The Animal Crossing series started way back in 2001 with Animal Forest. Since then, Animal Crossing has offered casual gamers a safe place to relax and unwind.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was aptly released on March 20th 2020, just as the global Coronavirus pandemic hit and created extremely turbulent times.
For many countries around the world, Spring marked the beginning of lockdown measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Causing a dramatic change in pace for many people, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offered a break from the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
A Sense Of Normality
Released on Nintendo Switch, Animal Crossing tasks players to clean up, make a home, and develop an island life. Starting their residence with a simple tent, Animal Crossing players can complete tasks, collect items, and welcome new villagers in order to claim island status. Players will eventually own their own island home which is customisable, from the rooms inside your house to how your mailbox looks.
Animal Crossing offers daily activities which gave people a sense of routine that was missing from real life. Meeting and making friends with residents and other players certainly offered a source of positive psychological wellbeing, bringing a much-needed calm in the storm most of us are slowly easing out of.
After immersing yourself in a few minutes of play, Animal Crossing can definitely lighten the load through its use of beautiful environments and imagination. Throughout the year, Nintendo released regular updates to the game like Bunny Day where players could join in on Easter-themed festivities like an egg hunt.
While it isn’t possible to label recovery as a single definition, the “recovery model” is often used to display the importance of supporting individuals with mental health conditions by recognising their identity and boosting their self-esteem.
The recovery process is sometimes described by the acronym CHIME; Connectedness, Hope and Optimism, Identity, Meaning and Purpose, and Empowerment.
Animal Crossing ticks the boxes of psychological recovery by offering:
- Connection with island residents and other players
- Opportunities to learn
- Feelings of control
- A sense of accomplishment
Engaging in the game’s lighthearted activities, people can find a place to stabilise their mood and develop a sense of mindfulness. Offering players a space to restore their psychological energy allows a more calm and logical approach to coping with real life.
Animal Crossing allows people to soak in a wealth of visual opportunities, including the vast ocean, luscious landscapes, catching fish, chasing bugs, and interacting with other players.
Talking to other island residents certainly adds to the feeling of positivity through engaging and positive dialogue. Once you’ve started to build a rapport with these villagers, you can give and receive gifts and even help them in repairing their own relationships.
Expressive and Creative Play
The routine behaviour in the game helps to encourage positive feedback. Mindful tasks are uplifting and offer a sense of reward and accomplishment through simple and casual play. New Horizons definitely offers a level of self-expressive play, allowing players to showcase their creativity in a safe space. Whether it’s expanding your home, buying new wallpaper for your bedroom, or purchasing a new item for your island, this safe space offers people a leg up in the psychological process.
You could easily spend hours designing your island through the vast tools Nintendo offers in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
There’s an in-game phone (NookPhone) that contains a multitude of apps for you to discover, including:
- Nook Miles
- DIY Recipes
- Custom Designs
- Call Resident
- Rescue Service
- Island Designer
- Nook Shopping
- Best Friends List
- Chat Log
All of these apps encourage players to explore the different possibilities available to them.
Each day in Animal Crossing leaves where you left off, but represents actual times, dates, and seasons comparative to the real-life world. As the seasons change, players will see their islands transform, with snow in the Winter, and more bugs in Spring/Summer. The way in which the game coincides with day/night and season cycles makes it a positive escape from reality, without going too far off course.
Another representation that Animal Crossing nails on the head are that of the psychological resource of agency. The feeling of autonomy is accurately depicted through the use of meaningful engagement with the environment. Whether a player chooses to spend time weeding and catching bugs, or visiting other islands, all are classed as valid actions.
Allowing players to practice curiosity is another positive element that Animal Crossing successfully achieves. People tend to indulge in curiosity when they feel safe, and every part of this game offers a safe space to explore. There aren’t any bad actions as such, there’s no death, no respawning, and no checkpoints.
As restrictions start to lift and we step cautiously out of the woods, Animal Crossing: New Horizons continues to be an invaluable escape.
This wholesome gaming experience encourages positive behaviours and feelings and is a beacon of light that’s sold more than 31 million copies.
Georgie Peru’s Muckrack
Georgie is a bright, friendly and outgoing person. She is a highly analytical and technical individual who has a passion and the right mind-set for thought-provoking work, particularly focusing on content writing and web writing.