I was sad. Consistently. I had lost my motivation for school, I was anxious every time I left the house, my mental health was struggling, and I had no escape from it.
The first time I was able to see my boyfriend since the pandemic hit was shortly after the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch. He showed me the preview, which I thought was adorable, and had gotten the game — though mostly for me.
I’m going to be honest: I was immediately obsessed. Living on an island with animal friends, harvesting fruit trees, growing flowers — it was all so much brighter and happier than real life, where I could hardly bear to go outside.
Needless to say, I was so hooked that I used some of the money that would have been spent on my trip to Asia to buy myself a Switch. I created my own peach tree island with my own little villagers (my favorite was a monkey named Simon), and anytime I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the state of the world, I played until I felt a more in control.
I’m slightly embarrassed to say I devoted over 200 hours to Animal Crossing over the course of the next several months. I’ll admit it was an effective stress-reliever. It calmed me down from fits of crying on multiple occasions. When I finished the game and earned 5 stars on my (admittedly superb) island, I moved on to Stardew Valley — a calm, farming game in which the most action occurs in the mines. Most recently, my roommate has roped me into playing Among Us — a mafia-like game that requires a little too much deception to be relaxing.
I should clarify that I do not consider myself a real, certified Gamer. The word is in quotes in the title for a reason. This is just the most I’ve ever played video games in my life, so I’m at least dipping my toes in. Also, I’m pretty sure that any real gamers — my gamer boyfriend included — would not consider me one. And that’s fine with me. But with the world constantly thrown into a new tornado every week, it’s been refreshing to find a new place of solace. Even on days when my thoughts are too jumbled to transfer to paper, I can always check on my island. They always tell me they miss me.