Achieving zen: one bug, fish or fossil at a time

Therapy through gaming and staying sane during lockdown

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was recently released for the Nintendo Switch and it’s helping me, my wife and my colleagues through the lockdown. I ‘ve always loved video games but I don’t get to play them as much as I did when I was younger. I’m happy if I can get a few hours in every other month. Until now. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have meant time commuting are now spent at home, indoors. We have different worries and stressors in this new world we’ve found ourselves in. Animal Crossing offers some respite from the situation and is a breath of digital fresh air.

The therapeutic quality of Animal Crossing in lockdown

I normally don’t play games like Animal Crossing but times aren’t normal. Games usually have a higher component of stress. You’re racing against the clock or fighting a challenging an enemy. It’s a good kind of stress but it can definitely be avoided for the time being. Animal Crossing is the opposite. It’s relaxed, slow-paced and refreshing. Its therapeutic qualities make it enjoyable and habit forming. I come back every day and spend 15 minutes collecting bugs, catching fish and excavating fossils. And that’s all I need. In a time where we have less agency than before, this game offers a small island to call your own. Where you can explore freely and decorate how you see fit. An island where you can escape reality even if it’s only for a minute.

Gathering around the watercooler

I’m working from home as are my colleagues. Many of them also bought Animal Crossing to see them through isolation. Although we can’t meet in person, it’s fun to catch up via video call and share tips or show off our islands. It’s a little slice of shared experience which is helping connect us. More than ever it’s vital to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues. Games are just one way of bringing people together across vast distances and trying to find normality again.

Finding reasons to relax

It’s important to keep yourself sane during this difficult time. Playing Animal Crossing is one of the outlets I use but it doesn’t have to be yours.

Games empower you.

Books transport you elsewhere.

Movies take you on a journey of wonder.

Music alters your mood.

They all have their place in providing an escape. Worrying all the time takes a toll on your mental wellbeing. Having an outlet is an important part of taking a load off your mind and breaking the monotony you might be experiencing stuck indoors.

Escape through gaming is just one of the ways I have been dealing with the lockdown. I may be restricted to my small London flat but that won’t stop me from exploring the outdoors (digitally, of course).