'Animal Crossing' Helps Me Cope with Mental Illness
I'm not alone in using video games like Animal Crossing to cope with my mental illness. Ever since the shelter-at-home orders back in February, gamers have been purchasing the Nintendo Switch faster than they can be physically made. Video games became a form of escapism, and what was once a pastime became a coping mechanism for those stuck at home. While I’ve been trapped in my apartment in this pandemic, no Nintendo Switch game has been more useful for exploring and coping with my mental illness than Animal Crossing.
How 'Animal Crossing' Is Helping Me to Cope with Mental Illness
Dissociating with 'Animal Crossing' to Cope with Mental Illness
Recently, I have been very distracted. As an autistic person with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I experience high levels of dissociation. Staying at home has only made that issue worse. In my dissociated states, sometimes I have problems focusing on one thing. Animal Crossing has helped bring my attention away from unhealthy (maladaptive) daydreaming.
When I first watched my partner play Animal Crossing, I didn’t understand the hype. Animal Crossing is basically a microcosm of society. The basic goal is to build up your island; create infrastructure, fill your land with residents, and maintain it however you want.
I was unfamiliar with this sort of game. Video games usually help me with aggression. If I’m using video games to cope, usually I am taking down as many demons as I can. I often find role-playing games boring. I was not immediately drawn into the do-it-yourself aspects of Animal Crossing. Sure, collecting furniture and finding neighbors was cute, but what do I do the rest of the time?
Once I played for a while, I understood. Objectives are only the backdrop of Animal Crossing. The game is not driven by plot. The player can sink hours into his or her favorite aspect of the game without consequence. I personally spent time watering flowers and harvesting fruit trees.
'Animal Crossing' and Gender Expression
Gender is very performative. As a transgender person, staying at home means that I don’t get to express myself in my clothing. I don’t get to go shopping for masculine clothing or get a fresh haircut. Animal Crossing has been the gender-nonconforming paradise of which I’ve always dreamed.
I am not bound to any gender in Animal Crossing. No matter which “style” character you choose, you can wear any clothes or hairstyles that the game offers.
Personally, I have been rocking a green fade with a handlebar mustache.
Social Isolation vs. 'Animal Crossing'
Animal Crossing has a travel feature that allows you to travel to other islands. I can visit my roommate or my partner from a room away, or I could connect with someone across the country to share a few bells.
I have joined groups and message boards simply to connect with other players. We share tips and advice. I see posts every day of players offering to give away items and in-game money just to connect more with the community.
While video games are not my only coping strategy, I find them extremely grounding in this uncertain time. We all are adopting new habits and hobbies as we refine our mental illness coping skills. If a new game can help me with grounding, gender expression, and social connection, I am willing to give it a try.
The only problem now is learning when to go to bed.
Queue, A. (2020, July 21). 'Animal Crossing' Helps Me Cope with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/thelifelgbt/2020/7/animal-crossing-helps-me-cope-with-mental-illness
Author: August Queue
I'm autistic and have BPD. I used Animal Crossing to help learn social skills and boundaries. It's a good series of games. I'd love to see someone do a formal study on the therapeutic benefits of Animal Crossing.